May 17, 2005
Doctors' group applauds provincial governments for improving public health laws.
Ottawa – Political leadership and solid democratic process has resulted in important advances in provincial health legislation says a group of Canadian doctors working to reduce tobacco use.
"In the past few weeks, we have seen three jurisdictions move solidly towards measures that will ensure that virtually all their citizens have the right to work and play in smoke-free indoor environments," said Neil Collishaw of Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada (PSC). "The legislatures and governments of Ontario, Quebec and Newfoundland now appear clearly committed to ensuring that all workers are protected from the toxic cigarette smoke, even if they work in bars, casinos or other hospitality sectors. Two of these provinces - Quebec and Ontario - have also moved forwards to reduce the promotion of cigarettes in these provinces.
PSC's Research Director noted particular elements of each jurisdiction's accomplishments that should serve to encourage other national or sub-national governments in strengthening their tobacco laws.
The Ontario government was elected on an election platform which included clear commitments to improve public health laws governing tobacco, including a province-wide smoke-free law and a ban on retail displays of cigarettes. "The premier of Ontario, Mr. Dalton McGuinty, and the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, Mr. George Smitherman, showed leadership in making and fulfilling a commitment to protecting health, and in steering their legislation through an open and democratic process that ensured that public support was for these measures was clearly demonstrated," said Collishaw. This law, if passed, will make Ontario indoor public places and workplaces smoke-free by May 31, 2006.
The Quebec Health Minister, Dr. Philippe Couillard, has proposed measures that will strengthen the Tobacco Act initially introduced by the previous government. Mr. Collishaw commended the process which lead to the new bill: "Through an open, transparent and rigorous public consultation process, as well as an extraordinarily exhaustive administrative review of the current law, Dr. Couillard has shown that his proposals are founded in broad public support and clear analysis and are now worthy of the pan-partisan support of the Quebec National Assembly." The Quebec law, if passed, will make all bars and restaurants smoke-free on January 1, 2006, will end a number of tobacco promotions in bars, and will ban the sale of cigarettes in a number of establishments, including schools, universities, bars and entertainment venues.
The acting Newfoundland Minister of Health and Community Services, Loyola Sullivan, has also completed a transparent and open public consultation process which resulted in measures to strengthen Newfoundland's Smoke-Free Environment Act, Collishaw pointed out. "The Newfoundland government is clearly committed to ensuring clean air in workplaces," said Collishaw. "They have introduced very effective enforcement procedures, including the loss of liquor license of any owner who is convicted of failing to comply and they are moving quickly to ensure that all citizens are protected by July 1, 2005."
"It's not only these Ministers and their governments who deserve praise," added Collishaw. "The legislatures, departments, business community and citizens in these provinces have worked constructively together to build new and better public health laws."
Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada estimates that, if these three provincial measures are implemented as announced, more than 75 % of Canadians will live in smoke-free jurisdictions within a year.
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