Winnipeg patio smokers may have to butt out April 1

If you enjoy smoking on a Winnipeg patio, it's time to hope for unseasonably warm March weather. The City of Winnipeg is poised to enact a patio smoking ban on April Fool's Day.

Proposed ban would cover cigarettes, cigars, pipes, e-cigarettes, hookahs and 'similar devices'

Winnipeg is poised to ban smoking on patios on April 1. (Canadian Press)

If you enjoy smoking on a Winnipeg patio, it's time to hope for unseasonably warm March weather. The City of Winnipeg is poised to enact a patio smoking ban on April Fool's Day.

A report from Winnipeg's community services department recommends a ban on second-hand smoke from cigarettes, cigars, pipes, e-cigarettes, water pipes, hookahs and "similar products/devices" on outdoor patios where food or drinks are served.

The April 1 ban, which requires council approval, would make Winnipeg the last major city in Canada to outlaw patio smoking.

While the Canadian Cancer Society lobbied for a patio smoking ban last year, the city chose to spend the latter part of 2017 seeking public opinion.

In a telephone survey of 600 randomly selected adults done from Sept. 21 to Oct. 10, the city found 76 per cent supported a patio smoking ban at restaurants and 58 per cent supported a ban at bars. The results are considered reliable 95 per cent of the time, with a four per cent margin of error, community bylaw enforcement manager Winston Yee wrote in his report to council's protection and community services committee.

Yee said in his report there is a risk smokers may simply move onto a sidewalk, but a scan of patio smoking bans in other cities revealed little impact on businesses.

"Implementation and compliance was achieved primarily through a combination of public and industry education, and providing support to business owners through a transition period," he wrote. "Most municipalities reported limited need for enforcement due to general public acceptance and co-operation from business owners."

Yee also wrote that all other jurisdictions created an exemption for the ceremonial Indigenous use of tobacco. Winnipeg would offer the same exemption, he clarified in an interview.

Designated smoking areas may remain

Bars could also continue to allow smoking in outdoor areas on private property where no food or drinks are served, Yee said. But these areas must be permanent.

"If you're licensed by the appropriate authority to serve either liquor or food in that area, then you can't say 'This table, tonight, we're going to have as a smoking area,'" Yee said.

"That's not the intent of what our bylaw would be, nor would we allow that to occur."

It is not yet clear, however, whether cannabis smoking will be permitted in these smoking-only areas once marijuana is legalized this summer.

If approved on Tuesday by council's protection and community services committee, the patio smoking ban would move to executive policy committee and ultimately council as a whole on Jan. 25.