Alberta celebrates 10 years of smoke-free workplaces.
However thousands of Alberta workers remain uprotected from secondhand smoke on the job.
Calgary – Health and labour groups gathered in Calgary today to mark the 10th anniversary of Alberta’s workplace smoking ban while drawing attention to thousands of workers who continue to be exposed to
secondhand smoke on the job.
Originally implemented on January 1, 2008, the Tobacco and Smoking Reduction Act represents a major achievement for workplace health in Alberta. However the decade-old legislation also leaves thousands
of Alberta workers unprotected--including those who work in group living facilities, hotel/motel guest rooms, and hookah bars.
“It’s time for the Alberta government to provide all workers with uniform protection from secondhand smoke on the job” said Kate Chidester with the Heart & Stroke Foundation. “While we celebrate the success of Alberta’s workplace smoking ban we must recognize that this protection does not extend to all workers in this province. Every worker deserves first-class protection from the serious health risks of secondhand smoke. People who work in hotels, group living facilities and hookah bars do not have second-class lungs and they deserve smoke-free workplaces.”
Cannabis legalization provides another reason for the Alberta government to protect all Albertans from secondhand smoke on the job. The Cannabis Act will put many workers at greater risk since cannabis smoking will also be allowed in all workplaces where tobacco smoking is allowed.
“The legalization of cannabis will make matters worse for many workers because any workplace that is exempt from the provincial tobacco legislation will also be exempt from the Cannabis Act” said Dr. Brent Friesen, public health physician. “This means that workers who are already exposed to tobacco smoke may also be exposed to secondhand cannabis smoke. The Alberta government needs to close these unjustifiable loopholes before cannabis is legalized. As it stands, the Cannabis Act will only add injury to insult for workers who are already unprotected from secondhand smoke at work”.
Last month, the Alberta government passed sweeping legislation to improve the health and safety of Alberta workers. Among other measures, Bill 30 provides Alberta workers with greater ability to refuse unsafe work. Exposure to secondhand smoke on the job represents unsafe work since there is no safe level of exposure to tobacco smoke and it is classified as a known human carcinogen. “If the government is truly committed to protecting all Alberta workers from unsafe work then it must close the existing loopholes in the Tobacco and Smoking Reduction Act said James Hart with the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees. “These oversights cannot be justified given the significant health risks of secondhand smoke. Protection delayed is protection denied”.
There is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke according to Health Canada, the World Health Organization and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Over 1,000 Canadians are estimated to die annually from exposure to secondhand smoke. One in five Canadians has a pre-existing health condition that is aggravated by secondhand smoke including those with asthma, allergies and heart disease.
The Campaign for a Smoke-Free Alberta is a coalition of prominent health organizations who are working to reduce tobacco use in Alberta.
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Les Hagen @ 780-919-5546
Angeline Webb @ 780-239-5295
Holly Roy @ 780-991-2323