Canada’s Northwest Territories to overhaul smoking laws, raise minimum age to buy tobacco

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The Northwest Territories, in Northern Canada, is set to move forward with an overhaul of its smoking and tobacco laws. One of the changes includes raising the minimum age to purchase tobacco to 19.(Pawel Dwulit/The Canadian Press)
The Northwest Territories, in Northern Canada, is set to raise minimum age to buy tobacco to 19 as part of an overhaul of the territory’s smoking and tobacco laws.

MLAs are set to pass two new acts designed to curb tobacco use: the Smoking Control and Reduction Act, and the Tobacco and Vapour Products Act.

The Northwest Territories has the second-highest smoking rate in Canada, behind Nunavut (eastern Arctic). About one in three people older than 15 in the N.W.T. report smoking daily, according to the latest data from Statistics Canada.

Regular MLAs presented their report on the bills in the Legislative Assembly Monday, and they are expected to become law before the end of the month. They are two of 16 bills MLAs expect to pass before the end of next week, which is the last opportunity for them to do so before the Oct. 1 election.

We don’t want to be in a position of luring young people into addiction

MLA Julie Green

In addition to raising the age limit to buy tobacco to 19 up from 18, other changes in the two smoking laws include:

  • Banning smoking in public places where children are expected to be — like baseball diamonds, parks, and hockey rinks, or in motor vehicles when young people are in the car.
  • Adding new requirements for signs advertising tobacco products.
  • Strengthening penalties for businesses that break the laws around selling tobacco to minors.
  • Adding new restrictions around selling flavoured tobacco in e-cigarettes and vaporizers.

These changes are intended to replace the territory’s old Tobacco Control Act and harmonize the territory’s rules around smoking cannabis and tobacco in public. It also looks to restrict the sale of e-cigarettes and vaporizers to young people.

“Nicotine is nicotine and it’s addictive in any form,” said MLA Julie Green, speaking about rising rates of teen vaping in the Northwest Territories and across Canada.

“It’s highly addictive, as any smoker will tell you,” she said. “We don’t want to be in a position of luring young people into addiction.”

In their report, MLAs noted that the Canadian Cancer Society suggests setting 21 as the minimum legal age for people to buy and consume tobacco.

MLAs decided they wouldn’t go that far, but they did recommend the Health Department explore raising the age limit for tobacco, liquor, cannabis and vaping products to 21.

The government supported all six changes suggested by regular MLAs. The bills are expected to receive their third and final reading later this session, while new regulations are expected to be in force shortly after this fall’s election.

Meanwhile, MLAs also moved ahead with legislation creating a single interest rate for overdue accounts with the government, and with changes to parental and domestic violence leave in the Employment Standards Act.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Canada’s substance use costs per person highest in Northern territories, study shows, CBC News

Finland: Finland’s six-year slump in alcohol sales ends, Yle news

United States: Alaska’s drug problem worsening as police resources strained, Alaska Public Media

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Alex Brockman, CBC News

Alex Brockman, CBC News

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