Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

New provincial restrictions on buying cigarettes

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The Selinger government plans to make it more difficult for smokers to buy their tobacco.

The NDP tabled a bill in the legislature Tuesday that would prohibit tobacco sales in stores that contain pharmacies, including drugstores and large retail outlets such as Safeway and Superstore.

Bill 17 would also prohibit tobacco sales in health-care facilities and through vending machines.

"What we're trying to do is promote health," said Healthy Living Minister Jim Rondeau. "We look at pharmacies as an institution that provides wellness and health and supports individuals. And smoking does not really equate into that picture."

He said research has also shown making it more difficult to buy tobacco products helps reduce the number of smokers and helps prevent youth from adopting the habit in the first place.

In 2004, Manitoba became the first province to introduce an indoor smoking ban. It also passed legislation to remove tobacco from display on store shelves. The province's tobacco taxes are now the second-highest in the country.

However, until now, it had not sought to ban the sale of tobacco in pharmacies, as Ontario, Saskatchewan and Alberta have done.

Murray Gibson, executive director of the Manitoba Tobacco Reduction Alliance, called the proposed legislation "a very positive move." He said MANTRA has been advocating the measure since 2004.

"Government has the right and ability to mandate this. So we're pleased that they're doing that," he said.

Rondeau said the new law will affect some 106 retail outlets, mainly large chain stores.

He said the province will give them plenty of time to prepare for the change. He said very likely the new law will take effect on May 31, 2013 -- to coincide with World No Tobacco Day.

Rondeau said there are only 17 vending machines remaining in Manitoba that sell cigarettes. The government's concern with the machines is they're tough to supervise and regulate. "Nobody is watching who is buying cigarettes (from a machine)," the cabinet minister said.

John Graham, a Winnipeg spokesman for Canada Safeway, said the grocery chain is not surprised by the proposed legislation.

"In principle, Safeway supports government initiatives that reduce tobacco use and ultimately prevents citizens from taking up this activity," he said.

Graham said the chain has continued to sell tobacco in its stores as a convenience to smoking customers.

Roger Tam, a Winnipeg pharmacist with Walmart, said his company has never sold tobacco products in stores that contain pharmacies. And it has not sold tobacco in Canadian stores at all since its move north of the border in 1994.

larry.kusch@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 2, 2012 A4

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