Please take one minute to protect Alberta kids from smoking and vaping

The Alberta government is considering new legislation to strengthen tobacco reduction policy and curtail youth vaping. These changes are expected to be introduced during the spring session of the Alberta Legislature. This is a critical opportunity to improve Alberta’s tobacco and vaping laws, but tobacco and vaping companies are pushing back.

Together, our voice can make a difference and will help to overcome industry lobbying and protect Alberta kids from smoking and vaping.

Please help keep the pressure up by taking one minute to tell your MLA to protect Alberta kids from tobacco and vaping companies and their addictive and harmful products. You are free to add a few sentences or words to our message content or to re-write the message in your own words. Here are some great ways to personalize your message. You can also review and pull from the background information below.

  • Provide a bit of information about yourself. Are you a parent? A nurse? Are you a current or ex-smoker? A current vaper?
  • Share why this issue matters to you personally. Have you lost a loved one to tobacco related illness? Do you know a youth who is addicted to vaping or tobacco? Do you believe the government should better protect kids from vaping and tobacco company products?

Background on tobacco use and vaping in Alberta

Tobacco use results in the premature death of 4,100 Albertans which is more than all other substances combined.1 Tobacco is the most widespread and harmful form of substance use. Nicotine is one of the most addictive legal substances available and it causes tobacco dependency. Smoking and vaping share the same fundamental health hazard—nicotine addiction. Youth vaping in Alberta almost tripled between 2015 and 2017.2 Alberta’s youth vaping rate has exploded over the last few years with 50,000 Alberta kids reporting the use of vaping products in the past 30 days in 2019.3 In fact, the rates of vaping among youth have now surpassed the rate of smoking among youth.4

Alberta is the only provinces in Canada without provincial regulations to protect children and youth from vaping products.

Despite claims that vaping is a safer alternative and potential aid to quit smoking, there is evidence showing that the risk of smoking initiation resulting from vaping outweighs the benefits of using vaping devices to quit smoking. According to a recent study,6 for every person that quits smoking using a vaping product there are 80 youth who will begin smoking as a result of vaping. Given the strong association between vaping, nicotine and tobacco use, vaping products should be regulated like tobacco in order to protect youth and nonsmokers from nicotine addiction and potential tobacco use.

Creating more smoke-free and vape-free spaces.

a) Vaping should be prohibited anywhere smoking is prohibited
Within the last decade the use of vaping products has increased significantly and vaping has become widespread in public spaces. Exposure to public vaping has the potential to renormalize smoking and to increase tobacco use among youth.7 There are very close similarities between the form and function of cigarettes and vaping products.8,9 Children are often unable to distinguish between smoking, toking and vaping especially since these products often produce visible emissions. Kids must be protected from exposure to any form of smoking or vaping in public places to help keep kids tobacco-free and nicotine-free for life.10

b) Expand restrictions on smoking and vaping in public places
Restrictions on the smoking or vaping of any substance should be expanded to include areas frequented by children and youth including playgrounds, parks, recreation amenities and public events.

The legalization of cannabis and the increase in vaping in public has the potential to renormalize public smoking and may reverse decades of progress in creating smoke-free environments. Smoke-free environments have played a crucial role in changing norms regarding the acceptability of smoking and ultimately smoking behaviors.11,12,13,14

Smoke-free public spaces help to denormalize smoking because when smoking is less visible it reduces social desirability.15 Reduced public smoking can reduce tobacco use among children and youth as they are more likely to follow social norms.16 Modeling is an essential element of childhood development.

c) Prohibit smoking and vaping in all workplaces
Thousands of Alberta workers remain unprotected from secondhand smoke—including those who work in group residential facilities, childcare day homes and hotel/motel staff. These workers remain unprotected from secondhand smoke at work despite the serious health risks. All workers deserve protection from secondhand smoke. There is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke.

d) Prohibit waterpipe/shisha smoking in indoor public spaces
Waterpipe (hookah) use has grown in popularity in Alberta, particularly among youth.17 In Alberta, 8,000 young people in grades 6 to 12 used a waterpipe in the past 30 days in 2017. 18

The number of establishments that allow waterpipe smoking have increased, exposing the public to harmful secondhand smoke and enticing youth to experiment with alternative forms of smoking.19 Youth are often able to enter waterpipe use venues and are even permitted to consume waterpipe products in some establishments.

There is no safe level of exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke and that includes waterpipe smoke (herbal and/or tobacco shisha).20 People who are exposed to waterpipe smoke are at risk of the same negative health outcomes as individuals exposed to secondhand tobacco smoke even if only herbal waterpipe products are used.21

Twenty-four Alberta municipalities, including Edmonton, have already banned waterpipe smoking in public establishments.22 However, a full provincial ban with uniform protection and a level playing field for hospitality business is required.

e) Prohibit tobacco, cannabis and waterpipe/shisha smoking in public housing
There is no uniform protection from secondhand smoke for people living in affordable or public multi-unit housing.

Exposure to secondhand smoke, including from tobacco, waterpipe and cannabis, particularly within indoor spaces, is related to poor health outcomes.23 Within the multi-unit housing setting, residents living in affordable multi-unit housing are more likely to be regularly involuntary exposed to secondhand smoke in their home.24,25 This includes vulnerable populations such as children, elderly, and disabled residents who are more likely to suffer from illness and disease.26 These individuals and families have less choice in their housing options and face long wait times for housing if they face poor living conditions.27

Smoke-free public multi-unit housing policies do not prevent people who use tobacco or cannabis from accessing affordable housing. These policies only indicate where individuals are permitted to smoke in multi-unity housing so as to not impact the health of other residents.

The Saskatchewan government prohibited smoking in all public housing in 2018.All public housing in the U.S. is smoke-free under a 2018 rule imposed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Restrict the sale of vaping products and expand retail restriction on tobacco products.

The lack of effective tobacco and vaping product sales to minors legislation coupled with the absence of active enforcement has contributed to increased tobacco and vaping sales to minors in Alberta.

a) Prohibit vaping product sales to minors
Alberta youth are using vaping products at alarming rates and many are obtaining vaping products from retail stores.28

Alberta is the only province that has not passed legislation to enhance the federal vaping legislation which has numerous loopholes and omissions. Alberta needs to extend its restrictions on tobacco sales to minors to include vaping products. These restrictions would include carding anyone who appears to be under the age of 25, requiring specified photo ID, and ensuring that all retailers are properly trained.

b) Prohibit minors from selling tobacco and vaping products
People employed to sell alcohol must be at least 18 years of age. However, minors as young as 14 are permitted to sell tobacco and vaping products in Alberta.

Research shows that younger clerks are more willing to sell tobacco to minors.29 In contrast, a minor is less likely to purchase tobacco products when the counter is staffed by adult clerks.30

Stores that sell tobacco and vaping products should have at least one adult staff member in the premises at all times to ensure staff safety and compliance.

c) License tobacco and vaping retailers
Alberta has the highest levels of tobacco sales to minors of any province according to the most recent national retail compliance study commissioned by Health Canada.31 Twenty-two percent of retailers tested were willing to sell to minors versus 15 percent nationally when last tested in 2014.32 Alberta youth are using vaping products at alarming rates and many are obtaining vaping products from retail stores.33

Alberta needs to regulate tobacco and vaping product sales to minors in a manner that is consistent with liquor and cannabis sales. Alberta’s retail liquor and cannabis licensing system provides a good working model for tobacco and vaping product sales.

Liquor and cannabis licensees must comply with numerous licensing conditions enforced by the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission. Yet despite the disproportionate lethality of tobacco industry products compared to cannabis34 and the potential harm of vaping products among children and youth,35 alcohol and cannabis sales are subject to far more restrictive regulation than tobacco and vaping products in Alberta.

Evidence indicates that when strong retail licensing requirements are implemented and actively enforced, they are effective at reducing tobacco product sales to minors and can help reduce tobacco consumption among youth.36

Fees collected from licensing can provide steady revenue to support active oversight and enforcement by regulatory agencies.

Eleven provinces and territories license the retail sale of tobacco products.

d) Require all tobacco and vaping retailers to be properly trained
All liquor and cannabis retail staff in Alberta are required to take mandatory online training. Tobacco kills more Albertans than liquor and cannabis combined and tobacco and vaping product retailers should be required to take specific online training to help prevent sales to minors and other legal violations.

Creating parallel restrictions on the sale of flavoured tobacco products and flavoured vaping products

There is an astounding number of vaping product flavours available on the market.37,38 The vast majority of vaping products used by youth are flavoured39 and almost all youth who experiment with vaping products use flavoured vaping products.40 Similar to conventional cigarettes, flavours are especially enticing to youth, increasing susceptibility and intention to experiment and initiate use.41,42 Among adults who use vaping products to stop smoking tobacco, tobacco-flavoured vaping products are preferred.43 Given the strong association between youth use of flavoured vaping products and youth motivation towards vaping and potential evolution to tobacco use, restrictions on flavoured vaping products are key to reducing youth vaping and the likelihood of tobacco use initiation.44 Youth who use vaping products are more susceptible to future tobacco use and are more likely to evolve to using tobacco products.45 Youth who use vaping products are four times more likely to start smoking cigarettes.46 The Campaign for a Smoke-Free Alberta recommends that the Alberta government prohibit all flavours in vaping products unless specifically allowed by regulation. The provinces of Nova Scotia and PEI as well as several U.S. states, including Montana and Washington, have implemented a comprehensive ban on flavoured vaping products with the sole exception of tobacco-flavoured products.

Increasing tobacco taxes and taxing vaping products.

Tobacco taxes are the single most effective means of preventing and reducing tobacco use, especially among youth. Every 10% increase in the price of tobacco corresponds with a 3-4% decline in consumption among adults and a 6-12% decline in consumption among youth. Studies have demonstrated that e-cigarettes sales are responsive to price changes and retail price increases have shown an associated drop in sales. , This evidence suggests that taxes on vaping products are expected to have a similar impact as tobacco taxes on consumption, particularly among youth. A tax structure on vaping products, which includes a higher tax rate on ready-to-use vaping products, should focus on discouraging initiation among youth while not hindering vaping product use as a safer alternative to smoking among adult smokers.

Improve the enforcement of tobacco and vaping legislation.

a) Designate a provincial enforcement agency
A provincial enforcement authority such as the Alberta Liquor and Gaming and Liquor Commission or another suitable authority should be assigned to the active enforcement of tobacco and vaping product sales to minors.

b) Conduct regular and random inspections
Enforcement officers should conduct regular and random inspections of tobacco and vaping product retailers with the assistance of underage test shoppers. Health Canada hired underage test shoppers to enforce federal tobacco legislation in Alberta for over 15 years.

Thank you for taking action to protect Alberta kids!

Campaign for a Smoke-Free Alberta (CSFA) is a coalition of prominent health organizations working to reduce tobacco use in Alberta. Information on this webpage reflects the position of the coalition and represents evidence-based approaches to reducing and preventing the use of tobacco and vaping products. If you need more information, please contact us.
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[1] Canadian Substance Use Costs and Harms Scientific Working Group. (2018). Canadian substance use costs and harms (2007-2014). Ottawa, ON: Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction.

[2] Health Canada. Canadian Student Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs Survey, 2016-2017. June 2018. https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/canadian-student-tobacco-alcohol-drugs-survey.html

[3]. Health Canada. Canadian Student Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs Survey, 2018-2019. https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/canadian-student-tobacco-alcohol-drugs-survey/2018-2019-detailed-tables.html#t11

[4]Barrington-Trimis JL, Kong G, Leventhal AM, et al. E-cigarette Use and Subsequent Smoking Frequency Among Adolescents. Pediatrics. 2018;142(6):e20180486

[5]. Health Canada. Canadian Student Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs Survey, 2016-2017. June 2018. https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/canadian-student-tobacco-alcohol-drugs-survey.html

[6] Soneji, Samir S., et al. "Quantifying Population-Level Health Benefits and Harms of e-Cigarette use in the United States." PloS One, vol. 13, no. 3, 2018, pp. e0193328.

[7] Azagba, S. Baskerville. N.B., Foley, K. Susceptibility to cigarette smoking among middle and high school e-cigarette users in Canada. Preventative Medicine 103. 2017. 14-19.

[8] Saebo, Gunnar., and Scheffels, Janne. Assessing notions of denormalization and renormalization of smoking in light of e-cigarette regulation. International Journal of Drug Policy: 44 (2017): 58-64.

[9] Azagba, S. Baskerville. N.B., Foley, K. Susceptibility to cigarette smoking among middle and high school e-cigarette users in Canada. Preventative Medicine 103. 2017. 14-19.

[10] Saebo, Gunnar., and Scheffels, Janne. Assessing notions of denormalization and renormalization of smoking in light of e-cigarette regulation. International Journal of Drug Policy: 44 (2017): 58-64

[11] U.S. National Cancer Institute and World Health Organization. The Economics of Tobacco and Tobacco Control. National Cancer Institute Tobacco Control Monograph 21. Chapter 6: The Impact of Smoke-Free Policies. NIH Publication No. 16-CA-8029A. Bethesda, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Cancer Institute; and Geneva, CH: World Health Organization; 2016.

[12] Chapman, S., & Freeman, B. (2008). Markers of the denormalisation of smoking and the tobacco industry. Tobacco Control, 17, 25–31.

[13] Tauras JA, Chaloupka FJ, Farrelly MC, et al. State tobacco control spending and youth smoking. American journal of public health. 2005 Feb;95(2):338–344.

[14] Pierce JP, Leon M. Effectiveness of smoke-free policies. The lancet oncology. 2008 Jul;9(7):614–615.

[15] Saebo, Gunnar., and Scheffels, Janne. Assessing notions of denormalization and renormalization of smoking in light of e-cigarette regulation. International Journal of Drug Policy: 44 (2017): 58-64

[16] Saebo, Gunnar., and Scheffels, Janne. Assessing notions of denormalization and renormalization of smoking in light of e-cigarette regulation. International Journal of Drug Policy: 44 (2017): 58-64

[17] Leia M. Minaker et al. Hookah use prevalence, predictors, and perceptions among Canadian youth: findings from the 2012/2013 Youth Smoking Survey. Cancer Causes Control. March 2015.

[18] Cumming, T., Rynard, V. (2017). In Brief: Student Tobacco use in Alberta, 2014/2015 Canadian Student Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs Survey. Waterloo, Ontario: Propel Centre for Population Health Impact, University of Waterloo.  https://uwaterloo.ca/canadian-student-tobacco-alcohol-drugs-survey/sites/ca.canadian-student-tobacco-alcohol-drugs-survey/files/uploads/files/cst14_tobacco_use_ab_20170515v5_a.pdf

[19] Hammal F. et al. ‘Herbal’ but potentially hazardous: an analysis of the constituents and smoke emissions of tobacco-free waterpipe products and the air quality in the cafés where they are served. Tob Control. doi:10.1136/tobaccocontrol-2013-051169

[20] US Department of Health and Human Services. The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke: A Report of the Surgeon General. Washington: US Department of Health and Human Services, 2006. http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/library/secondhandsmoke/report/index.html.

[21]  Alberta Health Services. Let’s Talk About…Hookah. http://www.albertaquits.ca/files/AB/files/library/HookahFINAL(1).pdf

[22] Action on Smoking & Health, Municipal Bylaw Chart October 2015 http://www.ash.ca/municipal_bylaw_chart

[23] Chu, A.K., Kaufman, P., Chaiton, M. Prevalence of Involuntary Environmental Cannabis and Tobacco Smoke Exposure in Multi-Unit Housing. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health. 2019. 16, 3332.

[24] Chu, A.K., Kaufman, P., Chaiton, M. Prevalence of Involuntary Environmental Cannabis and Tobacco Smoke Exposure in Multi-Unit Housing. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health. 2019. 16, 3332.

[25] Kernoghan, A., Lambraki, I., Pieters, K., & Garcia, J.M. (2014). Smoke-Free Housing: A Review of the Evidence. Toronto, Ontario: Program Training and Consultation Centre and the Propel Centre for Population Health Impact, University of Waterloo.

[26] Kernoghan, A., Lambraki, I., Pieters, K., & Garcia, J.M. (2014). Smoke-Free Housing: A Review of the Evidence. Toronto, Ontario: Program Training and Consultation Centre and the Propel Centre for Population Health Impact, University of Waterloo.

[27] Kernoghan, A., Lambraki, I., Pieters, K., & Garcia, J.M. (2014). Smoke-Free Housing: A Review of the Evidence. Toronto, Ontario: Program Training and Consultation Centre and the Propel Centre for Population Health Impact, University of Waterloo.

[28] Earnscliffe Strategy Group on behalf of Health. Qualitative and Quantitative Research on Perceptions of Nicotine Final Report. 2019

[29] Ontario Tobacco Research Unit. Strategies Affecting Tobacco Vendor Compliance with Youth Access Laws: A Review of the Literature. October 2013. http://otru.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/special_vendor_compliance.pdf

[30] Health Canada, Evaluation of Retailers' Behaviour Towards Certain Youth Access-to-Tobacco Restrictions (Final Report Findings: 2005).  http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hc-ps/pubs/tobac-tabac/eval-2005/part-a_section1-3-eng.php

[31] Health Canada. Evaluation of Retailers Behaviour of Certain Youth-Access-to-Tobacco Restrictions, 2014; June 2015.  http://healthycanadians.gc.ca/science-research-sciences-recherches/data-donnees/survey-sondage/summary-sommaire-2014-eng.php

[32] Health Canada. Evaluation of Retailers Behaviour of Certain Youth-Access-to-Tobacco Restrictions, 2014; June 2015.  http://healthycanadians.gc.ca/science-research-sciences-recherches/data-donnees/survey-sondage/summary-sommaire-2014-eng.php

[33] Earnscliffe Strategy Group on behalf of Health. Qualitative and Quantitative Research on Perceptions of Nicotine Final Report. 2019

[34] Canadian Substance Use Costs and Harms Scientific Working Group. (2018). Canadian substance use costs and harms (2007-2014). Ottawa, ON: Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction.

[35] Health Canada. Talking with your teen about vaping: a tip sheet for parents. July 2019. Available from: https://www.canada.ca/en/services/health/publications/healthy-living/talking-teen-vaping-tip-sheet-parents.html?utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc_en&utm_content=parents_1&utm_campaign=vapingprevention2019&utm_term=%2Bvaping%20%2Byouth

[36] Pacula, R. L, Kilmer, B, Wagenaar, A. C., et al. Developing Public Health Regulations for Marijuana: Lessons from Alcohol and Tobacco. American Journal of Public Health 2014; 104(6), 1021-1028. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2013.301766.

[37] Harrell, M.B. et al. Flavored e-cigarette use: Characterizing youth, young adult, and adult users. Preventive Medicine Reports 5 (2017) 33–40

[38] Euromonitor International. Vapour Devices and E-cigarettes in the Global Tobacco Market. 2015. Available from: http://blog. euromonitor.com/2015/06/ vapor-devices-and-e-cigarettes-in-the-globaltobacco-market.html

[39] Mehra, V. et al. The association between alcohol, marijuana, illegal drug use and current use of e-cigarette among youth and y9outh adults in Canada: results from Canadian Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs Survey 2017. BMC Public Health. 2019. 19:1208.

[40] Harrell, M.B. et al. Flavored e-cigarette use: Characterizing youth, young adult, and adult users. Preventive Medicine Reports 5 (2017) 33–40

[41] Harrell, M.B. et al. Flavored e-cigarette use: Characterizing youth, young adult, and adult users. Preventive Medicine Reports 5 (2017) 33–40

[42] Meernik C, Baker HM, Kowitt SD, et al. Impact of non-menthol flavours in e-cigarettes on perceptions and use: an updated systematic review. BMJ Open 2019;9:e031598.

[43] Harrell, M.B. et al. Flavored e-cigarette use: Characterizing youth, young adult, and adult users. Preventive Medicine Reports 5 (2017) 33–40

[44] Mehra, V. et al. The association between alcohol, marijuana, illegal drug use and current use of e-cigarette among youth and y9outh adults in Canada: results from Canadian Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs Survey 2017. BMC Public Health. 2019. 19:1208.

[45] Azagba, S. Baskerville. N.B., Foley, K. Susceptibility to cigarette smoking among middle and high school e-cigarette users in Canada. Preventative Medicine 103. 2017. 14-19.

[46] Barrington-Trimis JL, Kong G, Leventhal AM, et al. E-cigarette Use and Subsequent Smoking Frequency Among Adolescents. Pediatrics. 2018;142(6):e20180486