Warnings before fines as Regina looks to ease smokers into new bylaw

Regina’s new smoking and vaping bylaw will come into effect Saturday, but it won’t be enforced with an iron fist — at least not to begin with.

Mixed reaction as new bylaw banning smoking on patios comes into effect Saturday

A cake was cut to commemorate the ushering in of Regina's new smoking bylaw on Friday. (Tyler Pidlubny)

Regina's new bylaw prohibiting smoking and vaping on patios and some other outdoor areas comes into effect Saturday, but it won't be enforced with an iron fist — at least, not to begin with.

The city says initial enforcement efforts will focus on voluntary compliance, and has noted signage and public education will be the first steps.

However, if smokers can't comply, consequences await.

As noted in the bylaw, infractions will carry a maximum fine of $2,000 for individuals and $5,000 for businesses and corporations, "or in default of payment by an individual, by imprisonment for a term of not more than 30 days."

There is no minimum or default fine.

That means smokers who light up in off-limits areas will not receive, for example, a $50 fine on the spot. Nor will the business, if the smoking happens to take place on part of its property.

"The minimum ticketing isn't there at this time," said Regina fire Chief Layne Jackson during an event celebrating the new bylaw at Regina City Hall Friday.

Initially, warnings will be issued, said Ward 2 councillor Bob Hawkins, who helped champion the bylaw.

"If people resist, after warnings, there will be fines," he assured reporters.

A matter for the courts

The amount of any potential fine is something that will need to be determined by a judge upon the advice of a prosecutor, Jackson said.

In an email to CBC, the city confirmed that all charges laid under the bylaw will go through a Provincial Court where the accused will be summoned to appear and enter a plea. 

"Based on the experiences of other municipalities, we do not expect much need for disciplinary enforcement," wrote city spokesperson Jamie Lewis.

The city does not plan to hire any additional bylaw officers, Hawkins said.

A child wears a commemorative T-shirt during a celebration to usher in Regina's new smoking bylaw. (Tyler Pidlubny)

Smoking come Saturday

The bylaw bans smoking in:

  • Public seating areas (like restaurant patios).
  • All outdoor public areas, minus streets and sidewalks (unless the sidewalk and adjacent street are being used for a public event).
  • Areas within 10 metres outside of any doorway, window or air intake of an enclosed public place.

People will still be allowed to smoke on streets, sidewalks and parking lots, Hawkins said, unless the parking lot is being used for an event — a Roughriders tailgate party, for instance.

How the public feels

A mix of emotions surround the bylaw, which seeks to limit where people can consume addictive but legally sold and government-taxed products.

"I feel as if our freedom and rights are being taken away," Regina smoker Cory Fritz said.

"I like to smoke," he continued, while holding up his lit cigarette. "It calms me down. It relieves the stress and anger."

Cory Fritz says he feels Regina's new smoking bylaw is taking away his right to smoke. (Tyler Pidlubny)
Fritz said he doesn't smoke in front of pregnant women or children.

Not everyone shared Fritz's opinion.

"As a non-smoker, we're very happy about it," said Gloria Lee as she sat on the patio at the Fat Badger. "I don't like breathing in second-hand smoke."

She said smoking hadn't stopped her from enjoying patios before but the bylaw comes as a welcome change.

Some, like non-smoker Jeremy Foster, were neither here nor there about the changes.

"I appreciate the indoor ban, because it's a little contained in small spaces and the ventilation may not be the best, but out here it doesn't really bother me," he said, sitting on the patio at O'Hanlon's Irish Pub.

The business side

"I think it's actually a good thing," said David Waller, owner of the Fat Badger.

Regina has been behind the times regarding smoking, he said, but noted the new bylaw might hurt his business for a while.

"It's just like when they first banned smoking inside, you know — it caused a little bit of a downturn for a while," he said.

Beer Brothers Gastropub co-owner Darren Carter says smoking has never been allowed at his business and that hasn't hurt his profits. (Tyler Pidlubny)
Once people get used to the bylaw, Waller said, business is likely to return to normal.

For some, normal has always been smoke-free.

"We've been here now for nine-and-a-half years, and we started as a non-smoking facility since day one, including our patio space," said Darren Carter, co-owner of Beer Brothers Gastropub.

Beer Brothers' ownership felt smoking on the patio would interfere with the ability of customers to taste and smell the food.

"Our track record speaks for itself," Carter said regarding the reception Beer Brothers has received while being smoke-free.