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N.L. becomes latest province to eye stricter tobacco regulations


Newfoundland and Labrador has floated an eyebrow-raising trial balloon in a bid to further the public health fight against tobacco and nicotine.

The provincial government will ask residents this month for public feedback on a number of increased smoking regulations, including the possibility of a total ban on the sale of cigarettes and other tobacco products to people born after a certain date.

"At the end of the day, we may not make any changes, but this is a consultation process to determine what, if any, changes will be made,” said Tom Osborne, the province’s minister of health. “We are looking at what other jurisdictions have done.”

The move, in theory, would eventually phase out the sale of cigarettes permanently in Newfoundland and Labrador as years go on — meaning some people would never be able to legally purchase tobacco products, even after they reach the age of majority.

Osborne's government has become the latest to flirt with stricter regulations, following a similar move in P.E.I., where a "Tobacco-Free Generation" proposal was suggested in a consultation paper earlier this year.

According to Rob Cunningham, a policy analyst with the Canadian Cancer Society, similar proposals are also picking up steam internationally. A similar scheme was tried – and swiftly repealed – in New Zealand, and Cunningham expects the issue to return to the United Kingdom’s House of Commons after the country’s July election.

"The overwhelming majority of smokers begin as teenagers under age, and therefore we need to have stronger measures," he said.

Though he agrees no policy could end underage smoking for good, he said there’s evidence from the United States that increased age requirements do reduce cigarette consumption among teenagers.

"It makes a difference how old you are to the minimum age," he explained. "If you have a minimum age of 21 and you are 20, you probably will know somebody’s brother or sister or a friend who is 21. But if you’re 16 or 17, it’s going to be harder."

So far, the proposal has received some cautious support among advocates in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Kevin Coady helps run the Newfoundland and Labrador Alliance for the Control of Tobacco. (CTV News)

Kevin Coady, who helps run the Newfoundland and Labrador Alliance for the Control of Tobacco, said he wants to see a further crackdown on vaping products in the province.

He said the rates for vaping in the province are "startling," quoting surveys that suggest 50 per cent of high schoolers in Newfoundland have ever or are continuing to vape.

"The tobacco industry is so creative in the way they market to young people," he said. "Vaping is the tobacco industry. They’ve found a new way to deliver nicotine."

Tobacco industry insider Max Krangle, who spent years working as a lawyer for tobacco firms around the world, said he’s not exactly sure how industry giants will respond to the latest restriction push by Newfoundland and Labrador and P.E.I.

He said, despite years of restrictions put in place by various governments, the tobacco industry is still very profitable — in part because restrictions on display and marketing mean those companies have fewer costs than they used to.

"If... in some way the industry can figure out a way to get around the limitations and still profit from their existing consumers, they may not be so quick to fight this legislation," he said.

While he acknowledged constitutional law wasn’t his expertise, he did say he wonders if a restrictive law like the ones proposed in Atlantic Canada could pass court challenges.

"I’d really like to see the constitutionality of having someone of legal age, who has reached the age of majority, having different rights than someone who is just a day older or a day younger." Top Stories

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