By Jeff Labine
Lighting up a smoke in a public place including at a bar or restaurant patio could be a thing of the past in Prince Albert.
That’s the hope outlined in a recent report to the city’s community services advisory committee. At the moment, the only city-related bylaw around smoking is prohibiting someone from lighting up in city facilities and vehicles. The city also has a policy around no smoking at facility entrances, outdoor pools and spectator areas but these aren’t enforced through bylaw. Other than that, smokers have free-range, although they must follow provincial laws under the Tobacco Control Act.
For example, smokers are prohibited from smoking in a vehicle with a child under the age of 16 years old. The act also bans people from lighting up in enclosed public places like a library.
The report, which includes feedback from the Canadian Cancer Society and the Heart and Stroke Foundation, argues cities can go beyond the minimum standards found in the Tobacco Control Act and include a ban in public spaces where families and children frequent.
“Tobacco is a major health issue that needs the attention of municipal leaders,” the report states. “Tobacco use is still the leading cause of preventable death in Saskatchewan and Canada. Ever year 37,000 Canadians die of tobacco-related illness, including cancer, heart disease and respiratory diseases.”
The report also argues other provinces like Ontario, Alberta and Quebec have all placed a ban on smoking on patios as well as the municipalities of Saskatoon, Warman and Martensville. This ban would also include electronic cigarettes.
Before a bylaw comes into effect, it needs the approval of city council which is why councillors are asking for public feedback. An idea is to launch a online survey for residents to share thoughts and opinions.
Coun. Dennis Ogrodnick, who is also the chairman of the community services advisory committee, said he’s not going to make any decisions until he hears from everyone.
“I want to listen to the community members and get their feedback and input on what they think about the suggested proposal,” he said. “When we move forward, we have to move forward by listening to the people who have elected us and that’s what this committee is about. This committee is a representation of all walks of life in Prince Albert and they are going to suggest to us what they like about the proposal and what they dislike and what we should move forward with the proposal and what we should scrap.”
Parkland Ambulance’s Lyle Karasiuk, who didn’t have a chance to read the proposal, said there are many harmful chemicals used to process tobacco. He said people would never stay in a garage while a vehicle is running because of the harmful effects, but questions why they still choose cigarettes.
“We would never put ourselves in those positions yet we think we can smoke tobacco,” he said. “It’s highly addictive because of the chemicals that come off it and really the long-term effects of smoking is really what causes the problem.”
He explained long-time smokers are unable to fully utilize their lungs to move air through their body. As people age, lung capacity naturally decreases but adding smoking on top of that can cause medical problems for some, he said.
At the moment, Karasiuk said it still unclear what the health impacts are around e-cigarettes but he suspected it can’t be healthy to take in those same chemicals found in tobacco even though vaping.