Indoor public places in Manitoba have been smoke-free for nearly a decade.
When it came into effect on Oct. 1, 2004, the Non-Smokers Health Protection Act was contentious. But some 10 years later, we can safely say it’s had a salutary effect on Manitoba. A survey released in May by the Manitoba Tobacco Reduction Alliance says that 80 per cent of Manitobans agree that it has made their community a healthier environment.
Of course, Brandon has had an extra couple of years to get used to it.
In May 2002, the city passed what was then one of the most restrictive anti-smoking bylaws in North America.
An interesting side note to the bylaw is that Brandon’s was written with an eye on the province’s plans. The city knew that the province was thinking about introducing an anti-smoking law of its own, and Brandon took care to write the civic law so that if a less restrictive provincial law was passed, the stricter city law would still be enforced.
Well, that’s not how it turned out. The city bylaw banned smoking on outdoor patios, for example, while the provincial law allowed such outdoor lighting up.
And, just a month after the provincial law was passed, Brandon council voted to scrap its own bylaw and follow the province’s law instead.
Funnily, Winnipeg now wants to go where Brandon was a decade ago.
On Wednesday, two councillors in that city called on the province to make smoking on patios illegal. Paula Havixbeck and Dan Vandal put forth the motion, which surprisingly went to an immediate vote, where it passed 14-2. But provincial officials quickly handed it back.
According to Metro Winnipeg, provincial Healthy Living Minister Sharon Blady said if Winnipeg wants a patio smoking ban, all they have to do is … well, do it.
“The province is not considering a provincewide ban on smoking on patios,” Metro quoted Blady as saying. “Municipalities do have authority to further restrict public smoking, and should a municipality, such as the City of Winnipeg, want to proceed with such a ban they have the legislative authority to do so. “
Well, we could have told them that.
In fact, the province still has a Q-and-A on its Healthy Living website that specifically addresses Brandon’s (now non-existent) patio-smoking ban.
“The Non-Smokers Health Protection Act will continue to allow municipalities to adopt more stringent rules by bylaw,” reads the Q-and-A. “Thus, the Brandon bylaw may continue to prohibit smoking on outdoor patios.”
Perhaps, more than a decade after indoor smoking was first banned in Brandon, it’s time to extend that to public areas that are outdoors as well. Bans on smoking in parks and athletic fields have been mooted but never passed. And starting next month, smoking on playgrounds and beaches in provincial parks will be illegal.
The May survey suggested that two-thirds of Manitobans would support a patio smoking ban and our recent examination of all the Brandon patios turned up a few that are already non-smoking, so it’s obvious that the customer support is there for them.
Of course, there are also quite a few smoking “patios” in Brandon that serve no food or drink, but exist only as a place to corral smokers without making them pass through entrances again.
We propose enshrining that natural differentiation into law.
City councillors here should follow the lead of their Winnipeg counterparts, as well as their 2002 predecessors, and debate a bylaw that would ban smoking on patios. We suggest banning smoking anyplace where food is served, or where children are present.
That would cover athletic fields and parks as well as most restaurant and lounge patios, but would allow bars and nightclubs to have a separate outdoor area for hardcore smokers that wouldn’t force them to go in and out through security.
Brandon was lauded around the continent as a leader in anti-smoking when we first passed Bylaw No. 6696 in 2002. It’s time to reclaim our lead.