Edmonton mayoral candidate Don Koziak says the city should revisit the "failed experiment" to ban smoking inside public spaces.
"I think it's probably a suicidal type of position because everybody wants to be seen as righteous, but I think reasonable voters can see the benefit to a reasonable bylaw that allows for all of the citizens of Edmonton to enjoy what they want to enjoy," Koziak said in an interview Thursday.
"I think that the smoking ban was an experiment, and we've tried it, and there's still people smoking," he added. "And I find it frustrating when I see people outside in the dead of winter, trying to keep warm, because we've decided that we can't accommodate them."
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Koziak compared the issues to the prohibition on alcohol in the United States in the 1920s and 1930s. He compared Prohibition in the U.S. "to our 13-year prohibition on indoor smoking as a 'failed experiment,' " the news release said.
In the interview, Koziak said he doesn't smoke cigarettes but enjoys the occasional cigar. He has a degree in civil engineering, which helps him view the issue from a technical viewpoint, he said.
"It's really a ventilation problem. It's an engineering problem, not a social ills thing," he said. "The total ban on indoor smoking is not supported by sound engineering logic. I mean, we can ventilate a room."
The city should consult with mechanical engineers, Koziak said, to determine the level of ventilation required to mitigate the smoke in some indoor areas.
Business owners who are prepared to spend the money could be certified to allow smoking in designated areas, he said. That would allow some restaurants, bars and patios to accommodate smoking clients.
He said he finds it "horrible" that smokers aren't accommodated at the new Rogers Place arena downtown, and also suggested that smoking could be permitted in the top 10 rows of seats in the stands at Commonwealth Stadium.
"I wanted to bring this issue out now while there's still time for it to percolate," he said. "If I'd talked about this the weekend before the election, I have no doubt that it would hurt my chances. But, I mean, there is a football game on Saturday.
"There's going to be … a couple thousand people standing outside smoking, and I think more than one of them is going to think, 'Geez, that would be a great idea, why can't we be up there watching the game instead of standing out here?' "
Koziak is the general manager of the Chateau Louis, a hotel and conference centre at 11727 Kingsway.
"I have a lot of smokers that I employ," he said. "We have to accommodate them by sticking them outside the back door of the hotel, and I don't have a choice in the matter because the city has tied my hands.
"If it were up to me, we would have a smoking room … that the employees could use, and we would put in better ventilation so that it wouldn't offend other people."
'I would be against it'
The hotel has a piano bar that is equipped with proper ventilation for smoking, Koziak said. It operated for three years without any problems before the Edmonton smoking ban came into effect, he said.
Koziak's idea didn't meet with approval from the manager of a popular Old Strathcona nightspot.
"If that is coming to an option to come back, I would be against it," said Jezzy Letros, general manager of The Pint, at 8032 104th St. "It's not fair to people who don't smoke to be in that kind of environment."
The city could "maybe consider patio smoking, but indoors, definitely not," Letros said.
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The provincial government's Tobacco and Smoking Reduction Act, which came into effect Jan. 1, 2006, prohibits smoking in all public places and workplaces.
In July 2003, Edmonton banned smoking in public places that permit minors, including restaurants, billiard halls and bowling alleys. Bowling alleys and casinos were allowed to have designated smoking rooms. Smoking was also banned on outdoor patios.
Two years later, the ban was extended to include total restrictions at all establishments, including bars, bingo halls and casinos. No designated smoking rooms were permitted.
In October 2015, Edmonton banned the use of electronic cigarettes in all public spaces where smoking is prohibited.