Alberta - smoking rate at an all time low..

January 25, 2009 - The number of smokers lighting up in Alberta is at an all-time low, according to new Health Canada statistics that show the provincial rate has dropped to its lowest level since the department began releasing figures a decade ago. The rate of Albertans aged 15 and over who smoke is 19 per cent, down from 21 per cent in 2007, according to figures released this week for the first half of 2008. When Health Canada began releasing statistics in 1999, 26 per cent of Albertans were smokers. That percentage has dropped almost steadily, barring a slight increase in 2001.

New provincial legislation --including the January 1, 2008, ban on smoking in all bars across Alberta-- is part of the reason for that decline, according to Les Hagen of Action on Smoking and Health. Calgary had already implemented a ban on smoking in bars the year before.

Officials hope those numbers will continue to drop as more aspects of the Tobacco Reduction Strategy are implemented, such as the January 1, 2009, requirement that pharmacies and grocery stores where pharmaceuticals are sold are no longer allowed to sell cigarettes. Tobacco sales are also banned at hospitals, universities and colleges.

Youths are the largest consumers of flavoured cigarillos, which are packaged in single tubes, said Canadian Cancer Society spokes-woman Angeline Webb.

The organization is calling for a ban on flavoured tobaccos, backing a private member's bill expected to be raised during the spring session by Calgary-Egmont MLA Jonathan Denis.

The rate of Alberta youths smoking is "worrisome," Webb said, noting that this province has the second-highest rate in Canada, after Saskatchewan.

Reference: Anti-tobacco initiatives cut smoking rate to new low, Gwendolyn Richards, Calgary Herald, 1/23/2009.

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