Playgrounds should be for playing
With last month’s sweeping victory over the Wildrose, Liberals and NDP, the newly-minted Alison Redford government is certainly facing a big job and lots of challenges over the next four years.
Of course the government will have to deal with the economy, resource development, education and health demands, and a myriad of other things. Whether the Tories will succeed or fail in those important tasks remains to be seen.
Yet if they are prepared to make the effort, the Redford Tories could virtually guarantee success in one area of public health and safety – they could make major strides in ensuring that far more Alberta children and young people live their everyday lives in tobacco-free environments.
The Edmonton municipal council has recently taken a bold step in the effort to protect young people from tobacco, passing a new bylaw that makes it unlawful for anyone to smoke in any public playground, sports field or other outdoor facility where children have access.
While smoking indoors in public places has been banned in Alberta for several years, this new move in the provincial capital is aimed specifically at young people and the places they frequent.
It is a forward-looking step that promises to keep Edmonton’s young people well away from tobacco at the very places where they are, unfortunately, often tempted to take up the smoking habit.
Alberta’s Action on Smoking & Health (ASH), an anti-smoking lobby group, has come out in support of the new Edmonton bylaw, calling it an important initiative.
“As a society we need to send a strong message that smoking in public is not acceptable and we need to promote non-smoking as the norm if we want to drive down youth smoking,” said Les Hagen, executive director of ASH.
Alberta youth smoking rates are amongst the highest anywhere in Canada, with a recent national community health survey finding that 13 per cent of Alberta youths aged 12 to 19 are smokers.
ASH officials say more, much more, needs to be done to address those youth smoking levels. And who can disagree with that?
As they begin their work as Alberta’s new government, the Redford Tories have plenty of things they will need to address over the next four years.
One thing the new government should commit itself to doing right off the bat is making sure Alberta’s young people are better protected from the dangers of tobacco.
And a provincewide ban on smoking in any public playground, sports field or other outdoor facility where children have ready access would be a great way to do just that.