Push for smoking ban widens

Whitehorse mayor Bev Buckway wants a territory-wide smoking ban that mimics the one already in place in Whitehorse.

Whitehorse mayor Bev Buckway wants a territory-wide smoking ban that mimics the one already in place in Whitehorse.

Currently, smoking is prohibited in all bars and restaurants in the city.

“I’d like to see the ban continue to happen in the Yukon, yes I would,” said Buckway.

“We have a smoking ban in Whitehorse and it would be really nice if that were supported throughout the territory with territorial legislation, then we’d have everybody on equal footing.”

Buckway’s comments come on the cusp of National Non-smoking Week, which runs until January 27.

The strongest lobby for the smoking ban has to come from community leaders.

The territory should consider such a ban, said Buckway.

“If you read the statistics and news from around the world, more and more countries are all going in this direction and it would sure be nice if we could do the same,” she said.

The original push came from Dawson mayor John Steins, who wrote about the ban on his blog, themayorsblog.com.

He has been a reformed smoker for six-years and likens himself to a “sober drunk.”

That’s how hard it is to quit smoking once you start, he said.

“Unfortunately it’s a very serious issue and it’s taken decades to get where we’re at now,” said Steins.

“It’s a problem for me because I do believe in liberties and freedoms … (smoking) would be alright if you could confine yourself to little cubicles and sealed off from the rest of the world.

“Unfortunately the consequences of people’s habits, especially this one, do tend to spill over into areas where it’s not welcome.”

The Canadian Cancer Society’s Yukon division, is also lobbying the government for a territory-wide smoking ban.

The society is trying to organize a meeting on the issue with Health Minister Brad Cathers.

Cathers has agreed to meet, but no date has been set yet.

“(A smoking ban) is absolutely something that we’re supportive of; that’s one of the things we call for in our Tobacco Control Strategy for the Yukon,” said Scott Kent of the cancer society.

The society is also holding an MLA breakfast in the fall to discuss the society’s priorities, including tobacco control.

The members are continuing to solicit support from non-governmental organizations for a ban.

According to the Canadian Cancer Society’s research, 47,000 Canadians die from tobacco-related illnesses each year, including lung cancer, throat and mouth cancer, heart disease, stroke and emphysema.

“For these reasons, the Yukon’s legislative policy agenda must give priority to curbing the tobacco epidemic,” said Kent.

“The Yukon has the weakest control legislation of any province or territory in Canada.

“Tobacco taxes are low, and the only legislation in existence is legislation authorizing municipal smoking bylaws.

“We urge the government of Yukon to act now, to demonstrate leadership, and to protect public health.”

The society’s Tobacco Control Strategy for the Yukon recommends that the territorial government increase cigarette taxes to $40 per carton from $26.40, to match the taxes of the Northwest Territories.

The cancer society also objects to the tobacco tax loophole that allows roll-your-own tobacco to be taxed at lower rates than ready-made cigarettes.

The society recommends the Yukon government introduce legislation that would ban smoking in all indoor workplaces, and implement comprehensive territorial tobacco control legislation.

Other suggestions include: banning the sale of tobacco products in all pharmacies; prohibiting tobacco signage, and avoiding visible displays of tobacco products at all retail outlets.

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