What roles have tobacco, alcohol, and drugs played in society throughout history? How are advertisements for such products directed toward children? And how will new policies surrounding marijuana affect the economy? These questions—and more—will be addressed at VIU’s Alcohol, Tobacco, and Drug Use History, Policy, and Regulation Symposium November 5-7.

Over the three days, the public is welcome to listen to keynote speakers presenting research on different policies and legal cases surrounding the history of tobacco, alcohol, and drugs, as well as pose questions and comments about the issues themselves. Each day will focus on one of these three topics.

In addition, there will be round-table discussions for speakers to talk about their research and findings before their presentations, which students can sign up to attend ahead of time if there are available seats.

“It will be of interest to students in the social sciences, health sciences, marketing, and history,” said Cheryl Warsh, the coordinator of the event and history professor at VIU. “It will touch on research in all these areas.”

The history, policies, and case studies of various issues surrounding tobacco, drugs, and alcohol touched on will date as far back as the 1840s up to present day. For example, marketing for such products targeted toward children is one of the topics discussed. “There was a huge lawsuit in Quebec against three major tobacco companies, when they knew tobacco was a health risk, but advertisements didn’t reflect that in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s,” Warsh said. “Historians on both sides went through all of the ads and private reports, and found that they targeted eight to 10 year olds.”

Warsh compares this to the marketing of products such as Palm Bay. “It’s directed at young girls because it tastes just like pop,” she said. “Palm Bay has craft competitions; grown-ups don’t do crafts. And the website features people that look like they could be young teenagers.”

Policies and effects of the medical marijuana industry will also be discussed, with speakers such as Philippe Lucas from Tilray, a medical marijuana dispensary. This topic may hold even more relevance with the possible legalization of marijuana the Liberal Government plans to bring in, Warsh said.

“That plan has opened a door, and at some point the government is going to want to get involved and tax like they do with alcohol and tobacco,” she said.

The Conference is on the Nanaimo campus in the Royal Arbutus Room on Thursday, and the Library Board Room in bldg. 305 on Friday and Saturday. A full program schedule of the threeday conference is available online.

If students would like to attend the roundtable discussions with the speakers before their presentations or evening receptions, email Warsh at cheryl.warsh@viu.ca.