Education minister looking for legal remedy to teen smoking
MONCTON, New Brunswick (AP) -- New Brunswick wants to close a loophole in its tobacco laws that allows children under 19 to smoke, but forbids retailers from selling to them.
"Personally, at a certain age -- let's say under 16 -- I don't see what a problem it would cause if it's illegal for someone to smoke," Education Minister Elvy Robichaud said Thursday.
"In New Brunswick, we have an act that if you're under 19 you can't buy liquor and you can't drink in public. And this is clear for everyone. If the RCMP and policemen catch you drinking in public, you can be charged.
"This is what I'm looking at, to see if there's similar legislation (elsewhere), if there are things we can do."
The Education Department has banned smoking in all school buildings and on school property from kindergarten to Grade 8.
However, it's up to individual schools and districts to decide whether or not to designate a "smoking pad" outside the building.
Anti-smoking advocates argue schools are allowing teens to break the law because the underage smokers are getting their cigarettes through illegal sales.
Robichaud said he recently asked Justice Minister Brad Green to investigate how the law governs underage smokers in other provinces.
"What I'm asking Green is to look at the legal impact and legal possibilities as far as the legal age to smoke in New Brunswick," he said.
A spokeswoman with the Justice Department confirmed the department is looking into the issue and plans to give Education a legal opinion.
Robichaud said putting a blanket ban on all smoking on school property, as has been done in the past, only creates a threat to student safety.
"Especially in urban areas, if we were to ban it, the only thing that would happen is that they would cross the street and smoke on the other side," he said.
Anti-smoking advocates say smoking on school grounds sends a message to non-smokers that it's acceptable and widespread. However, Robichaud said teen smokers are often still in plain view of younger students if they're taking a smoke break across the street.