Close workplace smoking ban loopholes, advocacy group urges Alberta government

There are still too many loopholes in the provincial legislation that outlaws smoking in the workplace 10 years after it was first introduced, advocates say.

On 10th anniversary of workplace smoking ban, Campaign for a Smoke-Free Alberta says legislation needs update

The Campaign for a Smoke-Free Alberta wants the province go to further in it legislation banning smoking in workplaces.

There are still too many loopholes in the provincial legislation that outlaws smoking in the workplace 10 years after it was first introduced, advocates say.

The Campaign for a Smoke-Free Alberta marked one decade since passage of the Tobacco and Smoking Reduction Act with an event at Hotel Arts in Calgary, calling on the NDP government to broaden the prohibitions contained in it.

The organization says current legislation still does not provide adequate protection for people who work in group living facilities, hotels or hookah bars.

"Our main concern is thousands and thousands of Alberta workers remain unprotected from second-hand smoke at work," said Les Hagen, executive director of Action on Smoking and Health.

Les Hagen, the executive director of Action on Smoking and Health, says anti-smoking laws in Alberta don't go far enough to protect workers and the situation will be more dire with the legalization of marijuana. (Colin Hall/CBC)

He says the legalization of marijuana will make matters worse for those workers.

"The government is allowing cannabis smoking everywhere that tobacco smoking is allowed, including indoor workplaces, so we're asking the government to close this loophole, which can't be justified," Hagen said.

Dr. Brent Friesen, a medical officer of health for AHS, says a section of the act covering tobacco-like products, such as waterpipe smoking and vaping, was never proclaimed.

He says enacting that section now would prohibit the smoking of marijuana in cannabis lounges.

"People, if they are exposed to that second-hand cannabis smoke, they'd be exposed to some of those same toxic chemicals as we see in second-hand smoke," he said.

Province working with advocates

In a statement, Health Minister Sarah Hoffman said the provincial government continues to work with anti-smoking advocates to reduce tobacco usage and they are still developing recommendations around smoking marijuana. 

"We'll continue working with our partners to ensure that Albertans have healthy, supportive workplaces and that we continue to reduce the health harms associated with tobacco," the statement read. 

"A final decision regarding whether cannabis cafes or lounges will be allowed in Alberta has not been made yet. When, and if, they are allowed, a further decision will need to be made about what kind of cannabis consumption can happen within those businesses.

"We are awaiting more information from the federal government about how it plans to regulate edible cannabis products before we move forward with provincial plans."

The Campaign for a Smoke-Free Alberta says second-hand tobacco smoke, which has been classified as a group A carcinogen to which there is no safe level of exposure, causes the death of more than 1,000 Canadians every year.