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Shandro defends smoking act changes, advocates say amendments fall short

Last Updated Jul 13, 2021 at 8:56 am MDT

(CREDIT: iStock user Shaiith)

CALGARY – An amendment to the Tobacco and Smoking Reduction Act comes into effect at the end of this month, including an exemption for cigar lounges to be able to operate under certain conditions.

In an exclusive interview with 660 NEWS, Health Minister Tyler Shandro defends the government’s stance.

The exemption was passed within an order-in-council on June 23 which lets those establishments operate should they receive municipal approval.

Lounges would also need to have walls completely separating areas allowing cigars to be smoked, the entrances to those areas have to be self-closing doors, and a separate ventilation system has to be added to make sure no smoke enters the building.

No minors are permitted in cigar lounges, and they’re not allowed to serve food, drinks, or have cleaning services during hours of operation.

Shandro says municipalities will still need to approve these establishments and the government is only reducing the red tape based on feedback it has heard.

He says there is an appetite from adult cigar smokers to allow smoking in places like a lounge.

“This is a very niche industry,” he said.

“Our focus in the review of the Tobacco and Smoking Reduction Act and in those amendments we passed in 2020, the focus of that was on how to reduce rates of youth smoking and using vapes.”

Shandro added only adults are allowed in cigar lounges and this won’t see an increase of children now smoking cigars.

Changes to legislation fall short, says anti-smoking advocate

Anti-smoking advocates meantime say the province needs to walk back the exemption, calling it regressive to anti-smoking campaigns.

“We went through all these arguments in the previous decade. And I was hoping that by this decade we wouldn’t have to repeat all of those arguments,” said Les Hagen with Action on Smoking and Health.

Hagen says there are mountains of data on the effects of smoking and people who would be working in these establishments would be exposed to secondhand smoke for the duration of their shifts.

He also says opening up legislation to allow for cigar lounges could pave the way for other things.

WATCH: Anti-smoking advocates say changes fall short

“What is the province going to say to cannabis lounges? They’re opening up a can of worms here that’s unnecessary.”

He does, however, applaud the province on changes to legislation looking to restrict cannabis smoking in parks and that displays and marketing of vapes in stores have also been limited.

But Hagen says the province needs to do more when it comes to vape flavours.

“Why would we leave that on the table?” he said.

“Why would we let tobacco companies continue to target kids with all of their favourite flavours?”

-with files from Darcy Ropchan