Did you know that New Brunswick made significant gains in the fight against tobacco this year (2015) when the government announced amendments to the Smoke-free Places Act and the Tobacco and Electronic Cigarette Sales Act? These changes propelled the province to the forefront as one of the most progressive jurisdictions when it comes to tobacco control policies. There has never been a more exciting time to be part of the anti-tobacco movement and there are numerous ways New Brunswickers can ensure that these legislations are successful.
Creating a Healthier, Smoke-Free Province
Marking Canada Day on July 1st, 2015, amendments to the Smoke-free Places Act came into effect aiming to create and enforce healthy smoke-free outdoor environments throughout the province.
The Smoke-free Places Act first came into effect in New Brunswick in 2004. It defines enclosed public places and workplaces where indoor smoking is prohibited (including smoking in vehicles with children under 16 years of age, which became effective in 2010) and creates offences for those smoking in a public place, as well as for owner/managers who allow smoking in areas under their control.
With its new 2015 amendments, the New Brunswick Smoke-free Places Act now bans smoking in a variety of outdoor public spaces, including:
- On patios where food and/or alcohol is served and within 3m from the patio boundary;
- 9m from doorways, windows and air intakes of public buildings;
- On outdoor playgrounds and within 20m of their perimeters (examples: slides, swings, climbing structures, splash pads, wading pools, sand boxes);
- On outdoor sports and recreational areas including spectator stands and within 20m of their perimeters (examples: tennis courts, baseball fields, soccer fields, swimming pools, beaches, skateboard parks, skating rinks);
- On public walking trails and within 9m of the trail; and
- In provincial parks (except in designated smoking areas, golf courses and on occupied campsites).
In addition, the use of e-cigarettes and water pipes are no longer permitted in the same areas that traditional smoking is not permitted.
Protecting children: smoking in New Brunswick is now strictly prohibited on all outdoor playgrounds and within 20m of their perimeters.
A complete list of guidelines, as well as “non-smoking/non-vaping” signs, are available for operators of businesses and facilities that are frequented by the public and affected by these changes on the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health’s website.
The Tobacco and Electronic Cigarette Sales Act legislates the sale of tobacco products in the province. It first came into effect in 1994. It restricts the sale of tobacco to persons under 19 years of age, stipulates areas in which tobacco cannot be sold (such as pharmacies), restricts the advertisement and visibility of tobacco products in retail outlets and prescribes minimum cigarette package size. The Tobacco and Electronic Cigarettes Sale Act now includes the following 2015 measures:
- The sale of e-cigarettes and e-juices to people under 19 years of age is prohibited and these products must be hidden from sight;
- Smoking supplies (rolling papers, blunt wraps, cigarette tubes and filters, cigarette holders and pipes) cannot be sold to persons under 19 years of age or be placed on display;
- No one under the age of 19 may enter a vapour shop unless accompanied by an adult;
- Outdoor advertisement is not permitted for retailers classed as tobacconist and vapour shops and promotional material inside these shops must not be seen from the outside; and
- Restrictions on promotional materials that presently apply to tobacco in other retail shops will now also apply to electronic cigarettes and smoking supplies.
Moreover, a ban on the sale of all flavoured tobacco products, including menthol, will come into effect throughout the province on January 1st, 2016.
New Brunswickers can beathe easy on restaurants, bars and cafe terrasses. Smoking is now prohibited on patios where food and/or alcohol is served and within 3m from the patio boundary.
“With the amendments to its Smoke-free Places Act, New Brunswick now has the strongest smoke-free legislation anywhere in Canada,” affirms Rob Cunningham, Senior Policy Analyst at the Canadian Cancer Society. “All the provinces in Canada have legislation that prohibits smoking in indoor public places as well as in cars when children are present. But only a few provinces and municipalities have legislation that enforce smoke-free outdoor spaces for their citizens. New Brunswick’s legislation regarding smoke-free outdoor spaces has a far greater reach because it establishes larger smoke-free zones: 3m around patios, 9m around airways and doorways. It is also innovative because it makes New Brunswick the first province to implement smoke-free provincial parks and public trails.”
New Brunswick’s Tobacco and Electronic Cigarette Sales Act amendments have also contributed to making the province’s tobacco control measures more competitive and in line with current trends. Recently, Alberta, Ontario, Nova Scotia and Quebec made headlines by banning flavoured tobacco, including menthol, and regulating the use of e-cigarettes.
“Some of the most progressive legislation regarding tobacco control and prevention comes from Canada,” reflects Cunningham. “We’re breaking ground with bans on flavoured tobacco. And we’re definitely ahead of the game when it comes to enforcing smoke-free outdoor spaces. Most countries do not yet have such legislation, some do not even have legislation regarding cars having to be smoke-free when children are present. Now, New Brunswick is a leader! This is a big success, especially when we consider how urgent the situation is; the fact that the province has one of the highest smoking rates in the country.”
Thanks to new restrictions on smoking on outdoor sports and recreational areas, which include tennis courts, baseball fields, soccer fields, swimming pools, skateboard parks, skating rinks, and beaches, New Brunswickers and their families will be safe from harmful second-hand smoke when they enjoy their favorite outdoor activities.
Stronger Anti-Tobacco Legislation Has Positive Repercussions for New Brunswickers
There is indeed a need for positive change in New Brunswick towards more healthy tobacco-free lifestyles. According to recent figures, 19.6% of New Brunswickers over 15 years of age are current smokers. This is one of the highest rates in Canada (Canadian Tobacco, Alcohol and Drug Survey 2013). Amongst those who smoke, an average of 14.3 cigarettes are smoked per day. Moreover, according to the 2012-13 Youth Smoking Survey, 3.4 % of New Brunswick youth in grades six to nine and 15.9% in grades 10-12 are current smokers. Most alarming, 24% of youth in grades 6-12 who have never smoked are susceptible to starting smoking! (New Brunswick Student Wellness Survey, 2012-2013).
Statistics indicated an urgent need for more targeted mesures to prevent youth from taking up smoking, with 24% of youth in grades 6-12 in New Brunswick who have never smoked reported as being susceptible to start smoking. Read more here. (Source: New Brunswick Student Wellness Survey, 2012-2013.)
The New Brunswick Government, the New Brunswick Anti-Tobacco Coalition, health and wellness groups and all those who supported changes to legislation hope the changes to the Smoke-free Places Act and Tobacco and Electronic Cigarette Sales Act will reduce these rates by preventing tobacco uptake among youth, encouraging more quit attempts and helping those who have quit to remain tobacco-free.
“Tobacco use and exposure is the leading cause of preventable disease and death in Canada,” says Dr. Cristin Muecke, New Brunswick’s Medical Officer of Health for Provincial Programs. “Helping families is one of our public health priorities. By further restricting smoking in public places, we are not only limiting the public’s exposure to second-hand smoke, but we are helping New Brunswickers live longer, healthier lives.”
“We’re also denormalizing tobacco use,” adds Dr. Muecke. “We are showing that it is not accepted socially, and therefore hopefully discouraging youth and New Brunswickers who do not smoke from starting! Plus, limiting access to e-cigarettes and flavoured tobacco and placing restrictions on new forms of smoking, like water pipes and electronic cigarettes, helps to prevent youth from taking up smoking. These types of products and their appeal are too often an easy first initiation to other tobacco products and a lifetime of nicotine addiction.”
Happy hikers! Smoking is now prohibited in all of New Brunswick’s provincial parks.
Furthermore, having more smoke-free spaces is also a great way to support current smokers who are trying to quit. “By limiting their exposure to second-hand smoke, smokers are more likely to succeed in their efforts to quit without being tempted,” confirms Dr. Muecke.
“Both legislative pieces show that the Government of New Brunswick is committed to protecting the health of New Brunswickers, and in particular, our youth,” adds the Chief Executive Officer of the Canadian Cancer Society New Brunswick, Anne McTiernan-Gamble. “Reducing the number of outdoor public spaces where people can smoke and removing flavoured tobacco products from the shelves has the potential to significantly lower rates of tobacco use in New Brunswick.”
While some tobacco proponents may outcry tougher legislation as having a negative impact on the province’s economy, a long-term vision is needed to understand how tobacco prevention and control has powerful positive repercussions. “The burden of the tobacco issue on our province’s health care system is far more costly than any temporary revenue we are getting from taxes on cigarettes and tobacco products. If we are worried about our province’s economy, we should be worried about smoking rates as well,” concludes Dr. Muecke.
By restricting smoking in public places, New Brunswick is limiting the public’s exposure to second-hand smoke and helping its citizens live longer, healthier lives.
Looking Ahead: How New Brunswickers Can Help Make the Province Tobacco-Free.
Every New Brunswicker can make a difference in helping to ensure the province remains at the forefront of the anti-tobacco movement.
According to the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health (Public Health), physicians, nurse practitioners, nurses and other health care professionals not only play a critical role in providing clinical support to smoking cessation efforts but, perhaps more importantly, in preventing smoking among children and youth. The Canadian Pediatric Society recommends the “Anticipate-Ask-Advise-Assist-Arrange” approach to smoking prevention and cessation. A useful resource for patients in New Brunswick is the Smoker’s Help Line, a toll-free evidence-based smoking cessation service (1-877-513-5333).
Municipalities, towns and villages as well as operators of businesses and facilities that are frequented by the public should familiarize themselves with the amendments to the Smoke-free Places Act and be proactive in enforcing their new smoke-free outdoor spaces. A person who smokes in an area which is not permitted by the Smoke-free Places Act can be subject to a fine between $140 and $1,100. A manager/owner of a building that allows smoking in an area which is not permitted by the Smoke-free Places Act can be subject to a fine between $240 and $5,200.
Retailers must comply with the Tobacco and Electronic Cigarette Sales Act or risk penalties. Retailers who violate the new provisions of the Act will be subject to a maximum fine of $5,200. Department of Public Safety compliance officers can be contacted regarding any questions related to compliance with the Act.
Citizen groups and individuals can also take daily actions to support healthier tobacco-free lifestyles in their communities. This includes being familiar with the Smoke-free Places Act, politely asking all smokers to respect the new smoke-free spaces and their boundaries, and reporting violations to the Department of Health via a toll-free line, 1-866-234-4234. They can also encourage a loved one to quit smoking, enforce 100% smoke-free environments for their homes, and model positive tobacco-free behaviour for their children. For smokers wating to quit, the Smoker’s Help Line can be of assistance (toll-free at 1-877-513-5333 or online at www.smokershelpline.ca).
Well deserved! New Brunswick’s new tobacco control policies are gaining attention. The New Brunswick Department of Health received the NB Branch of the Canadian Institute of Public Health Inspectors’ Protecting the Public Award 2015 in November 2015.
Photos and story used with permission from the NB Department of Health as well as royalty-free and licensed from StockFreeImages.com.
Published in December 2015
By Nathalie Landry – NBATC Communications Coordinator