Next generation of Prince Edward Islanders could be hit with tobacco ban — no ifs, ands or butts

Next generation of Prince Edward Islanders could be hit with tobacco ban — no ifs, ands or butts

The Prince Edward Island government is hoping a ban on tobacco sales to anyone born after a certain date will help create a new generation of smoke-free Islanders.

The idea is part of the province's new Live Well Action Plan released Tuesday.

If the idea turns into action, the government would select a watershed year — 2009, for example — and anyone born after it would be prohibited from ever legally buying tobacco products on P.E.I.

"It's a bold idea but it is out there in the public health community and it has been gaining some traction," said Dr. David Sabapathy, the province's deputy chief public health officer.

Tobacco use continues to be the No. 1 preventable cause of illness, disability and death on P.E.I., Sabapathy said.

"The question is, 'What do we do about it?' And we know we have to do two things. One is to help people who are using tobacco products to stop using those products, when they're ready. But the second thing we need to do is to prevent the next generation from beginning to use tobacco products."

The policy would apply to smokeable tobacco products only, and exclude vaping,

Rob Cunningham, a senior policy analyst with the Canadian Cancer Society, would like to see vaping included because more and more young people are being introduced to tobacco that way.

"If we can prevent youth from starting, we're going to have a huge impact in the long term in reducing smoking," he said.

Islanders can provide feedback on the proposal until July 5. It's expected to take a year or more before there would be any new rules on smoking.

Many people CBC News spoke with on Tuesday supported the plan if it is able to protect young people.

Nobody has to tell John Coles how hard it is to quit smoking, for example. He's tried a few times, and hopes to stop again for good at some point.

"You really have to psych yourself up to do it," he said.

Wade Gauthier was among those wondering how effective a ban on buying cigarettes based on your birth year would be, however.

"It's going to be difficult to do anything in that regard," he said. "If people want to smoke, they're going to get them… The black market is going to be there."