Consumer advocacy group urges city council to revisit smoking bylaw

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Consumer Choice Center says inclusion of vaping in smoking restrictions a mistake

A non-profit advocacy group is urging Prince Albert city council to take a second look at its recently passed Smoking in Public Places Bylaw.

The new bylaw, which governs where residents can smoke inside city limits, has caused the Consumer Choice Center (CCC) to come out swinging after the city limited vaping as well as smoking.

CCC North American Affairs Manager David Clement said cities across Canada are rushing to introduce new bylaws before the federal government legalizes cannabis, but he worries that means they aren’t making smart decisions.

“It seems like in rushing things through there is a bit of a sloppy nature to some of these bylaws because they don’t actually evaluate some of the evidence presented and some of the differing opinions and why some of these restrictions are not necessarily good public policy,” Clement said during an interview on Monday.

Instead of placing limits on vaping, Clement wants city council to view it as a solution to Prince Albert’s high smoking rate. He said residents use vaping as a means to quit smoking. He’s hopeful that with more research, cities like Prince Albert will see the positives.

“I think at the very least, there should be a move here to exempt vaping from the restrictions, for the sole purpose that it is a harm reduction tool,” he explained. “It is a useful measure to help people quit. When you treat vaping like smoking, it’s kind of like punishing people who ride their bike to work. They’re actually part of the demographic that we want to increase.”

There is some support internationally The CCC’s position, but it’s harder to find closer to home. Organizations like the American Council on Science and Health in the United States, and Public Health England in the United Kingdom, have come out in support of vaping as a way to lower smoking rates.

However, in Saskatchewan, organizations like the provincial chapter of the Canadian Cancer Society remain skeptical.

“It’s hard to know what someone is vaping because a lot of people vape cannabis,” cancer society spokesperson Donna Pasiechnik said. “How would people know what’s in that vaporizer? Is it nicotine? Is it cannabis? They’re heavily flavoured, these products, so sometimes just by smell, you can’t tell.”

The Canadian Cancer Society and Lung Association of Saskatchewan were the two most prominent organizations to come out and strongly support Prince Albert’s smoking bylaw. Pasiechnik said including vaping in the bylaw makes it easier to enforce, and creates safer environments for children and non-smokers.

“This bylaw doesn’t prevent anyone from vaping,” she said. “They can still vape. They just have to do it outside, away from where the public and children are.”

Regardless of where the discussion goes in the future, it doesn’t look like Prince Albert city council is going to revisit the issue.

Ward 5 Coun. Dennis Ogrodnick, one of the bylaws strongest supporters, said he would be willing to do so if Prince Albert residents want to, but he doesn’t expect that to happen. He added that city council did more than enough research on the issue to make an informed decision.

“We were told as a committee that anything that is burned has the potential to be dangerous,” he said. “Vaping gives off a vapor. Obviously something is happening inside that device, and we were told by these other lobby groups that it has the potential to be dangerous as well. That’s why we included it in the bylaw.”

The Consumer Choice Centre is an independent non-profit that monitors regulations in Canada, the United States and the European Union. According to the organization’s Code of Ethics, it does not accept donations from government institutions or “give our funders influence on editorial decisions.”

According to the CCC website, past donors include Tokyo Smoke, a Canadian company that focuses on the medical cannabis industry, and Japan Tobacco International, a tobacco product manufacturer headquartered in Switzerland.

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