Changes may be coming to legal age to buy cigarettes

(Minister of Lands Shane Thompson. CKLB File Photo.)

You may soon need to be a little older to buy cigarettes in the NWT

The Standing Committee on Social Development agreed with proposed legislation that would increase the age of purchase from 18 to 19-years old.

The committee agreed with the change despite citing arguments for the age to be increased to 21-years old. Those included several from the Canadian Cancer Society, which said raising the age to 21 would help reduce access, delay the age when youth start using tobacco,prevent older peers from buying and redistributing tobacco products, and reduce the rate of disease among young people.

The reason for keeping the age at 19? Because it’d be same for alcohol and cannabis. No other reason was cited by the GNWT or the committee.

According to the committee report,

“The smoking rates in the NWT are alarming, with our smoking rate among those 15 years and older being the second-highest in the country. A reported 33-34 percent of the NWT’s population 15 years and older smoked daily or occasionally as of 2014, whereas only 13 percent of the Canadian population 15 years and older smoked in 2015. While there has been a slight increase in the NWT’s smoking rate since 2003, the national rate has decreased significantly over the same period, down from 23 per cent to 16 per cent.”

Regulation and support

The committee also acknowledged the challenge of regulating vaping and other e-cigarette products.

“The recent introduction of vaping products with the high nicotine content and the significant increase in youth experimentation and uptake of these products are threatening hard‐earned gains in the control of harmful products like tobacco.”

The report also noted that regulating the use, sales and advertising focuses on the prevention of smoking, but more also needed to be done for people who wanted to quit. It pushed the Department of Health and Social Services (HSS) to ensure the NWT drug plan allows smokers have access to cessation aids “on a timely, as-needed basis.”

Finally, it said the GNWT should do more to educate and raise awareness, especially among youth, so residents can make informed health-related decisions.

The proposed new regulations are laid out in Bills 40 and 41 are among 17 pieces of legislation the government needs to pass in the next two weeks. Pending the third reading of the bills, HSS Minister Glen Abernethy said the new regulations would kick in early in the life of the next government.

About the Author

Francis Tessier-Burns
Francis was a reporter with CKLB from January 2019 to March 2023. In his time with CKLB, he had the immense pleasure and honour of learning about northern Indigenous cultures.