Residents of Prince Albert will have a chance to weigh in as city council considers creating a smoking ban bylaw within the community.
During Tuesday’s executive committee meeting, council approved a motion to survey local residents about the issue, which could see forms of tobacco like cigarettes, e-cigarettes, marijuana and shisha banned from use in public places like parks, city buildings, festivals and sporting events.
City councillors voted to approve the motion after a presentation from Canadian Cancer Society in Saskatchewan spokesperson Donna Pasiechnik.
The proposal received strong support from a number of councillors, who said Prince Albert was behind the times with their public smoking laws.
“I attend and volunteer at a lot of sporting events in the community, and to have people smoking in the stands is just, in my opinion, wrong,” Ward 5 Coun. Dennis Ogrodnick said. “I shouldn’t have to smell that smoke. There should be a spot provided for people, if they want to smoke. Go over there and smoke your lungs out. That’s fine with me, but don’t sit next to me and disrupt my enjoyment.”
Ward 7 Coun. Dennis Nowoselsky added that smoking drains resources from the healthcare system, and urged his fellow councillors to curb the activity.
“Money is being wasted and lives (and) years are being lost,” Nowoselsky said. “This is a no-brainer. We’re just light-years behind. Let’s get on it.”
While smoking cigarettes is the main issue, marijuana didn’t escape scrutiny in council chambers.
With the federal government set to legalize marijuana in the future, Pasiechnik urged municipal governments to get ahead of the issue.
“Anywhere smoking is banned or the use of tobacco is banned, so should the use of marijuana, regardless of whether it’s medicinal or not,” she told council. “If you need your medicine, you can take your medicine, but not if your smoking this product affects others.”
While not every councillor offered an opinion on a potential ban, all were in favour of polling Prince Albert residents.
Community Services director Jody Boulet said the survey would be available online and on paper for roughly a month. Afterwards, city administrators will comb through the data and present a report to council.
“This will give enough time for us to get the word out through our different channels, to make it available through our different networks and to have those results compiled so we can report back in a timely manner,” he said.
The City of Prince Albert currently operates under a bylaw from 1993, which has some restrictions in placed. According to Boulet, the restrictions are not enforced, but compliance is encouraged.
According to an Ipsos-Reid poll conducted in 2014, 77 per cent of Saskatchewan residents supported a smoking ban on municipal property used for public gatherings. Another 81 per cent supported a ban at sports fields and 91 per cent supported a ban on children’s playgrounds.
The Canadian Cancer Society estimates that smoking adds roughly $168 million in direct healthcare costs, as well as roughly $535 million in indirect costs, like productivity losses.