This isn’t illegal

Corner stores want to ban cigs for kids. Oddly, doctors don’t.


This isn’t illegal

The battle to keep kids from smoking just keeps getting stranger. A new study shows that making it illegal for kids to smoke can help to reduce youth smoking rates. But oddly, Canada’s convenience stores, which make a considerable chunk of their profits from selling cigarettes, support the study’s recommendation to ban youth smoking—while anti-smoking groups, such as Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada, oppose it.

Right now, it’s illegal for stores to sell cigarettes to kids under the age of 18 or 19 (depending on the province), but that doesn’t mean that it’s illegal for kids to smoke. In fact, while laws against underage drinking are commonplace, laws against underage smoking only exist in Alberta and Nova Scotia.

A study released in October by the University of Florida and DePaul University in Chicago indicates that the rest of the provinces should consider banning youth smoking too. It found that introducing youth possession laws for tobacco is an effective approach to reducing the number of young smokers. Leonard Jason, a psychology professor at DePaul University and co-author of the study, says that banning the sale of tobacco to minors isn’t enough. “There are a variety of ways that, if you’re addicted, you’re going to get tobacco. So you need something more,” he says. Jason argues that if young people can’t smoke openly because they’re afraid of being ticketed by police, there’s less peer pressure for others to pick up the habit.

The Canadian Convenience Stores Association (CCSA) agrees. Despite the fact that tobacco products account for 40 to 60 per cent of a typical convenience store’s annual sales, the association has campaigned for years to push the provinces to pass legislation banning minors from having or smoking tobacco. The reason? Because the current law puts the onus on the tobacco retailer and not the kids—and convenience store owners are getting tired of being the gatekeepers.

Steve Tennant, vice-president of the CCSA, says the provinces should keep the laws making it illegal to sell tobacco to minors, but add new laws so enforcers can fine kids for smoking directly. The additional laws are needed, he says, because many kids are bypassing the stores and buying contraband cigarettes on the black market. “The legislation that we’re proposing is a ban that would complement the existing restrictions on tobacco sales to minors, and add a deterrent to contraband sales,” Tennant says.

But Cynthia Callard, executive director of the anti-smoking advocacy group Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada, says the very fact that the CCSA supports such a ban is evidence that it won’t work. “I can’t overstate how relevant it is that the only people who are pushing for youth possession laws are tobacco companies and tobacco retailers,” she says. “That should give anyone pause.”

Pushing for youth possession laws is an easy way for the CCSA to appear dedicated to helping kids stay smoke-free without hurting their bottom line, says Callard. After all, retailers are already prohibited from selling to minors, so they wouldn’t lose profit under that law. If anyone would get a hit in sales, it would be the contraband cigarette industry, which Tennant says is the CCSA’s largest competitor in tobacco sales. “It’s an attempt to deflect attention away from the measures that will be really effective,” says Callard. “There’s no difference to the health of a young person whether they smoke contraband cigarettes sold in a Baggie rather than cigarettes sold in a fancy package.”

Callard says that there are limited resources available to keep kids from smoking, and those funds would be better spent on education, rather than trying to police the more than 150,000 underage smokers in Canada.

Still, the study’s findings contradict the anti-smoking group’s position, and a recently released Statistics Canada survey shows that the percentage of youth aged 15 to 19 who smoke has levelled off at 15 per cent in recent years, after declining from 28 per cent in 1999. That suggests it may be time for a new strategy. The CCSA will make it difficult for the provinces to ignore the fact that they’ve got one.


This isn’t illegal

  1. I don’t know what Callard is thinking, but her comments don’t make sense. I fully support a law which makes it illegal to smoke under an age of majority. Why shouldn’t we have it? We had such laws for other things which could potentially harm children or require a certain maturity to make at choice such as driving, drinking, voting, moving out, quitting school etc. Why would smoking be any different?

    • Why doesn’t the government just take away the rights of everyone and be done with it. Everyone is always complaining about smoking, but there is very little done about drinking. If the health service wants to prevent billions wasted through medical costs, then make smoking illegal completely and also drinking alcohol illegal for everyone from birth to death and that solves all the problems. Also make it illegal for any drug consumption without a prescription. If a patient comes into the ER through an accident, alcohol abuse, alcohol related crimes, they are turned away or they have to pay the cost of their visit themselves because insurance is automatically cancelled for them. Why, because they are then classed as felons or criminals. Someone gets in an accident that is alcohol related, the insurance company cancels their policy immediately, leaving the offender responsible for the billions paid out by insurance companies through alcohol negligence with a lifetime ban on driving also imposed. Then they can use the money saved in health costs to hire a million new policemen to stand on every corner 24-7 and monitor the public for any wrong doing. I always believed I lived in North America where we had freedoms to live our lives the way we want, but obviously we live in a communist republic, where no one has the freedom of thought or action to benefit their lives or shorten them. It is the role of the parents to teach their children about the evils of tobacco and alcohol, but no one wants that responsibility. It is easier for the parents to lobby governments to destroy the rights of the individual than admit they are failures as parents.

      • And while we’re at it, lets take away speed laws and drivers tests too, right? After all, in a free country we should be allowed to drive any which way we like, and not being allowed to is just the evil machinations of the communists who want to oppress us all and take away our tinfoil hats.

        Get real.

        Passing laws that the majority of society doesn’t want doesn’t work. Hence why prohibition failed miserably last time it was tried. Are you honestly trying to argue that most people want under-age teens to have the “right” to freely smoke?

        • There’s a big difference between things that harm only yourself and other people. A person should be free to do whatever they wish as long as it doesn’t harm anyone. ie. smoking indoors should probably be illegal unless everyone is consenting. Smoking outdoors is merely a minor irritant for non smokers and doesn’t cause any health problems. What are we going to do ban homeless people because they are loud and irritate people?

  2. So Callard opposes this because tobacco retailers support it? Come on. Lets say she is right, and it is ineffective (I seriously don’t see how a law like this could increase youth smoking, especially since the status quo of it being illegal to sell to minors is remaining in place). Even if that is true, it still cuts down on people buying black market cigarettes. That means:
    -more tax revenue
    -higher prices (which in itself should prevent cash poor young people from smoking)
    -reduction of a source of revenue for organized crime (and some terrorist organizations)
    -reduction of an activity that is, in itself, illegal (because people say, stealing trucks of cigarettes, are… you know… bad)

    So even if this is just a case of convenience store owners shutting out their competitors this is still probably a good move.

  3. How many addicted smokers if asked to sign a petition to ban tobacco would refuse out of anything other than fear?

    • hmmm maybe theyd refuse because its something they do and they dont want it to be banned. thats not fear just choice.

  4. Makes no sense either way, the best way to eliminate cigarettes it to increase the age to legally smoke by 1 year every year. This will allow the current smokers to continue as well as keep any new smpkers from legally smoking. This would also give the manufacturers time to redirect their buisness interests into growing something else in the fields

    • That makes sense but it could cause problems for young smokers who are addicted. They could get caught if they become addicted and are on or around the minimum age limit for legal smoking.

  5. Hey, great idea. Let’s ban alcohol while we’re at it. Also pot. Works like a charm! And the police will be sooooo happy that their new job description is to cruise the streets looking for young people hastily chucking cigarettes in the gutter.

    • It migth surprise you how much they would welcome it. Not for the enforcement headaches, which they would eschew, but for the search and seizure opportunities it opens up. “reasonable suspicion” of possession of pot is all they need to stop and search. Byproducts of that search are fair game.

  6. i agree they should get charged and when a police officer see’s a minor smoking they should do something about pull over to every highschool outside hang half or more will be out there smoking start charging the word will get around young minds will start thinking twice, so will the parents that don’t pay enough attention

  7. While I think that youth smoking is deplorable, I think that it’s highly likely that making it illegal will make it seem more appealing to “rebellious” youth. Even the current ‘hiding the cigarettes’ in the stores makes it appear more appealing to kids who are not thinking things through and just want to be ‘cool’. Education is the best way to convince them that they’re risking their health and their lives. Take the kids to a cancer ward, introduce to someone who is dying because they smoked.

    • Just tell them it will make them short and funny smelling. Teenagers can’t visualise themselves 65 years old and dying of cancer.

    • I think that’s a fantatic idea!

      People are so worried about damaging their little psyches that they don’t stop to think that a little ‘shock therapy’ might work. Take them to the cancer ward to meet someone who’s on their last few breaths because they smoked. Visit with and talk to people who will openly tell them “hey, this is what lung cancer looks like”.

      That’s a form of education that will have a hard-hitting effect, I think. What do they think it will really do to them other than teach them a valuable lesson? They need to be shocked and terrified into realization. They have to see first hand, realistically the implications of smoking and what it does to your body… (I’m sure it will be classed as another form of child abuse that you ‘just can’t do’ to a child – the poor little things that they are.)

      But hey – it’s worth a try, right?

  8. Let’s outlaw teen sex while we’re at it. Then there won’t be any preganancies, right?

    • Good point, I was married at 17 to 15 year old girl because it was illegal to buy condoms.

      • It’s nice to know on one issue in the past 20 years that our society has used reason and educated insight to improved the quality of life for the vast majority. Through education, not ot mention the fear of aids, it is not only legal for teens to buy condoms but encouraged. Devout Catholics aside, I think the rest of us see this learned progess.

      • wow that's stupid illegal to buy condoms? My little sister buys those and she is like 11.

  9. I am amazed at how many people I work with have been told by their doctors that smoking is good for them – either as a way to relax, a way to reduce blood pressure, or a way to reduce body weight or stop weight gain. I am not sure if physicians are actually telling people these things, or if there is a massive communication gap, but it is frightening that so many people get the impression from their own personal physician that smoking is ok, and possibly even beneficial.

  10. i see the point, the ccsa, wins all around, they look like the good guy’s, but they’re not, they want to use this law to bring police enforcement down on the blackmarket cigs, it will force the teens that are smoking, back to the brand name cigs, they look good speaking out for the new law, crush thier competitors and increase thier bottom line, and if it does not work?, they loose nothing, corprate manipulation for profit, we need to adopt this law but for the right reason

  11. I haven’t had time to read the full article, but this thought comes to mind. What is smoking? Is it when you’re the one inhaling from the cigarette, or does it include inhaling second hand smoke? If there’s a ban on youth smoking, then many youth can claim (and rightly so) that they’re force to smoke at home via inhalation of 2nd hand smoke. Since it would (in the future) be illegal for a youth to inhale the 2nd hand smoke (since this is smoking) then a crime is being committed. How would we handle this?

    This subject always interests me as the woman who lives in the apartment unit beside mine smokes heavily in her unit. She never smokes outside. She also has an eight-year-old girl in there, too, all the time. That poor girl is forced to inhale the 2nd hand smoke all the time. I called Children’s Aid on her once and they said it’s a very grey area and doesn’t constitute child abuse – yet here, in Ontario, we have just charged the first adult with smoking in a car with children. Why is that now wrong but smoking in your home with kids is not?

    Smoking should be illegal and done with. I too would *love* to own a product that is highly addictive and sell it for a profit – who cares if it kills others, I’d be making my money. But, I doubt Health Canada would allow me to make such a product, even if it was only half as harmful as cigarettes are.

  12. But…If you make it illegal than more the fun in smoking, just like marihuana.

  13. I did quit smoking for practical reasons. Needed two hands to do my job and that also cleared the air around me much to the relief of the people I worked with and wife and children at home. It needs a strong mind to do something good for yourself and those you share your world with.
    No stinky hair and clothes anymore and likely a longer life as a result.
    If you do smoke…..just stop and become a nicer person.

  14. You mean, it’s possible to engineer a better society by legislating behavior and then forcing people to conform to government-mandated ideals through the police and prison system?

    Gosh – why didn’t we think of that!

  15. So people think smoking should be illegal. How about alcohol being illegal? We tried that once with prohibition and it worked so well…. NOT. And this war on drugs is working so well that none of our youth use drugs anymore …. NOT. Shall we charge people with providing junk food to their kids? Shall we call that abuse too? Maybe we should charge people for not making sure their kids are involved in sports. Legislating every bit of people’s lives is ridiculous and doesnt work.

    I agree with those who say that education is the answer. I dont want my children to smoke but I would rather do it through education that having them charged with a crime.

    And for those who commented on doctors recommending that their patients keep smoking. Yes that happens. My mother is 86 and the doctors have recommended that she not stop smoking because it would be too much of a shock to her system.

    • I have also heard about elderly ones, who have smoked for decades that if they quit it can be to much of a shock to their system. However something needs to be done to prevent the current youth from ending up in this condition should they live that long.

  16. Making possession illegal hasn’t done anything to cut down illegal drug use, has it? What makes anyone thing it will cut down on cigarette smoking?
    People want to smoke and they will do so regarless of the law. That includes minors.
    Let’s just stop all this silly paranoia about smoking and let people make their own choices.

  17. I am so sick of hearing that they are going to ban something! I think they should just ban banning. The repression, the recession and the depression are bringing me down.

  18. I have a young teen that smokes and I am in full agreement with stopping all production of cigarettes. I can't understand how with all of the education these kids receive about not smoking they still insist on doing. My Dad smoked for 50 years, he quit almost ten years ago due to health issues. Two years ago, he was put on oxygen because he could not breathe. In Jan of 09 he died. I am in utter shock that my daughter, who watched her grandfather struggle for breath would continue to smoke. I guess peer pressure wins again. As for the convenience stores not being allowed to sell cigarettes to minors that is BS, I called my local police dept because I know the the stores in my area are selling to minors, and the said it is not up to then to enforce the law. THEN WHO DOES!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Thats it! Yes ban the production of cigs! fine the makers of cigs! Yes thats where the problem starts. No cigs no problem!

  19. Why not do the simple solution instead of thinking deep about it?

    • @diamond bands:
      maybe 'cos it aint as simple? There will always be countries allowing the production, even if we had an worldwide UN-Ban. For some of them it would be even more attractive, as the western world evolve drug-repression by legal.
      Repression causes increasing prices by people's demand; a higher price-level should mean improving of tax-generated income to any country's community by reasonable state-management, resulted from ascending profits of the tobacco-industries.
      Related to that, you /will) have increasing community-costs for financing the prohibition of another – community-built by overstated discrimination – criminal scene (if not criminalised class) in the repressed, non-producing, -selling, transporting and -shipping country's communities. But after all ….
      ….cigarrettes will still be there and will also be available.

  20. Speaking from the point of a teen that used to smoke its a helluva a lot easier to get “black market” cigs than it was a few years ago. I used to buy off a friend who was old enough to buy them legally. Kids these days are a lot better at pursuading people, especially friends to get things they want its the same business with underage drinking. Where do you think they are getting alcohol from? Friends or stealing from parents.

  21. Umm DUH! Everyone I know that smokes started as kids. Who in their right mind would decide to smoke? Kids arent mature enough to make that kind of decision. Then you’re addicted and you’re fucked.

  22. I smoked as a teen, and drank, when we wanted something we had ways to get it. I am still a smoker, however am a little disgusted that there is a smoking area at our secondary school here. Going above and beyond to help educate about smoking in the school seems redundant when they have designated a spot on the school property for smoking teens.

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