Red Deer City council gave first reading to a tougher anti-smoking bylaw Monday night.
If given second and third reading at the next council meeting it would ban smoking within 10m of playgrounds, sports fields, spray parks, seasonal skating rinks and skate parks.
It would also allow for Aboriginal ceremonial activities.
The City will spend $10,000 on signage and a public awareness campaign to make the public aware of the changes.
Fines included in the bylaw are $200 for a first offence and up to $2,500 for following offences.
Councillors voted 7 – 1 in favour of the changes, designed to protect children from second-hand smoke, but some still have doubts about the legislation.
Councillor Paul Harris was the only one to vote against the bylaw because he felt it doesn’t go far enough.
He would like to see it extended to all public events, including the farmers’ market.
“We can poke around things for a very long time, but it seems to me we can just be done with it. I don’t think we need to be spending months on this, doing more research. We know what’s right, we should just get on with it,” he said.
Councillor Cindy Jefferies said she has heard a very positive response to the current bylaw.
“I think we are going there (to not allow smoking in more places) anyway, more and more signs are being placed voluntarily as more and more organizations limit smoking. Perhaps our bylaw will catch up with some of that thinking, but I think we need to move slowly and gauge public opinion (on the issue).”
Councillor Buck Buchanan called smoking “One of those controversial things. I have some issues with the enforcement (of the bylaw) and why would you create a law that is unenforceable? I think a lot of it is education. I’m an ex-puffer myself – now it’s an unacceptable practice inside and we’re looking at places outside. I’m not against that, but there is a population out there that are smokers.
“If we want people to quit smoking then why are we selling them the product? Don’t allow it. But that’s not going to happen. People that are smokers have some rights too.”
Education is the way to go, he added.
Councillor Tara Veer, who was successful in including cannabis, hash, crack cocaine, heroin, meth and herbal products along with tobacco smoke in the bylaw, noted that while cigarette smokers were subject to fines, often those using illegal drugs got off free.
She said this addresses an inequality where “Smokers were being more vilified than drug smokers standing next to them.”
Councillor Dianne Wyntjes was not at the meeting.
Meanwhile, council also heard from various presenters, including Gail Foreman, a registered nurse with Alberta Health Services who said there are 67 known carcinogenic (cancer causing) chemicals in cigarettes and described the bylaw as a step in the right direction.
“Most Canadians are now exposed to second-hand smoke outdoors. We have made some huge steps forward in health in regard to indoor spaces, but some of the science says second hand smoke can be as pervasive in outdoor spaces as we used to see in bars, depending on weather conditions and where you are. It definitely needs to be addressed.”
Sarah Hawkins, a public policy analyst with the Canadian Cancer Society, noted that an estimated 3,000 people die from the effects of smoke every year in Alberta, and that Red Deer is a leader when it comes to controlling smoking in public places.
However, Red Deer resident Catherine Kotke was the only person to speak against toughing the bylaw.
She said smokers are being “Bullied into submission” and described the new bylaw as “Disgusting and unacceptable. I’ve smoked for 50-plus years. I’m tired of people suggesting that we’re victimizing children. People who’ve been vilified, victimized and bullied are smokers. I smoke, it’s my choice, it’s personal. I agree with protecting children, but you need to educate them.”
Mayor Morris Flewwelling summed up the two-hour debate saying, “We’ve come a long way,” remembering council meetings in the 70s when there were no restrictions, virtually everyone smoked, sometimes even smoking cigars, and the Council Chamber was always filled with a thick, blue cloud of smoke.