Health groups rally western conference delegates to demand results

Edmonton– Health groups are calling for immediate coordinated action from the federal and provincial governments to respond to an epidemic of youth vaping in Alberta and across the country.  These organizations are rallying over 100 delegates attending the Western Canadian Tobacco Reduction Forum in Edmonton to engage with key federal and provincial decision makers to demand swift and concerted action to stem the explosive rise in youth vaping.

Vaping rates among high school students in Alberta almost tripled between 2015 and 2017, with an estimated 35,000 teens reporting the use of vaping devices within the last 30 days.  This number is expected to be even higher in 2018 following the introduction and aggressive marketing of high-nicotine stealth devices like Juul and Vype.

“Ironically, it appears that the passage of federal vaping legislation last May gave the green light to tobacco and vaping companies to engage in aggressive marketing campaigns that are targeting youth with lifestyle advertising on television, social media and in retail locations” said Les Hagen of Action on Smoking & Health.  “It has been 50 years since tobacco companies have been allowed to advertise in this rampant and reckless manner.  We need coordinated federal and provincial action to protect children and adolescents from these deplorable marketing schemes.  Canadian youth deserve first-class protection from nicotine addiction and targeted lifestyle advertising”.

Earlier this month, federal Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor pledged to bring forward new regulations that will help reduce the marketing of vaping products to youth.  However federal regulations could take up to two years to develop and implement—especially with a federal election anticipated this fall.

Alberta health minister Sarah Hoffman promised to act on youth vaping after the federal legislation was approved last year.  However the Alberta government has not taken any regulatory action to date and a provincial election could easily forestall such plans.  Legislation to curb vaping in public establishments and workplaces is currently on the “chopping block” under the 5-year proclamation deadline contained in the Alberta Repeal Act.

“Protection delayed is protection denied” said Angeline Webb with the Canadian Cancer Society . “Our federal and provincial health ministers must give youth vaping their full and undivided attention to prevent the youth vaping epidemic from affecting youth smoking rates.  Youth vaping and smoking both increased in 2017 in Alberta and this is very alarming and disturbing.  Youth who vape are up to four times as likely to start smoking.   There is no justification for further delays.  Our federal and provincial governments need to act quickly to prevent from going from bad to worse.  Kids deserve full protection from the highly addictive properties of nicotine and the potential for increased youth tobacco use.”

Alberta and Saskatchewan are the only provinces without any legislation to restrict the sale and marketing of vaping devices.

The Campaign for a Smoke-Free Alberta is a coalition of prominent health organizations that are working to reduce tobacco use.

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Les Hagen at 780-919-5546

Angeline Webb at 780-239-5295

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