Cabinet Ministers ‘Butt’ Heads Over Teen Smoking

An NDP cabinet minister is coming under fire today for her views on teenage smokers.

Labour and Immigration Minister Jennifer Howard’s words from a 2008 house debate are coming back to haunt her, a day after Education Minister Nancy Allan condemned teen smoking on school property.

The controversy stems from a Steinbach school’s decision to construct an outdoor smoking shelter for students and staff.

Allan says this violates an agreement the province made with all school divisions to not allow smoking on school property.

However, according to transcripts from a house debate three years ago, Jennifer Howard said, “In my family, it is sort of a rite of passage. It has been a rite of passage of when you turn 16 you start smoking. It was very clear to me growing up that part of being an adult was to smoke.” (Hansard, May 13, 2008)

“When I speak to friends of mine who have kids who are turning 18, and starting to go out to bars for the first time, it strikes me that this generation will never know a smoke filled bar; that will never be part of the experience,” Howard went on to say.

The speech took place during a debate about tougher smoking legislation, put forth by Liberal Leader Jon Gerrard and then-MLA Kevin Lamoureux.

UPDATE: The NDP has shot back, saying the Liberal Party falsely stated that Jennifer Howard “endorses” youth smoking

“The leader of the Liberal party has stooped to a new low by selectively quoting a speech Minister Howard made about her personal experience with smoking and watching her grandmother pass away from lung cancer,” a news release read.

Minister Howard’s entire speech can be read at: h40a.html