LETHBRIDGE: An Alberta group is calling for stricter consequences on selling cigarettes to kids under 18, after an informal survey found 60 per cent of Lethbridge retailers were willing to sell to a minor.
"I was appalled that tobacco products are that accessible in our community," said Cheri Langhofer, the local spokesperson for Action on Smoking and Health, which conducted the survey.
Langhofer was part of the undercover survey in May, when a 16-year-old youth volunteer went to 20 retailers chosen at random. They discovered 12 clerks, or 60 per cent, were willing to sell the youth tobacco products, even after seeing his I.D. Compare that to the national average revealed in a 2009 survey by Health Canada, where one in six, or 16 per cent were willing to sell to minors.
"Alberta is the only province in Canada without any legislation to curb tobacco sales to minors, so we're relying completely on the federal law," said Action on Smoking and Health executive director Les Hagen. "The other provinces don't think that law goes far enough, and have complementary provincial legislation in place." The group wants Alberta rules around tobacco sales to be as strict as those for liquor: making tobacco vendors get a license, mandatory I.D. checks for anyone who looks under 25, and an age cut off of 18 or older to sell tobacco products.
"Teens are very smart. They're going to find out where it's easy to buy tobacco products," said Langhofer. "That's why we need to bring in stronger deterrents. And our youth deserve this protection." In 2010, the rate of smoking for kids aged 12 to 19 in Alberta was 13 per cent.