Sharing the Air, the Legal and Ethical Considerations of Extending Tobacco Legislation to Include Multiunit Dwellings in Alberta

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Abstract

This study explores the legal and ethical considerations of extending tobacco legislation to include multiunit dwellings (MUDs) in Alberta and the implications for public health nursing practice. The tobacco legislation in Canada currently protects individuals in public places and not private dwellings. In Alberta, there are over 1 million individuals living in MUDs who are exposed to environmental tobacco smoke. Children are particularly vulnerable to the negative health effects. As well, many apartment fires in Alberta are related to smoking which makes expanding tobacco legislation to include MUDs an important public health issue. There are many potential barriers to the adoption of this tobacco legislation including legal, ethical, and civil rights concerns, and the bureaucracy of the political process. This study articulates the position that it is both legal and ethical to expand provincial tobacco legislation to include MUDs after the consideration of individual civil rights and using the Canadian Nurses Association Code of Ethics for Registered Nurses (2008) as a guide for practice. Public health nurses must advocate for a change in the current legislation by becoming politically active and building community capacity to demonstrate accountability and promote social justice.

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