Pubdate: Tue, 19 Aug 2014
Source: Western Star, The (CN NF)
Copyright: 2014 The Western Star
Author: Lee-Anne Goodman
Page: 7


OTTAWA - Health Minister Rona Ambrose denies the federal government's 
marijuana awareness campaign is aimed at Justin Trudeau.

"Telling kids to not smoke pot is not a partisan attack on Justin 
Trudeau by Health Canada," Ambrose told a news conference Monday on 
the sidelines of the annual Canadian Medical Association meeting.

"It is a sound public health policy backed by science. Whether pot is 
legal or illegal, the health risks of marijuana to youth remain the 
same, and we should all be concerned about them."

She added that Trudeau "made this a political issue."

The Liberal leader lashed out at Conservatives last week over reports 
that Health Canada has approached three doctors' groups to sign onto 
an anti-pot advertising campaign directed at youth. All three have 
declined to participate, saying the campaign has become a "political football."

Trudeau suggested the move was meant as an attack on him and his 
support for legalizing marijuana. The proposed campaign came on the 
heels of several Conservative cabinet ministers, including Peter 
MacKay and Julian Fantino, publicly maligning Trudeau's stance.

"We know that Canadian taxpayers are getting extremely frustrated 
with the fact this government tends to use public money for ads that 
do more for its partisan aims than for actual public service," Trudeau said.

"It's a real concern that this government has its priorities in the 
wrong place."

Ambrose denied the government was focusing on marijuana rather than 
alcohol, which studies have shown pose greater dangers to young Canadians.

"There are a lot of campaigns on substance abuse... whether it's 
alcohol or drugs," she said. "These are all areas of public health 
concerns that Health Canada and public health agencies have long 
worked on and will continue to work on."

Earlier Monday, Ambrose delivered a speech to the CMA that focused on 
a wide range of public health concerns, including seniors care and 
efforts to crack down on opioid abuse.

She announced that the federal government is putting stronger warning 
labels on extended-release painkillers like OxyContin in an effort to 
prevent the abuse of opioids.

"Too many people are abusing prescription drugs," Ambrose said. "Too 
many people are suffering and dying as a result."

The Conservatives' new initiatives include stronger warnings on 
opioid labels that emphasize the risks and safety concerns associated 
with the drugs. The new labels also remove reference to "moderate" 
pain to clarify opioids should only be used to manage severe pain.

Canada is the second-largest per capita consumer of prescription 
opioids in the world, behind the United States.

A 2012 study suggests that close to a million young Canadians between 
the ages of 15 and 24 reported using prescription drugs in the 
previous 12 months.

The Canadian Alcohol and Drug Use Monitoring Survey also found that 
410,000 Canadians said they'd abused prescription drugs like opioid 
pain relievers, including Demorol and OxyContin; stimulants like 
Ritalin and Adderall; and tranquilizers and sedatives that include 
Valium, Ativan and Xanax.

A year ago, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced safety 
labelling changes for all extended-release and long-acting opioids 
intended to treat pain.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom