Tobacco bill would enforce total smoking ban in two years

No more plastic pipes, candy cigarettes

By NUNATSIAQ NEWS

PATRICIA D’SOUZA

Ed Picco, the minister of health and social services, introduced a tough piece of legislation this week aimed at keeping cigarettes out of the hands of Nunavut children and keeping second-hand smoke out of the faces of all Nunavummiut.

The bill would prevent anyone under the age of 19 from even seeing a pack of cigarettes behind the counter of a local store, and would ban smoking in restaurants and bars throughout the territory two years after it comes into law.

The Tobacco Control Act received second reading on Wednesday and was referred to committee. It is the latest step in the health department’s plan to “denormalize” tobacco products.

“The number one preventable health concern in Nunavut is smoking-related health problems and diseases — everything from respiratory problems to cancer,” Picco said.

“I believe the Government of Nunavut has to move aggressively in this direction and I believe there is support for this type of legislation.”

The bill would make it an offence to sell tobacco products to anyone younger than 19 — and anyone who looks younger than 19, regardless of the person’s actual age.

It would also ban the sale of “any product, including confectionery, designed to appear as a cigarette or pipe, or as a tobacco product.”

It would force retailers to alter their cigarette displays to prevent even adults from seeing the product before purchasing it. That means no more impulse buys. Retailers who don’t comply could lose their licence to sell tobacco.

“Part of the legislation is talking about the issue around how cigarettes are advertised,” Picco said. “Like a lot of the stores in the South, when you go in the cigarettes are behind screens that are pulled down so you don’t see the cigarette items. If you want the tobacco products the lady has to lift up the screen.”

Picco describes the bill as “enabling legislation” that must be passed before municipalities can enact bylaws preventing smoking in public places.

Iqaluit’s anti-smoking bylaw, which comes into effect April 15, bans smoking in most restaurants and bars, but not private clubs such as the Elk’s and the Legion.

The GN bill would continue to exempt private clubs, as well as hotel rooms, any workplace to which the public is not admitted, and any area set aside for smoking. However, the bill contains a clause that would repeal the exemption after two years. That would allow municipalities to gradually roll in total bans.

Subsequent amendments to the Hamlets Act and the Cities, Towns and Villages Act would give municipalities control over private clubs.

“We’ve given municipalities the power to legislate in private places — that’s the only thing they were missing,” said Nadia Salvaterra, the health department’s tobacco reduction specialist.

The bill also adds that in the case of a conflict between two pieces of legislation, “the provision that is the most restrictive of smoking prevails.”

Picco hopes to change the way people think about cigarette smoke in the future.

“Ten or 15 years ago, anywhere in Nunavut that you went, people smoked in houses. They smoked around children. You went to meetings, you went to offices, there were ashtrays on desks, people smoked in buildings, they smoked in restaurants — all over the place,” he said.

“But times have changed. You don’t see people smoking in planes. They’re not allowed. You don’t see people smoking in buses anymore. You don’t see people smoking in houses. You wouldn’t have seen that 10 or 15 years ago.”

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