February 28th, 2024

Council wants clear language in update smoking, vaping bylaw

By COLLIN GALLANT on February 25, 2023.

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cgallant@medicinehatnews.com@CollinGallant

Arguing that proposed changes to a smoking and vaping bylaw are too hazy, city council members sent it back to staff.

A vote on amending the city’s Smoking and Vaping bylaw will be brought back in March with an explanation of where smoking tobacco, cannabis or vaping is and isn’t allowed.

“I’m not opposed to this in principle, but it’s not clear to me where you can and can’t smoke,” said Mayor Linnsie Clark after a 45-minute discussion of the bylaw on second reading Tuesday.

“That would be helpful to know.”

Administrators said that once legal language was approved, a communications strategy to explain the effect could be developed.

Councillors voted to table second reading until more clear definitions could be presented.

The new legislation would update the 2013 iteration of the bylaw that banned smoking cigarettes, cigars and pipes within 10 metres of city parks and sports fields.

Since then the province has added its own rules, and the city bylaw changes would add vaping and e-cigarettes as well as new venues, like major tennis courts, outdoor festivals and grandstands.

As well, a temporary permit system would be created to allow designated smoking areas.

The city’s trails system is covered under the definition of parks.

Provincial regulations restrict smoking within five metres of a doorway or opening window, but outside of that area, smoking is not restricted on roadways, sidewalks or parking lots.

That led to confusion among councillors since parking lots and roads are often adjacent to doorways or windows. Several said the public would likely be confused as well.

“The outdoor public places statute is too vague,” said Coun. Andy McGrogan.

“I’d like to see it come back a little tighter.”

City solicitor Ben Bulloch said the update collapses some city rules because provincial regulations now cover certain areas that weren’t in place when the original bylaw was passed.

“If there a was overlap, we removed it, and this is an attempt to fill gaps,” he told council.

Overall, he said, the effect of the bylaw is very similar to the 10-year-old statute.

“The whole concept is to take spaces where youth are present and reduce the ability to smoke any sort of product in those areas,” said acting public services managing director Brian Stauth.

“It’s health and youth minded bylaw.”

Coun. Shila Sharps wondered if the bylaw could be enforceable.

“It’s no more of less enforceable than the last bylaw,” said Stauth.

If guilty, offenders would face the same potential fines, $100, or $200 up to $2,000 for subsequent offences.

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