New old anti smoking bill would protect children in cars

New Democrat anti-smoking legislation is still smouldering following an agreement with the Yukon Party government.

New Democrat anti-smoking legislation is still smouldering following an agreement with the Yukon Party government.

The legislation will return to the house this spring, but not without modification.

The NDP is proposing to ban smoking in cars when children are present.

Bill 104, the Smoke-free Places Act, was all but extinguished last fall when the government pledged to introduce its own legislation based on findings from an all-party committee.

The committee based its work on Bill 104, and the NDP had wanted to pass the bill in the fall. But debate was adjourned.

The government will draft its own legislation, said Health and Social Services Minister Brad Cathers at the time.

However, at the invitation of the Yukon Party, the NDP has been working to retool Bill 104 for the spring legislative session, which begins next week.

NDP Leader Todd Hardy released 19 amendments at a media conference Thursday morning.

The bill proposes a Yukon-wide public smoking ban and prohibits tobacco advertising.

A smoking ban is already in place in Whitehorse.

A proposed ban on smoking in cars containing children would make the legislation one of the strongest in the country.

Nova Scotia has a similar ban and Ontario and BC are considering such legislation.

Taking the ban beyond the usual public places is important, said Hardy.

“This steps outside that and says children have a voice too,” he said.

Strict laws could lead to fewer smokers — either fewer new smokers or more quitters, he added.

“Sometimes you need laws to push people along, like seatbelt and drunk-driving laws,” said Hardy.

Proposed last spring, bill 104 unanimously passed a second reading.

It was followed by an all-party committee community tour to gauge public opinion on anti-smoking legislation.

After the committee’s report was tabled in the fall, the government refused to let the legislation move forward.

Two months ago, the Yukon Party changed its mind.

Hardy met with Premier Dennis Fentie, who offered the NDP the services of the Justice department to vet and improve the legislation.

That’s where the 19 amendments come from.

“The premier thought the bill was OK, but it just needed some changes,” said Hardy.

The meeting indicates support for the bill, he added.

“I don’t know why they would offer the help if there wasn’t (support),” said Hardy.

Fentie refused to comment for this story.

The territory is the last territory or province in Canada without a smoking ban.

It also is home to some of the highest smoking rates among the general population and youth, according to the Canadian Cancer Society.

The local Canadian Cancer Society chapter is applauding the legislation.

“With some of these amendments, it seems like we’d have real strong legislation,” said regional manager Scott Kent.

He’s sees the society assisting in educating the public about the new legislation.

“We’d help people get used to it because there’ll be an adjustment period in the communities, I’m sure,” said Kent.

Liberal MLA Darius Elias sat on the committee.

The Liberals haven’t seen the new legislation and its amendments, Elias said.

“I’m only metres away from the NDP caucus office and if their interest is to work together, it would have been nice to see and discuss this with them,” said Elias.

The ban on smoking in cars with children is a positive step, he added.

“If a deal has been cut, then I look forward to reviewing and debating the bill,” said Elias.

“As long as it gets done, then that’s solving the problem.”