Email this articleE-mail this story  Discuss this articleWrite letter to editor  Discuss this articleOrder a classified ad  Print this page

Advocates welcome anti-tobacco bill

Andrew Raven
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Dec 14/05) - Anti-smoking advocates are welcoming a proposed law that would ban the display of tobacco products and impose harsh penalties on stores that sell cigarettes to minors.

The Tobacco Control Act would mean the end of so-called "power walls" - large, colourful displays of cigarettes - in convenience store and pharmacies across the NWT and keep all tobacco hidden from view.

"I never though I would be in this position," said Rosella Stoesz, who lobbied to have Yellowknife bars and restaurants go smoke free during contentious public debates in 2003.

"I think this is going to make a huge impact," she said.

The bill which recently went through public hearings, passed through second reading in legislative assembly in October.

It has widespread support from territorial politicians and is expected to become law sometime next year.

Several of its provisions would dramatically alter the way tobacco is sold and marketed. They would:

  1. require store owners to keep cigarettes out of sight;
  2. ban advertisements in public places like convenience stores;
  3. make it illegal to sell tobacco in pharmacies, bars, arenas, health clubs and swimming pools;
  4. outlaw tobacco vending machines in public places;
  5. ban smoking in outdoor bus shelters; and
  6. provide fines up to $150,000 for corporations that repeatedly sell cigarettes to minors.

Dr. Kami Kandola, president of the Northwest Territories Medical Association, said the law should help lower smoking rates in the Territories. "(Our position) is: out of sight, out of mind."

A 2004 health department survey revealed 42 per cent of NWT residents were smokers, twice the national average. Another study from 2003 said 26 per cent of children between 10 and 17 were smokers, well above the Canadian average of 19 per cent. In the smaller communities, those numbers jump to 39 per cent.

Director of Population Health, Dr. Andre Corriveau, said the territorial government hopes to reach the national average within 10 years, but conceded "we still have a long way to go."