Smoking ban can’t wait another year, NDP says

Delaying a smoking ban for another year would betray the public, says the NDP. On Wednesday, the government tabled the all-party committee report…

Delaying a smoking ban for another year would betray the public, says the NDP.

On Wednesday, the government tabled the all-party committee report that calls for a territorial ban on smoking in public places and prohibits the display and advertising of tobacco products in stores.

The government has pledged to draft legislation based on the recommendations.

The public will see how serious the government is about passing anti-smoking legislation when the NDP’s private member’s bill, dubbed the Smoke-Free Places Act, comes before the legislature next week, said NDP leader Todd Hardy.

Based on public hearings and Hardy’s Bill 104, introduced last spring, the report calls for legislation — either Hardy’s or a new government bill.

The deadline to introduce new legislation has passed, so a new government bill can’t be brought forward until the spring.

That could mean a smoking ban won’t be in place until the fall, says Health Minister Brad Cathers.

That’s too late, said Hardy.

Bill 104 is already before the house and requires a third reading to become law. Amendments to strengthen the bill can be made, he said.

If the government is serious about banning smoking, pass Bill 104, he said.

“I would look at any attempt to rewrite or delay this bill anymore as a betrayal of the public,” said Hardy.

“There’s no reason to introduce a new bill. People responded to the bill. The recommendations say (implement the ban) as soon as possible.

“It’s been sitting with the government for over six months, so if there was any real concern around it, that work should have been done.”

Introduced in April, Bill 104 passed a second reading, an unusual step for most legislation proposed by opposition parties.

Passing a second reading gives the bill legislative approval in principal.

The government proposed the all-party committee tour the territory for public input.

It was the first such committee in 15 years.

Cathers, Liberal MLA Darius Elias and NDP MLA John Edzerza sat on the committee.

In addition to a complete ban on smoking in public places and on the retail display and advertising of tobacco products, it will also end the sale of Popeye’s Candy Sticks.

 All candy cigarettes and other sweets that mimic tobacco products will be verboten.

Government legislation will “reflect” the basic spirit and intent of Bill 104 and will include recommendations from the report, said Cathers.

“People will be pleased at the end of the day and the piece of legislation will be good for the territory,” he said.

New legislation is needed because Bill 104 must be strengthened and the Justice department has to review the legislation, said Cathers.

The government simply wants to puts its stamp on anti-smoking legislation, said Hardy, pledging to introduce his bill on Wednesday.

He expects the Yukon Party government to filibuster the bill by running out the clock and adjourning debate, effectively killing the bill.

“That’ll be voting against it,” said Hardy.

“I’ll take that as a vote against the legislation.”

A smoking ban has been a long time coming, said Scott Kent, regional manager for the Canadian Cancer Society.

“The sooner, the better, is the way to do it,” said Kent.

The recommendations are a great start to putting in place legislation where none existed before, he added.

“The time has come and it’s great for the Yukon to drop that label as the only territory or province without anti-smoking legislation,” said Kent.

Nunavut and the NWT implemented smoking bans in 2004.

On January 1, Alberta and BC will adopt smoking bans.

Whitehorse already has a ban in place.

Tobacco taxes should also be increased, said Kent.

The Yukon has the third-lowest tobacco tax rates in Canada at $26.40 per 200 cigarettes. Nunavut and the NWT have the highest at $42.

Yukoners buying roll-your-own tobacco for 200 cigarettes pay only $4.68 in taxes, the lowest in Canada.