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New Global Tobacco Treaty Requires Second Hand Smoke Protection

 (Edmonton) --  Starting this Sunday, the Alberta government has an increased obligation to protect the public from second hand smoke, says a national group of Canadian physicians. 

“On February 27, 2005, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control comes into force,” said Dr. Charl Els, an Edmonton psychiatrist and the Alberta spokesperson for Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada.  “All countries which are party to this global tobacco treaty – including Canada – have undertaken to protect the public and workers from second hand smoke.”

The treaty requires the federal government to remove second hand smoke from workplaces and indoor public places under its jurisdiction, and to actively promote other levels of government (like the Alberta provincial government) to take similar measures. 

“The federal government was very careful to obtain the consent of all the provinces before ratifying the treaty,” explained Dr. Els.  “They did not impose this on Alberta, the government of Alberta was consulted about and, as far as we know, agreeable to the treaty coming into force in Canada.”

Although Canada would not be in breach of the treaty if Alberta were to fail to protect the public and workers from second hand smoke, the province would be breaking away from the collaboration that has benefited tobacco control measures across Canada and from the spirit of their agreement that Canada should ratify the treaty.

“Public health is a shared federal-provincial responsibility, and tobacco remains the greatest public health challenge” explained Els.  One in five deaths is caused by smoking and one in 250 deaths is caused by second-hand smoke.

“Until Alberta addresses public smoking, it is out of step with a pan-Canadian agreement to protect the public and workers from the cancer-causing substances in second hand smoke,” said Els.  “As long as Albertans are involuntarily exposed to smoke, they are several steps behind other Canadians with respect to their health protection.”

Since the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control was agreed to at the World Health Organization in May 2003, several Canadian provinces and territories have reformed their laws to provide complete protection for workers and the public from involuntary exposure to second hand smoke. These include Nunavut, Northwest Territories, Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Quebec, Ontario and Newfoundland are in the process of revising their laws to provide 100% protection.  Near complete protection is in place in Prince Edward Island, and British Columbia and Nova Scotia also have province-wide measures.

“There is no good reason for the Alberta government to refuse to implement this treaty,” said Dr Els. 


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 The Framework Convention on Tobacco Control comes into force on February 27, 2005.  It was ratified by Canada on November 26, 2004.  Full text of the treaty can be found at www.fctc.org .  Article 8 of the treaty addresses second hand smoke, its complete text is:

 Article 8

Protection from exposure to tobacco smoke

 1.Parties recognize that scientific evidence has unequivocally established that exposure to tobacco smoke causes death, disease and disability.

2.Each Party shall adopt and implement in areas of existing national jurisdiction as determined by national law and actively promote at other jurisdictional levels the adoption and implementation of effective legislative, executive, administrative and/or other measures, providing for protection from exposure to tobacco smoke in indoor workplaces, public transport, indoor public places and, as appropriate, other public places.