Mayor wants total smoke ban
Smith will push for tougher rules in bars, restaurants
The Edmonton Journal
Bill Mah and Jodie Sinnema, Journal Staff Writers
Tuesday, December 31, 2002
The city should further restrict smoking in public places in 2003, with the eventual goal being an outright ban, Mayor Bill Smith says.
"If you had a poll of every person out there, they would say restrict smoking in public places," he said Monday.
"My sincere hope is that we make a giant step towards that and eventually get to no smoking in public places."
He also challenged the provincial and federal governments to protect people from the detrimental health effects of second-hand smoke, saying only municipalities have had the "intestinal fortitude" to crack down.
"The federal government and the provincial governments have been absent in this thing," Smith said.
"They've let the municipalities take the heat."
Smith said he agrees with Dan MacLennan, president of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees, who urged the province to ban smoking in all public facilities or face rising costs from compensation claims over second-hand smoke.
Health Canada says more than 1,000 non-smokers died this year -- 300 lung-cancer deaths and at least 700 deaths from coronary heart disease -- from secondhand smoke. The federal department also says employees routinely exposed to secondhand smoke can see their risk of lung cancer increase 20 per cent.
City council is set to debate the merits of outlawing smoking in public spaces such as restaurants, bars and casinos.
On Jan. 20, council's community services committee will get a city administration report outlining the repercussions of a total ban. Council will debate the issue in February.
Smith will push for council to add more bite to the city's existing smoking bylaw, which prohibits smoking in restaurants unless they choose to exclude patrons under 18.
"At a minimum, we need to ban smoking in all places where food is served," he said, panning the current bylaw for giving some businesses an unfair advantage.
"It's a disaster as far as I'm concerned."
Coun. Allan Bolstad defended the city's existing smoking bylaw, saying it has turned mall food courts and most city restaurants into healthier places.
"The next step is to see if we can't ensure that anywhere that you can get a meal is smoke-free," Bolstad said.
"After that will be the bars, lounges, casinos and bingo halls, where I suspect we'll have to give them a little more time to respond to something like that."
Yvonne Wong, owner of the family-owned Fort Road Restaurant, said she would support the city if it decided to make all public places non-smoking.
"I want non-smoking everywhere because in my family, nobody is smoking," Wong said.
"By the law, it should all be non-smoking. ... It takes time. Let people get used to it. For the future, it's good for health, good for children, too."
Ali Elseri, owner of Maxim's Dining and Horseshu Sports Lounge, said he has reservations about a complete ban. His dining room is already smoke-free.
"For the dining room, I agree, but for the bar, no, because most people who like to drink like to smoke," he said. "If you want to have a drink only, you go to the restaurant. If you want to have a drink and a smoke, you go to the bar."
If that changes, he said he could lose 30 to 40 per cent of his business. He estimated 90 per cent of his bar clientele smoke.
"It's going to be bad, very bad, big-time."
Clay Stam, owner of La Gare cafe just off Whyte Avenue, agreed.
"For 16 years, we have built up a clientele to give us business. If they do that, not only myself, but other businesses will probably go out of business."
Coun. Michael Phair said he thinks there's enough support among councillors to beef up the smoking bylaw.
Some councillors want to see a total ban -- restaurants first, bars next and bingos and casinos -- phased in over several years, similar to a bylaw adopted by Strathcona County, he said.
"There's plenty of lead time, and also, people know what's coming up down the road."
Starting Jan. 1 in Strathcona County, smoking won't be allowed in restaurants or food courts, bingo halls that allow people under 18, buses, taxis, workplaces -- except in physically separated areas -- retail shops, county buildings and an area within three metres of front entrances to buildings where smoking isn't allowed.
Starting Jan. 1, 2005, in Strathcona County, smoking will also be banned from all bars, lounges and bingo halls. The fine for a first offence will be $200.
There is a growing move across North America to ban smoking in public places because of fears over the effects of second-hand smoke .
On Monday, the mayor of New York City signed a new law that forbids smoking in all restaurants, office buildings, sports arenas, auditoriums, billiard and bingo halls and bowling alleys starting March 30.
In California, where the 1994 law took effect in stages, restaurants went smoke-free in 1995. Bars, taverns and casinos followed in 1998.
The University of California-San Francisco studied 53 city bartenders a short time after the ban.
Before the law, three-quarters of them suffered from lung ailments. After the law, symptoms for 60 per cent ended.
Lung tests showed bartenders had four-per-cent better lung capacity just four weeks after the smoking ban went into effect.
© Copyright 2002 Edmonton Journal