Canadian Group to Crack Down on Tobacco Sales


Anti-smoking groups are urging Ottawa to make it illegal for underage teens to sell cigarettes in convenience stores. However, opponents claim doing so could cripple stores which rely on young, minimum-wage labor to operate, according to the Calgary Herald.

The anti-smoking groups say Health Canada statistics prove teenagers are more likely than their adult co-workers to sell cigarettes to underage buyers. Anti-smoking groups also say allowing underage teens to sell smokes sends a "dangerous" message: that smoking is acceptable behavior.

"If a minor can sell cigarettes to adults, it enhances the social acceptability of that product," said Jennifer Duncan, tobacco control co-ordinator with the Canadian Cancer Society in Alberta. "It reinforces that [smoking] is appropriate adult behaviour, when it isn't."

It's illegal in Alberta to sell cigarettes to anyone under the age of 18 -- but it's not illegal for underage kids to possess cigarettes. There are also no federal or provincial laws restricting young teens from selling cigarettes.

Duncan said a 2000-2001 Health Canada report on cigarette sales to minors showed retail workers in their teens were far more likely than adult workers to sell smokes to underage buyers. In sting operations across Canada, enforcement officials found 48.6 per cent of teenage store workers sold cigarettes to minors. By comparison, the report showed that only 25.4 per cent of adult store workers sold smokes to underage buyers.

Alexis Fraese, a tobacco enforcement officer with Health Canada, said his department's main concern is preventing underage youths from buying cigarettes. He said it's up to employers to properly train their workers -- regardless of age -- to obey minor-smoking laws.

If young employees obey the law, Fraese said, then "whoever you have behind the counter is irrelevant. That's an employment issue."
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