More work to do to ban cannabis from Alberta campuses

There is still a long way to go to make campuses 100% smoke-free in Alberta, according to Action on Smoking and Health. It publishes its first ever list of Alberta postsecondary institutions, ranked by their efforts to reduce tobacco and cannabis use among their students and employees.

Out of 29 postsecondary institutions in the province, eight have no formal tobacco and cannabis policies. They rely indirectly on provincial legislation, which prohibits smoking in public places and workplaces. Among the dunces are the University of Alberta and the University of Calgary, who could do better, according to Les Hagen, Executive Director of Action on Smoking and Health.

At the top of the list are Burman University, a small institution of 450 students in Lacombe, and Bow Valley College in downtown Calgary. Not only have they banned tobacco, e-cigarettes and cannabis from their campuses, but they also offer treatment programs to quit their students and / or employees.

In an initial evaluation of Action on Smoking and Health, we had a grade of B. As a post-secondary institution, we thought it was not enough. We wanted an A.

Mario Siciliano, Vice President, Bow Valley College

The college has therefore further strengthened its already tough policies on tobacco and cannabis. Students and employees all responded positively, according to Mario Siciliano. “I should not have been as surprised as I was,” he admits.

Ban the links with tobacco companies

Many universities maintain commercial links with tobacco companies, such as campus advertising, student subsidies from these companies, and university investments in these companies.

The next staple of Action on Smoking and Health will be to convince post-secondary institutions to cut all ties with these tobacco giants. This could be difficult, as some universities have earned or invested millions of dollars, depending on the organization.

The tobacco industry targets post-secondary institutions across Canada. She knows that with a little investment and advertising, she can turn these young adults into customers for life.

Les Hagen, Executive Director of Action on Smoking and Health

Young people between the ages of 20 and 24 are particularly vulnerable to advertising by tobacco and cannabis companies, says Brent Friesen, Chief Medical Officer for Alberta Health Services. In addition, “cannabis use has an impact on the developing brain until the mid-twenties,” he said. It is essential to make campuses smoke-free environments because “a healthy environment promotes learning and education,” says Brent Frisen.

The upcoming legalization of cannabis, however, encourages colleges and universities to formulate a policy on cannabis use. Action on Smoking and Health, however, encourages them to remember tobacco, which kills 45 times more Canadians than cannabis, according to the organization. It will also publish a list of Alberta municipalities’ policies on tobacco and cannabis.

Sarah Brown (RN) is the Lead Editor at Health News Tribune where she covers mental health and emotional wellness. Sarah graduated with a degree in nursing from Ryerson in Toronto. She currently lives in Toronto. Prior to becoming a journalist, Lindsay worked as a health professional in Cambridge Ontario.

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