Nunavut’s legislators passed the Tobacco and Smoking Act on May 28, which will ban public housing tenants from smoking in their rented homes and will prohibit the sales of flavoured vaping products, among other restrictions aimed at reducing smoking in the territory.
It’s the first update on smoking legislation in Nunavut in 15 years.
Vaping wasn’t nearly as popular when the previous act was passed. The new law takes aim at flavoured vapes because they are thought to attract young people to pick up the habit. Other limitations on vaping will include the making 19 the minimum age to purchase and setting a maximum concentration of nicotine.
The Tobacco and Smoking Act will make it illegal to smoke in residences that are publicly funded and in Government of Nunavut staff housing. Smoking in vehicles while minors are present will also be prohibited.
“Nunavummiut noted that they want a stronger emphasis on enforcement, specifically the enforcement of smoke-free places and buffer zones,” Health Minister Lorne Kusugak said of public consultations on Bill 57. “Nunavummiut also emphasized the importance of protecting the health of children and youth.”
In terms of enforcement, Kusugak spoke of having up to half a dozen enforcement officers in the regions, in addition to providing training for bylaw officers so they can clamp down on infractions.
“I think what’s key here at this time is to go through an education process so that the vendors and people who sell tobacco products and other products but would like to get into selling tobacco products know what the rules and laws are regarding it and the kind of penalties that would be enforced if vendors and the retail outlets don’t follow the rules,” the minister said. “I think the key at this time is to educate the public and the private sector and the public sector in terms of what the laws are and what the penalties hold.”
Tununiq MLA David Qamaniq pointed out that Nunavummiut are able to order vaping products online from the south, making enforcement difficult.
Kusugak responded: “If people want to conduct themselves in illegal matters, that would have to be dealt with by the proper authorities.”
The Health minister encapsulated how tobacco use in Nunavut remains troubling, with 74 per cent of residents still smoking, a rate four times the Canadian average. In addition, 51 per cent of 12 to 19-year-olds in the territory indulge in smoking, which is known to vastly increase rates of cancer, bronchitis, emphysema and coronary heart disease, among other ailments.