P.E.I. MLA wants legal age to buy tobacco and vaping products raised to 21
The legislation would also ban flavoured vaping products
Progressive Conservative MLA Cory Deagle plans to table a private members bill this fall that would raise the legal age to buy tobacco and vaping products from 19 to 21 years old.
The number of P.E.I. teens smoking tobacco has been growing in recent years in spite of the national trend that sees those numbers decreasing across Canada.
According to the last survey released by Statistics Canada in 2017, among 15- to 19-year-olds the smoking rate for Islanders was 15.8 per cent, double the national rate of 7.9 per cent, and up four percentage points since 2013.
It goes alongside an increase in youth vaping rates, which has jumped from 17 per cent in 2015 to 26 per cent in 2017.
Deagle said his legislation would also ban flavoured vaping products.
P.E.I. could be first at the table
"It's unbelievable the amount of youth that vape in dressing rooms and at high schools," he said.
"I think it's become a crisis. It really has."
Deagle is taking the lead from the Canadian Cancer Society which has also recommended that the legal age for buying smoking products be raised to 21 years old.
Kelly Cull, with the society, said the possibility of this legislative change is encouraging and could mean a shift for the rest of the country.
"We just need a province to really come to the table first and we're really pleased that P.E.I. is looking seriously at this legislation," she said.
'Health community as a whole is concerned'
Deagle said he's received a lot of support from his constituents and is hopeful political parties, including his own, will be on board.
"I think with anything there's going to be people on both sides of the issue but I think overwhelmingly people I've talked to ... don't want to see their kids addicted to nicotine."
The province's deputy chief public health officer said the statistics have been alarming. "I think the public health community as a whole is concerned about these numbers," said Dr. David Sabapathy.
"We see youth starting as early as junior high school but certainly the high school age is the age that we're most concerned to having this huge explosion in growth."
Sabapathy said there are a number of factors that could be contributing to more teens getting into smoking and vaping, including flavoured vaping products on the market.
Province still considering evidence
As for whether the province will consider raising the legal age, Sabapathy said the department is "still watching that evidence emerge and [are] trying to make a decision on that.
"Anytime you increase taxes, you increase the age limit, it will help curb consumption in some way and it's a question of is that the best way to do this."