Calgary Herald April 5, 2010 - Tories cool on car smoking ban
Health group urges protection for children:
A cancer advocacy group is calling on Alberta and other provinces to ban smoking in vehicles carrying children, but the provincial health minister said more discussion is needed before any legislation can be put forward.
In its annual report card, the Cancer Advocacy Coalition of Canada said second-hand smoke in the enclosed spaces of cars and trucks is even more dangerous to children, who are more susceptible to chronic diseases, such as asthma, as a result.
"Their lungs absorb it much more easily," said Dr. Pierre Major, vice-chairman of the coalition. "We should be protecting children from these carcinogens."
The cancer report card also said ventilation does little to combat second-hand smoke in vehicles.
"Even with all four windows down, second-hand smoke in a car is higher than in a smoky bar," the report says.
While all provinces have laws prohibiting smoking in public places, only six provinces and the Yukon territory have adopted legislation that bans smoking in vehicles carrying children. So have five communities across Canada, including Okotoks.
Alberta is among four provinces and two territories that have yet to enact this type of legislation.
Health Minister Gene Zwozdesky said such a law is something to consider, but requires more discussion first.
"The health of children is paramount and oftentimes they are exposed to this second-hand smoke and that is not a healthy thing," he said Monday. "At the same time, we have to respect the rights of the smoking public."
He said he will look at the issue.
A poll by the Canadian Cancer Society in 2008 showed 82 per cent of Canadians supported such a ban, along with 69 per cent of smokers.
The report says it is unclear why other provinces have been slow to follow the lead of those that created the laws.
"All Canadian provinces and territories regulate the use of seatbelts and car seats for children based on safety, but the concerns about the health hazards of (second-hand smoke) in vehicles have not caught the public's attention," the report says.
Major said he doesn't believe anyone would oppose the proposed legislation, but it often needs someone to champion it.
Okotoks passed its legislation in July 2008 and began enforcement in September. However, more than 18 months later, no fines have been issued, said Mayor Bill McAlpine.
The town's bylaw officer has talked to a few people after stopping them, he said.
"No tickets have been written. And we've probably only stopped a couple of cars in that year and a half regarding smoking," he said.
Passing the legislation in the municipality did bring some attention to the issue and may have applied some pressure to the provincial government, but it's difficult to enforce when it only applies to the town.
"What do you do with people who come into town?" he said.
McAlpine wants the Alberta government to create laws that would cover the entire province.
"It should be a provincial legislation," he said.
The coalition's report recognizes the difficulties in policing the law, but said the same is true for seatbelt legislation and laws that have banned the use of cellphones.
"Most Canadians will follow the law," Major said, noting that even if it only reduces the number of people driving and smoking with children in their vehicles, that still means fewer are being exposed to the second-hand smoke.
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