Sales to Minors

Reducing tobacco sales to minors

Recently, Alberta became the last province to pass legislation to curb youth access to tobacco products. Tobacco sales to minors continues to be a serious problem in Alberta, which has one of the worst sales-to-minors compliance rates in Canada.

Our position

In order to reduce tobacco use among youth in Alberta, ASH believes that the Government of Alberta needs to regulate tobacco sales to minors in a similar manner as it regulates retail liquor sales.

Smoking rates among Alberta youth aged 12 to 19 remain disturbingly high at 13%.  About 50,000 Alberta teens are current tobacco users.  Alberta youth deserve first-class protection from the sale and marketing of tobacco.


There is a relatively small window in life when an individual is at risk to begin using tobacco. Most smokers start experimenting with cigarettes between the ages of 10 and 18. Once a person becomes dependent on tobacco, it can be very difficult to quit. Therefore it is important to intervene before young people become addicted to tobacco. Unfortunately, smoking rates among Alberta teens remain disturbingly high. Consequently, there is a need for better controls on tobacco sales to minors. Evidence shows that strict enforcement of youth access laws can help to reduce tobacco use among adolescents.

Protection from tobacco industry tactics

The tobacco industry continues to target Alberta's youth through candy and fruit flavoured products, price discounts, colourful packaging and slim-style cigarettes. Tobacco sales to minors' regulations are needed to help counter these objectionable marketing practices. Such laws will prevent more kids from falling prey to tobacco companies.

The tobacco industry claims that it is supporting programs that reduce tobacco sales to minors. However these programs place the primary responsibility on adolescents rather than retailers and they have been proven ineffective. For example, the signage for the Operation ID program places the onus on youth to produce ID rather than urging retailers to demand it.

Alberta can do a better job of protecting kids from the predatory marketing practices of the tobacco industry. Alberta kids deserve first-class protection from the deadly and addictive consequences of tobacco use.

Youth access to tobacco products in Alberta

Alberta is the last province to pass legislation to curb youth access to tobacco and we believe that this delay has contributed to higher smoking rates among young people. Alberta has one of the worst sales-to-minors compliance rates in Canada, with one in every six retailers willing to sell cigarettes to underage youth.  Recent compliance checks have revealed that over half of Alberta retailers tested were willing to sell tobacco to minors, even after the youths produced valid photo ID.

Federal law

The federal Tobacco Act sets the minimum federal standards in Canada, prohibiting the supply of tobacco products to minors. Among key provisions, the legislation makes it illegal for retailers to sell tobacco products to anyone under the age of 18.

In accordance with the federal act, individual provinces may institute their own regulations prohibiting the sale of tobacco products to minors.  The new Alberta legislation requires retailers to demand photo ID from anyone who appears under the age of 25 and may include mandatory training requirements for retailers.  However the new legislation needs to be enacted and regulations are needed to define the new photo ID and training requirements.

Learning from liquor retail sales to minors regulation

Alberta needs to regulate tobacco sales to minors in a similar manner as it regulates liquor sales to minors. Alberta's retail liquor licensing system provides a good working model for tobacco. Tobacco retailers should be licensed and regulated with better tools to improve compliance. Alberta liquor retailers are licensed by the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission and are subject to numerous regulations including:

  • All retailers must demand government sanctioned photo ID from any purchaser who appears to be under the age of 25
  • Posting appropriate warning signs at all sales counters
  • Clerks must be 18 years of age and older
  • Clerks and store managers must complete mandatory online training
  • Potential fines and license suspensions for violators

Our recommendations

ASH recommends that the Government of Alberta enact the Tobacco Reduction Amendment Act and approve strong regulations with stringent retail training requirements that will also define acceptable forms of photo ID.  The government needs to assign enforcement officers across the province who will actively enforce the new legislation with random compliance checks.



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Action on Smoking & Health
ASH is Western Canada's leading tobacco control organization.