Teen cigarette possession laws wrong solution, doctor warns

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Teen cigarette possession laws wrong solution, doctor warns

Anne Kyle

Saskatchewan News Network; Regina Leader-Post

Saturday, December 28, 2002

REGINA -- Anti-smoking crusader Dr. Ross Findlater hopes Saskatchewan would look for clear proof before making cigarette possession a crime for teens, a move Nova Scotia felt was necessary to curb smoking.

"Personally it is not an area I would jump at, because there are other anti-tobacco strategies that have been shown to be more effective when it comes to reducing tobacco use amongst our youth and adult populations," he said.

Effective Jan. 1, Nova Scotia's new anti-smoking legislation will make it illegal for people under the age of 19 to be in possession of tobacco products. Minors will not be charged or fined, but police will have the power to confiscate the tobacco product.

The province's all-party committee on tobacco control initially recommended the Saskatchewan government make it illegal for people under the age of 18 to use, buy or possess tobacco products. Teens found in possession of tobacco products would be subject to fines of $50.

However, when the provincial Tobacco Control Act proclaimed in March, was drafted that particular provision didn't make it into legislation because there wasn't strong enough evidence to support it, Findlater said.

"Such legislation may look attractive to politicians, because it puts responsibility on the kids. But on the other hand, making teens, who are addicted to tobacco, enemies of the system is not an effective way to get them to quit smoking," he said.

In fact such legislation would create more problems than it would solve, he said, explaining it would be very onerous and costly to enforce and would legitimized smoking as a right of passage into adulthood.

"I hope Nova Scotia re-examines its tobacco possession laws down the road and properly evaluates its effectiveness so we can learn from it," Findlater said.

In Saskatchewan and throughout the country, retailers are prohibited from selling tobacco to minors, but Saskatchewan's Tobacco Control Act doesn't prohibit teenagers from smoking or possessing cigarettes.

The province's tobacco control laws, however, make it illegal to display tobacco products in places accessible to people under 18. It also makes it illegal to sell tobacco products to minors, but not illegal for people under 18 to be found in possession of cigarettes or other tobacco products.

© Copyright 2002 The StarPhoenix (Saskatoon)

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