Smoking will be banned in all public places and work sitesin Alberta, members ofthe province'sgoverning party decided Thursday.

Health Minister Dave Hancockhad asked the Tory caucus to considerthe ban during a morning meeting in Edmonton.

Party MLAs put the idea to a vote behind closed doors, also agreeingto ban tobacco sales in pharmacies andon post-secondary campuses, as well as to outlaw promotional and so-called "power wall" cigarette displays inretail stores.

"The act will bring forward legislation which will make it more difficult for young people to be attracted to smoking and for young people to get cigarettes. And I think that's a major step forward in the health promotion agenda," Hancock said after the meeting.

Premier Ed Stelmach said he ispleased caucus members approved of the ban,but he won't reveal how he voted behind closed doors.

"Finally we have got the policy in place. We are going to dialogue with Albertans to implement it. That's the news, not who votedhere and that."

The legislation neededto make the changes possiblewill be introduced before the end of the spring session and voted on in the fall, making implementation possibly a year and a half away.

It will replace the Smoke-free Places Act, which requires Alberta municipalities to at leastprohibit smoking in public places accessible to minors.

Still places to puff

While communities such as Lethbridge, Edmonton and Calgary have passed strongersmoking bans, there are still many places in Alberta where smokers can light up in public.

But once the new provincewide ban kicks in, even patrons used to smoking in bars or bingo hallsgranted exceptionsby municipalities will have to butt out.

Under Ralph Klein, now the former premier, a longtime smoker, several health ministers failed to bring in a workplaceban.

MLA Gary Mar, who tried to bring in a smoking ban four years ago when he was health minister, said the changes are "long overdue.

"It took three health ministers and three chairs of [the Alberta Alcohol and Drug Abuse Commission] to move the yardsticks on this, but I am very happy that it is done."