Dr. Swann in Question Period on Tobacco Reduction Strategy – 29 November 2016

Taken from the Alberta Hansard for Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Tobacco Reduction Strategy

Dr. Swann: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. Yesterday’s second-quarter financial update contained very little good news for Albertans. A quarter-billion-dollar piece of that report was cost overruns in health care. Prevention, now approximately 3 per cent of our health budget, clearly must become a larger part of bending the curve in health care. The Premier has been quite vocal on a number of occasions regarding the health effects and costs of tobacco use to individuals, families, and the health care system. However, tobacco legislation passed in this House three years ago and supported by the Premier when in opposition remains to be proclaimed. To the Premier: what’s the delay?

The Speaker: The Minister of Health.

Ms Hoffman: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker and to the member for the important question. We have been able to move forward on a number of those pieces, including the banning of flavoured tobaccos, including menthol, in Alberta. We’re very proud of that, and we are continuing to work with the chief medical officer of health and others in a public health way to make sure that we’re supporting Albertans and moving forward in a thoughtful way as we move forward with implementing additional pieces of the legislation.

Dr. Swann: Given that e-cigarette use is skyrocketing and given that youth are now almost as likely to try e-cigarettes containing addictive nicotine and given that Health Canada has now specifically recognized the danger e-cigarettes pose, will the minister commit to adding e-cigarettes to the tobaccolike products list and protect young Albertans by banning them in public establishments and workplaces?

The Speaker: The Minister of Health.

Ms Hoffman: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker, and thank you to the member for a question that is clearly connected to govern-ment policy and something that I think we have heard and many of us advocated for in terms of an expansion and looking at an area for implementation. I’ve been working collaboratively with my federal counterpart, the Minister of Health for Canada, and they are looking at bringing forward a number of different precautions and safeguards in the area of e-cigarettes and vaporizers and other types of tobacco products. We’ll be looking at ways that we can have complemen-tary collaboration to provide the very best safety for Albertans.

The Speaker: Second supplemental.

Dr. Swann: Thanks, Mr. Speaker. Given that when in opposition the NDs made strong arguments against lobbyists from the tobacco industry having access to government ministers, in contravention of the framework convention on tobacco control, a global treaty of which Canada is a signatory, and given that there are still more than a dozen tobacco lobbyists currently operating in Alberta and on our lobbyist registry, will the minister commit today to ensuring that neither she nor her caucus members meet with tobacco lobbyists behind closed doors?

The Speaker: The hon. minister.

Ms Hoffman: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. That’s certainly my intention. I’m glad to have it on Hansard. That’s the way that we plan on moving forward, by making sure that we protect Alber-tans. They always deserve to be our number one stakeholder when it comes to making important decisions about their public health.