News Release

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Edmonton – Today ASH is releasing report cards on school district policies that address tobacco and cannabis use on school property.  ASH is urging school boards to approve effective drug policies prior to cannabis legalization on October 17.

“A growing number of school boards are taking action to prevent the use of cannabis and tobacco on school grounds prior to cannabis legalization” said Les Hagen, executive director.  “October 17 is approaching quickly and we encourage all school boards to review their drug policies to ensure that best practices are being followed.  The ASH report cards will help guide the development of policies to prevent and reduce substance abuse among students and staff.  Specifically, we recommend that school districts prohibit the smoking and vaping of any substance on school property for maximum health impact.  Children and youth should not be exposed to harmful drug use on school property and they should be offered effective drug prevention education in the classroom.”

Eight school districts received an “A” on the ASH report cards including Calgary Roman Catholic Schools, Canadian Rockies School Division, Edmonton Catholic Schools, Evergreen Catholic Schools, Holy Spirit Roman Catholic Separate Schools, Medicine Hat Catholic Separate Schools, St. Paul Educational Regional Division, and Wolf Creek Public Schools.  No school district with a smoking policy received an “F”.

 “The ASH report cards reflect best-practices to prevent and reduce tobacco and cannabis use among students and staff.  ASH has been working pro-actively with school districts to develop effective tobacco and cannabis policies for the past two years.  These outreach activities have included workshops, presentations, consultations and the production and distribution of numerous resource materials.  We have presented to over 200 school trustees across Alberta since last November and our workshops have been well-received by those in attendance”.

ASH has created an online resource hub for school boards that contains a model smoking and vaping policy, a comparison table of school board policies across Alberta, a listing of effective prevention and cessation programs, drug survey results, and relevant fact sheets on tobacco and cannabis.

“As school boards know, report cards are an important measure of progress that are aimed at improving future performance.  We are releasing these report cards in good faith and we are very willing to work with any school district to help enhance their policies and programs.  We know that cannabis legalization is posing numerous challenges to school boards and we are here to offer assistance and online resource materials”.

Founded in 1979, ASH is Western Canada’s leading tobacco control organization.  Tobacco is the most widespread and deadly form of substance abuse in Canada and is responsible for 48,000 deaths annually.  There are 25,000 school-aged youth tobacco users in Alberta.


Contact Les Hagen at 780-919-5546 or by email at



ASH News Release

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Fort McMurray – Last night, the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo passed a sweeping new bylaw to ban all forms of smoking and vaping in public places in preparation for cannabis legalization in October.  The bylaw prohibits the smoking and vaping of any substance—including cannabis and tobacco—in all places to which the public has access including parks and public events.  The bylaw takes effect today.

“We congratulate Mayor Don Scott and the Regional Council for their unanimous support of this important public health bylaw” said Les Hagen, executive director.  “This bylaw will protect children and youth from exposure to harmful drug use in public places and it will help to keep kids drug-free for life.  Healthy modelling helps to create healthy kids.  Wood Buffalo has set an example for other municipalities to follow prior to cannabis legalization. We hope that many others will follow suit.”

Last month, Wood Buffalo was declared a “Smoke-Free Community” by a coalition of major provincial health and recreation organizations in anticipating the passage of the new bylaw.  This distinction is shared with the cities of Lloydminster and Camrose although Wood Buffalo has the strongest bylaw.

“Wood Buffalo is now leading the charge among Alberta municipalities that are planning to address cannabis consumption prior to its legalization” said Hagen.  “The bylaw is a simple and effective regulation that will protect kids while allowing people to smoke and vape on private property.  To a five-year-old, smoking is smoking whether it involves tobacco, cannabis, shisha or vaping.  A comprehensive public ban on smoking and vaping is needed to provide effective protection for children and youth”.

ASH is very concerned about the potential for cannabis legalization to increase public smoking and tobacco consumption.  As the most widespread and deadly form of substance abuse, tobacco kills 55 times more Canadians that cannabis according to new data provided by the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse.  Any increase in tobacco use could have significant implications for public health.

“We cannot allow cannabis legalization to impair decades of progress in reducing smoking in public places.  Smoking bans are a cornerstone of the successful effort to reduce tobacco use.  We simply can’t afford to lose any ground in the overall effort to create a smoke-free society.  The stakes are very high.”

Founded in 1979, ASH is Western Canada’s leading tobacco control organization.  ASH has helped dozens of municipalities with the development of smoking bylaws and tobacco control policies.

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CONTACT: Les Hagen at 780-919-5546



New bylaw includes broad restrictions on the public consumption of cannabis and tobacco


Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Calgary - As Alberta communities prepare for cannabis legislation later this year, the City of Lloydminster has taken the bold step of becoming the Alberta’s first city to ban the smoking and vaping of any substance in all public gathering places including parks, public events, and commercial property.  The bylaw was passed by Lloydminster City Council on Monday, June 11.

“We applaud the City of Lloydminster for making public health a top priority by banning all forms of smoking and vaping in indoor and outdoor public areas” said Les Hagen, executive director.  “We encourage all Alberta communities to follow Lloydminster’s example in preparing for cannabis legalization.  To a five-year-old smoking is smoking whether it involves tobacco, cannabis, cigarettes or vaporizers.  The Lloydminster bylaw will protect children and youth from exposure to smoking, vaping and the public consumption of harmful drugs.  Tobacco cannot be overlooked in any legitimate effort to protect youth from substance abuse and Lloydminster City Council gets this concept”.

 “Today is another proud moment for the City of Lloydminster” said Lorelee Marin, a local health champion and the chair of the Lloydminster Area Drug Strategy.  “The Lloydminster Youth Council made a very strong presentation to City Council to encourage them to go the extra mile in protecting children and youth from cannabis, tobacco and other harmful substances.  These young people are helping to create a healthy community by engaging directly with their local politicians and they are getting results”.

Two years ago, the City of Lloydminster received a Barb Tarbox award from the Alberta Government for licensing tobacco retailers and charging the highest license fees in Canada starting at $750 per store.  The license fees are being channeled into tobacco prevention and education campaigns within the community.

“Lloydminster continues to provide strong leadership in reducing and preventing tobacco use” said Les Hagen.  “While many Canadian communities are grappling with the imminent implications of cannabis legalization they can all look to Lloydminster for direction and success”.

In addition to Lloydminster, the Alberta cities of Camrose, St. Albert, Fort McMurray/Wood Buffalo, and Edmonton are all considering broad restrictions on smoking and vaping to increase the public health impact of their cannabis bylaws. 

Unfortunately, Calgary and Banff have decided to focus exclusively on cannabis consumption while overlooking the most widespread and deadly form of substance abuse—tobacco.  By doing so, Calgary and Banff have also created major loopholes for medical cannabis users and for people who choose to vape cannabis in public.  These loopholes will likely undermine their cannabis consumption bylaws.



Les Hagen at 780-919-5546

Lorelee Marin at 780-870-2379




Monday, May 14, 2018

Calgary - Two Alberta post-secondary institutions are leading the country with innovative health policies to address the use of tobacco and cannabis on their campuses.  Bow Valley College and Burman University have both implemented comprehensive policy measures to reduce tobacco use among staff and students and to prepare for cannabis legalization on their campuses.  The policies were recognized in new report cards on post-secondary tobacco policies that were prepared by ASH.  Both institutions received national leadership awards at a news conference held today at Bow Valley College.

“Bow Valley College and Burman University have emerged as national leaders in their efforts to reduce tobacco use and to prepare for cannabis legalization” said Les Hagen, executive director.  “Both institutions have created completely smoke-free campuses that include any substance that is smoked or vaped on their properties.  Both institutions have also prohibited tobacco industry funding and investments.  There are no other post-secondary institutions in Canada that have taken such a broad approach to tobacco and cannabis and that’s why they are both getting an “A” on our new tobacco policy report cards”.

“Bow Valley College recognizes the detrimental effects of smoking on health and wellness for all who come into environments where smoke is present” said Bow Valley College President Laura Jo Gunter.  “It is important to us to have a smoke-free campus and allow for people to gather in our buildings and on our properties free of concern for smoke inhalation.”

"Burman University prioritizes the overall health of our students, faculty, and staff on our campus. We are proud to have policies in place that thoroughly reflect our priorities” said President Dr. Loren Agrey.

The ASH report cards rank the tobacco policies of every publicly-funded post-secondary institution in Alberta with formal tobacco or smoking policies.  The report cards provide an analysis of smoking restrictions, enforcement, signage, smoking cessation programs for students and staff, and tobacco industry funding and investments.  The grading system reflects published best-practices for post-secondary tobacco policies.

The report card grades ranged from “D” to “A” depending on the depth of the institution’s policies.  No institution with a formal tobacco or smoking policy received an “F”. 

“We urge all post-secondary institutions across Canada to follow the lead of Bow Valley College and Burman University in preparation for cannabis legalization” said Hagen.  “It will be much easier for universities and colleges to address the smoking and vaping of any substance than it will be to single out cannabis.  A broad approach will also have a greater impact on public health since tobacco kills at least 45 times more Canadians than cannabis according to current estimates.  Any measure to control cannabis use can be easily justified to control tobacco use”.

“Post-secondary institutions can play important role in prevention and cessation with effective policies and programs that promote a smoke/vape free environment and supporting smokers to stop” said Dr. Brent Friesen, Medical Officer of Health for the Tobacco Reduction Program at Alberta Health Services.

Smoking rates among Albertans and Canadians aged 20 to 24 are the highest of any age group.  Tobacco use kills 45,000 Canadians and 3,800 Albertans each year.  Cannabis is estimated to kill between 500 and 1,000 Canadians each year.

Bow Valley College recognizes the cultural practices of Indigenous students, staff and visitors by designating a space for sacred smudging on campus.

ASH is Western Canada’s leading tobacco control organization.


Contact: Les Hagen @ 780-919-5546




Thursday, May 3, 2018

Edmonton – Although ushering in new legislation to increase the transparency of political lobbying, the Alberta government has been meeting behind closed doors with tobacco lobbyists in open defiance of a global public health treaty.

“The NDP caucus railed against insider lobbying by tobacco companies while serving in opposition” said Les Hagen, executive director.  “However it appears that closed-door meetings with tobacco lobbyists have continued despite assurances to the contrary.  The Alberta government is openly defying a global public health treaty every time it meets in secret with tobacco lobbyists.  When doing so, the government is neglecting its responsibility to protect and preserve the health of Albertans and to maintain transparency and accountability”.

Ratified by the federal government in 2004, the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention for Tobacco Control (FCTC) requires participating countries to refrain from meeting behind closed doors with tobacco companies and their lobbyists.  Article 5.3 of the Framework Convention is intended to reduce tobacco industry interference with the development of public health policies to reduce tobacco use.  The Alberta government is bound to this treaty as a Canadian jurisdiction.  The FCTC represents the world’s first public health treaty.

“No government is immune to the coercive influence of the tobacco lobby and its front groups” said Hagen.  “The Framework Convention is intended to protect governments and their citizens from the deceptive practices of the tobacco industry.  Unfortunately, the Alberta government appears to be ignoring its global treaty obligations in order to preserve relations with Big Tobacco.  Ironically, the same government is suing the tobacco companies for 10 billion dollars for decades of deceptive practices.”

The Notley government has not approved any significant tobacco control policies in almost three years.  Passed by the Legislative Assembly in 2013, the Tobacco and Smoking Reduction Act remains largely unimplemented and unenforced.  The unimplemented sections include crucial restrictions on tobacco sales to minors, a much-needed ban on all flavoured tobacco products, and essential protection for all Albertans from secondhand smoke at work.  Alberta continues to have the most affordable cigarettes in Canada due to suppressed tobacco taxes.  There have been no provincial tobacco tax increases since 2015.  Tobacco taxes are highly effective in reducing youth tobacco use.

“The tobacco industry appears to have the upper hand with the Alberta government” said Hagen.  “The health of Albertans continues to be compromised by the influence of this rogue industry.  We urge the Premier and her Cabinet members to stand up to the tobacco giants by fully implementing stalled tobacco legislation and by putting an end to the disturbing practice of welcoming tobacco lobbyists into its backrooms.  Tobacco companies don’t need any help from the provincial government in targeting Alberta youth with their addictive and deadly products.  Why does the government feel compelled to meet with an industry whose products kill 3,800 Albertans annually and that it’s suing for ten billion dollars for decades of deceptive practices?  This conduct is very disturbing.”

ASH is asking all concerned Albertans to visit to urge the Premier, Cabinet members and any colluding MLAs to stop pandering to tobacco lobbyists, to fully implement the stalled tobacco legislation and to bring tobacco affordability levels in line with those of neighboring provinces.

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Contact Les Hagen @ 780-919-5546




Friday, October 13, 2017

Edmonton - The results are in and 159 candidates from 20 major Alberta municipalities have responded to a recent ASH election survey on cannabis and tobacco.  The ASH candidates’ survey was conducted between October 2 and 11 and all of the individual responses are now posted online at

“Cannabis legalization has been a major issue during this election and local voters need to know where their candidates stand on this hot topic” said Les Hagen, executive director.  “The survey has identified champions and opponents of cannabis and tobacco regulation and we hope that voters will consider these responses prior to marking their election ballots on October 16” said Hagen.

ASH was very pleased with the number of respondents and with their overall responses to the survey.

“We are relieved to discover that only 25% of respondents feel that tobacco regulation should take a back seat to cannabis regulation” Hagen added.  “We are also pleased to learn that more than 70% of the candidates surveyed feel that tobacco and cannabis smoking should be banned in public areas.  Smoking bans must be expanded to include cannabis or it may lead to the renormalization of smoking in public places which could set back our collective efforts to reduce tobacco use.”

The survey also asked candidates about the licensing and zoning of tobacco and cannabis sales.  About three out of four respondents feel that the sale of cannabis should be licensed and zoned by their municipality.  Just over half of respondents want their municipality to license and zone tobacco sales.  At present, only six Alberta municipalities specifically license tobacco sales and there are no known zoning restrictions on tobacco sales in the province.

“The new councils will be scrambling to develop local bylaws to regulate the sale and use of cannabis in the months ahead” Hagen added.  “We encourage all municipal councils to pursue consistent restrictions on all forms of smoking in public areas.  Children and youths should not be exposed to any form of smoking in public.  Repeated childhood exposure to smoking behavior contributes to smoking initiation during adolescence.  We need to give all kids a fighting chance to remain smoke-free for life.”

ASH is also urging municipalities to license and zone the sale of tobacco especially if they are planning to license and zone the sale of cannabis.

“Tobacco kills 37 times more Canadians than cannabis and tobacco should not take a back seat to cannabis.  At a minimum, municipal councils should license all tobacco retailers and require all new tobacco retailers to conform with any zoning restrictions that are applied to cannabis retailers.”

Tobacco kills 3,000 Albertans annually and it is the most widespread and deadly form of substance abuse in Canada.  Founded in 1979, ASH is Western Canada’s leading tobacco control organization.

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Contact: Les Hagen at 780-919-5546



Tuesday, May 25, 2015

Edmonton - Action on Smoking & Health is applauding the Ontario government for passing legislation to ban most forms of flavoured tobacco including menthol cigarettes.  Today, the Ontario government gave third reading to Bill 45, the Making Healthier Choices Act.  Ontario is the second province to ban menthol tobacco and other flavoured tobacco products.  Nova Scotia passed similar legislation last month.

“We congratulate the Ontario government for providing youth with first class protection from flavoured tobacco products” said Les Hagen, executive director.  “This legislation will protect thousands of youth from addiction, disease and premature death and it sets a benchmark for other provinces to follow.  In passing this bill, Ontario is making the health of its young people a top priority and it is putting an end to the tobacco industry’s devious efforts to target youth through appealing flavours.”

In 2013, the Alberta government was the first in North America to pass legislation to prohibit all forms of flavoured tobacco products.  Unfortunately, the Prentice government decided to exempt menthol tobacco last fall following intense lobbying by the tobacco industry.  The industry registered two-dozen lobbyists to fight the menthol ban including some with very close ties to the Prentice government.

“The Prentice government dropped the ball on menthol and left thousands of Alberta youth unprotected from flavoured tobacco products” said Hagen.  “Health groups and opposition parties roundly criticized this decision, including Rached Notley and the New Democrat opposition.  We urge the Notley government to right this terrible wrong and ban menthol tobacco as soon as possible.  Protection delayed is protection denied”.

The flawed Alberta flavoured tobacco regulations will take effect on Monday, June 1.  As it stands, the regulations completely exempt menthol flavoured tobacco and flavoured pipe tobacco.  Health groups are very concerned that this huge loophole will result in more youth using menthol tobacco.

“Sixty-five hundred Alberta youths are using menthol cigarettes and we fear that number may rise if youth switch from prohibited flavoured tobacco products to menthol tobacco.  There are 6,500 good reasons why the Notley government needs to ban menthol tobacco promptly.  There are 6,501 good reasons if you include the sharp reaction to the menthol exemption from Rachel Notley and the New Democrats.”

Menthol tobacco is a starter product that increases nicotine addiction among youth.  Menthol soothes the throat, opens the airways and facilitates nicotine absorption.  Youth smokers who use menthol smoke 60 percent more cigarettes than youth who do not smoke menthols.  One third of youth smokers are using menthol cigarettes compared with only 1 in 20 adults.

Tobacco is the leading avoidable cause of disease, disability and premature death in Alberta resulting in 3,000 deaths annually.


Contact: Les Hagen @780-919-5546


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ASH is Western Canada's leading tobacco control organization.