City moving to close smoking ban loopholes

Some residents who noticed loopholes in Red Deer’s smoking bylaw, which allows smoking at outdoor events and playgrounds, are receiving support at City Hall.

Some residents who noticed loopholes in Red Deer’s smoking bylaw, which allows smoking at outdoor events and playgrounds, are receiving support at City Hall.

The city’s Governance and Policy Committee recommended a resolution on Monday, suggesting that the public smoking ban be expanded to select outdoor places, and some public consultation be done. Select outdoor places include where children frequent such as playgrounds and sports fields and outdoor eating areas, farmers’ markets and festivals.

The report is expected to be done over a couple months and then brought to council for consideration.

The committee, which is made of city council, discussed the issue after a number of residents wrote to the city, saying they felt the smoking bylaw wasn’t protecting children enough.

Councillors agreed there were gaps in the bylaw, which currently bans smoking in all indoor public and work places.

Coun. Lynne Mulder said the city should take a stand for children.

People can smoke at the public market, a popular family event held each Saturday in Red Deer.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, lead medical officer of health for Alberta Health Services’ Central Zone, said it supports such a ban in selected outdoor public spaces frequented by children. Besides reducing second-hand smoke, this restriction would reduce the visibility of smoking around youth, Hinshaw said in a July 12 letter to Mayor Morris Flewwelling.

Coun. Chris Stephan solely opposed the resolution because he felt the city wasn’t going far enough.

“Instead of designated places where people can’t smoke, have designated places where people can smoke and have signage,” said Stephan. “Basically, you put an overarching ban on public smoking except for designated places.”

A number of communities are doing this, he said.

Stephan said eventually he can see how people won’t be allowed to smoke in public places at all, except for their homes or private properties.

Frieda McDougall, deputy city clerk for Legislative & Governance Services, said when it comes to public spaces or events like sports fields, the public market or CentreFest street performers festival, signs may have to be posted.

“I’m not sure how you’d bring about that enforcement, so I think those of some of things you would want administration to explore,” said McDougall.

Coun. Dianne Wyntjes supports extending the ban, but not to park space.

“I guess to me it’s going in the direction of an anti-state,” Wyntjes said. “Do we have the resources to enforce it? If you push to far, then people go into secret places and maybe it can cause even more problems like fires.”

McDougall said the City of Edmonton bylaw passed this spring doesn’t address parks. It bans smoking within 10 metres of playgrounds, playing fields, skate parks and spray parks.

Coun. Buck Buchanan agreed there is a gap but wondered how this could be enforced.

“We’re always getting complaints — and the complaint is received, how long is the response time?” said Buchanan.

Coun. Tara Veer said addressing this gap is all about protecting general public health and not passing judgment on those who do smoke.

Second-hand smoke becomes less of an issue outdoors because it naturally filters out, said Mayor Morris Flewwelling.

He’s more concerned with how children see adults smoking and think that it’s OK.

Coun. Cindy Jefferies said in a perfect world, people would not smoke at the public market and playgrounds as a common courtesy.

“So I do think it requires a further bylaw,” said Jefferies. “And I understand issues around enforcement. Sometimes it’s a matter of being law and then a member of the public can say, ‘excuse me, this is an area where you’re not allowed to smoke.’”

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