A coalition of prominent health organizations is urging the Alberta government to protect all workers from secondhand smoke on the job. The call for uniform protection comes as the Alberta government concludes its review of the occupational health and safety system. The coalition recently submitted its recommendations to Labour Minister Christina Gray.
“Thousands of Alberta workers remain unprotected from secondhand smoke on the job including those working in hookah bars, group living facilities and hotel/motel guest rooms,” said Nina Snyder of The Lung Association. “These workers deserve full protection from the serious hazards of secondhand smoke. The provincial smoking ban was approved almost 10 years ago and it’s inexcusable to continue to leave these vulnerable workers unprotected.”
The Alberta government pledged to ban smoking in hookah bars almost five years ago but it hasn’t followed through, said the Campaign for a Smoke-Free Alberta. The group is concerned that smoking may be allowed in new cannabis lounges when marijuana is legalized next year.
“If hookah bars are allowed to continue to expose staff to secondhand smoke then cannabis lounges will likely demand a similar exemption,” said Angeline Webb of the Canadian Cancer Society. “This exemption to the Tobacco and Smoking Reduction Act needs to be removed immediately to establish a level playing field and uniform protection. Hookah bar staff and patrons do not have second-class lungs.”
Housekeeping staff in hotels and motels and people working in group living facilities are also unprotected by the provincial smoking ban, Smoke-Free Alberta said.
“The government contends that all Albertans have the right to a healthy and safe workplace. However that right has not been extended to thousands of Albertans who continue to breath secondhand smoke on the job,” said Kayla Atkey of the Alberta Policy Coalition for Chronic Disease Prevention. “The government cannot continue to leave these vulnerable workers unprotected.”
One in five Canadians have a pre-existing health condition that is aggravated by secondhand smoke. Over 1,000 Canadians and 100 Albertans die from exposure to secondhand smoke annually, according to the Campaign for a Smoke-Free Alberta.