By COLLIN GALLANT on June 15, 2021.
The City of Medicine Hat is being asked to bring vaping under measures that deter smoking tobacco or cannabis in public by a national stop-smoking group.
Action on Smoking and Health Canada is a lobby group that says as smoking tobacco has decreased to record lows throughout Canada, vaping – which is often promoted as an alternative to tobacco – is increasing.
Health authorities estimate that 400,000 young people under 20 vape regularly, and ASH Canada says that is concerning in terms of lung health, and should be of concern to municipalities that have already banned smoking cigarettes in workplaces and public parks.
“We are not against vaping as a way to stop smoking, but vaping in public places normalizes smoking behaviour to youth,” said Les Hagen, the executive director of ASH Canada during a virtual presentation to the city’s public services committee.
Medicine Hat was one of the first cities in Alberta to ban smoking in restaurants in the mid-2000s, then later banned cigarettes, cigars and pipes in playgrounds and parks and within certain distances from doorways. In both instances the province followed suit. Hagen said the same effort is needed for vaping.
Brian Mastel, head of the city’s public services division, said further action on smoking was studied several years ago by the council’s youth advisory board, but no action was taken.
“Vaping is behind that,” he said, adding that provincial vaping standards are set to be announced sometime this year.
Administrators could bring back the potential to reopen and alter the smoking bylaw.
“There’s the implication that they may leave some gaps, so this might be an opportunity to revisit this,” Mastel told the committee.
Shortly before cannabis legalization in 2018 city council defeated a specific public cannabis consumption bylaw with the majority rationale that provincial standards should be sufficient or at least applied and tracked before any further rules from the city were needed.
That defeated bylaw would have also altered the city’s smoking bylaw to add cannabis alongside tobacco in rules about public parks and distance from doorways, but would have also added vaping.
“Personally I find that education works better, because there are people who feel they are legislated to death and they do the opposite,” said chair, Coun. Julie Friesen.
Committee members were receptive, but also said the provincial rules would carry more weight, more rules can cause confusion and that anti-smoking bylaws are difficult to enforce.
“We’re asking you to simplify the rules by aligning cannabis tobacco and vaping under one set of rules,” said Hagen. “We don’t consider speed limits to be ineffective just because some people still speed.”