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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

If smoking tobacco is so bad then outlaw it!

This creeping criminalisation of smoking is indefensible. If smoking is as bad as it is claimed for people why not just outlaw it entirely? The reason is clear. The same politicians who climb on the moralistic bandwagon to limit smoking want to collect high taxes from smokers at one and the same time. The point is that sin is profitable both for the tobacco companies and also helps fill government coffers which are very much depleted these days.

All Smoking on patios may be banned
New anti-tobacco bill expected later this fall
By James Wood, The StarPhoenixOctober 27, 2009 8:47 AM
The provincial government is contemplating a smoking ban on restaurant and bar patios and in vehicles carrying minors.

New anti-tobacco legislation, expected to be introduced later this fall, would also set new limits on how close people smoking can be to public buildings and curtail tobacco sales in pharmacies.

The Saskatchewan Party government promised new anti-tobacco measures in the throne speech that started the legislative session last week.

"Allowing pharmacies, especially the big-box store pharmacies, to be selling tobacco products, it's a little counterintuitive to be passing out (smoking) cessation . . . medicine, for example, as well as selling tobacco at the same time," Health Minister Don McMorris said Monday. He noted some provinces have banned stores with pharmacies from selling cigarettes or have required groceries and big-box retailers to keep tobacco products separated from the pharmacy in an area with a distinct entrance.

McMorris said details of the province's legislation still need to be worked out but Saskatchewan must take steps to deal with smoking rates that are among the highest in Canada.

"All provinces are looking at the whole piece of trying to drive down the use of tobacco, denormalize it and, more importantly, protect the people around a smoker from second-hand smoke," he told reporters at the legislature.

Under the NDP, the provincial government instituted a provincewide smoking ban in enclosed public places at the start of 2005. Outdoor patios in bars and restaurants were exempt, although some communities, such as Saskatoon, instituted local restrictions on smoking on decks.

A number of jurisdictions, including Ontario, British Columbia, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and the Yukon, have already implemented bans on smoking in vehicles carrying minors, with the cut-off point ranging from 16 to 19 years of age.

"Children, in particular, are especially susceptible to the poison in second-hand smoke, particularly in an enclosed confined space like a car," said Donna Pasiechnik, tobacco control co-ordinator of the Canadian Cancer Society, Saskatchewan division.

In response to concerns about infringing on drivers' rights, Pasiechnik notes cars are already regulated spaces, pointing to seatbelt laws, mandatory children's seats and drunk-driving restrictions.

As well, the Sask. Party government intends to introduce legislation this session banning hand-held cellphone use while driving, she noted.

As for restaurant and bar patios, Paul Van Loon, an educator with the Lung Association in Saskatchewan, said smoking should not be allowed in spaces where people are gathered together.

"Usually in a patio situation you're clumped quite closely together and frequently there's not actually good wind flow because there can be partial roofing and that kind of stuff around there. And frequently the servers are very close, so it's a concern for the people working there," he said.

Van Loon said another benefit of a provincewide ban on smoking on patios is that it would level the playing field between restaurants that are able to have decks and those that can't, and it would mean the same law applies in all communities.

But Tom Mullin, president of the Saskatchewan Hotel and Hospitality Association, said the move will be a blow to rural hoteliers who were hard-hit by the smoking ban four years ago.

Many businesses sunk a considerable investment into building patios precisely because of the smoking law, he said.

However, the association won't be "duking it out" with the government this time because public opinion is likely on its side, said Mullin. Instead, the hospitality industry will press for a better deal with the province on liquor sales.

Ray Joubert, registrar of the Saskatchewan College of Pharmacists, said pharmacists would welcome a move to ban tobacco sales from pharmacies, noting many already don't sell cigarettes.

"Generally, it's a product that's not compatible with good health and pharmacies are places where one goes for good health, health care," said Joubert, adding such legislation would level the playing field among small players and large retailers.

While health groups were applauding the government's intentions, they also said more needs to be done.

Van Loon said the measures discussed won't have a substantial impact on smoking rates in and of themselves and the province needs to put more money into helping smokers quit.

The provincial government puts $350,000 into anti-smoking initiatives, which doesn't include money from the health region budgets.

Pasiechnik said the government should look at increasing its tobacco tax, which hasn't gone up since 2006, as "one of the most effective ways to stop kids from starting and persuading smokers to quit."

McMorris said that step will be considered as part of next spring's provincial budget.

jwood@sp.canwest.com

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