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P.E.I. proposes banning Islanders of a certain age from purchasing tobacco products in new health plan

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Prince Edward Island is proposing a bold move when it comes to the future of tobacco products on the island.

As part of the Island's new "Live Well" health plan, officials are proposing Islanders born on or after a certain date would never be able to buy tobacco.

"Tobacco-Free Generation (TFG) proposals no longer allow tobacco to be sold to individuals born after a certain year," reads the Island's consultation paper on Wellness in P.E.I. "For example, no one born after Jan. 1, 2009 would be able to legally purchase cigarettes."

The Island's chief public health officer says, in 2020 alone, tobacco use on the Island led to 265 deaths, 1,036 emergency department visits, and 885 hospital admissions.

The TGF proposals would not impact adult smokers and are focused on tobacco rather than vaping.

"A tobacco-free generation that really we're talking about is pretty bold," said Heather Morrison, P.E.I.'s chief public health officer.

"It would not impact those adults who are already purchasing tobacco products, so that would not change. But it would mean if you're 10-years-old right now, you would not be able to purchase tobacco when you are of legal age."

Even with some Island officials calling the move bold, a smoke-free generation is not completely unheard of.

"It’s moving forward through the parliament in the United Kingdom, it’s been considered by some municipalities in the United States," said Rob Cunningham with the Canadian Cancer Society.

The Island is also proposing changes as to where tobacco can be sold.

In 2021, legislative changes were made to permit electronic smoking devices and e-liquids to only be sold in tobacconist shops. A tobacconist shop is an age-restricted location whose primary business is the retail sale of tobacco and/or electronic smoking devices.

Island officials are now proposing the same could be done with tobacco products as a way to decrease youths’ access.

“We have a long way to go and I really think that the government is doing a good job in just moving the needle a little bit further," said Julia Hartley, P.E.I. director of operations for the Lung Association of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.

"And I think if smoke-free generations does get approved, it’s going to be one of the biggest measures of our centuries in terms of public health."

This isn't the first big move the Island has made when it comes to trying to reduce tobacco overall.

In 2020, P.E.I. became the first province or territory in Canada to increase the legal age to purchase tobacco or electronic smoking devices to 21. A year later, the Island banned flavoured electronic smoking devices, along with permitting them to only be sold in specialty tobacconist stores.

Currently, the legal age in the other Atlantic provinces is 19.

Tracey French lives on the Island and says the proposed changes would be a good start to getting more people living a tobacco-free lifestyle.

"I think personally it’s a good idea to have them out of majority of the stores and have them like you would with your cannabis," she said. "You would have to go to a specialty shop. Less access for children, it’s less visible for children.”

The island has a survey online until July 5 for Islanders to weigh in on the entire health plan, which includes the tobacco proposal.

For more Prince Edward Island news visit our dedicated provincial page.

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