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Smoking and vaping bylaw still needs tweaks, some Calgary councillors say

There was general support for a smoking and vaping ban in Calgary parks and on pathways, but some councillors were concerned there was a double standard.

The item came to Friday’s Community Development Committee meeting, and members ultimately recommended three readings be given at council to proposed bylaw changes.

It’s expected, however, that the item will see further work when it hits the floor of council June 7.

Both AHS’s Dr. Brent Friesen and Action on Smoking’s Les Hagen spoke in favour of the ban, with each of them reinforcing the modeling impact it has on children. Though, each of them spoke against allowing designated areas in events and festivals.

Dr. Friesen said the modeling impact comes in a couple of ways. First, he said it impacts people who want to stop smoking or vaping. They may see different cues like cigarette butts or others smoking.

“With regards to children again, children are very interested in terms of what’s happening in their environment, not only in the home setting but also out in the community – what other people are doing, other adults are doing,” he said.

Questions from councillors also arose on potential enforcement.

Chief Bylaw Officer Ryan Pleckaitis said that they regularly do proactive patrols in city parks and on pathways. Adding in potential smoking or vaping infractions would be another thing they’d look for.

“We believe that we have the staffing levels in place, especially starting next year, to be able to enforce this effectively,” he said.

Modeling double standard

Ward 3 Coun. Jasmine Mian said that this is a trickier issue than many thought. There were several aspects to consider, she said.

She took particular aim at the modeling argument supporting the ban.

“At the same time that we’re considering a blanket ban on smoking in parks, we are making it easier for people to drink in parks,” she said.

“That has all of the same modeling impacts. Every single thing that it impacts here.”

Mian also said an intersectional lens needs to be applied. Some people don’t drink in their religion, but they do smoke (shisha, water pipes).

Water pipes would be included under this ban, administration said.

“If we want to just have maximal health outcomes, of course, the ban is the easy option,” Mian said.

“I thought this one would be a little bit easier one too, but I think there’s a bunch of considerations to think about there.”

Ward 8 Coun. Courtney Walcott also thought they were choosing which cultural vices were acceptable.

“We’re in a space right now where we are picking and choosing which device is acceptable determining on the culture of this council,” he said.

Mian supported the idea of making further amendments when the item came back for final approval in June.  That may include separated smoking areas, or bookable areas in parks.

If approved there, it would come into effect Aug. 1.