Edmonton council restricts tobacco smoking after passing cannabis bylaw

Cigarette smokers face more restrictions in Edmonton when cannabis is legalized in October.

Cigarette smoking will be banned in Hawrelak Park, Fort Edmonton Park, Edmonton Zoo

City council passed a bylaw that forbids cannabis and cigarette smoking at Hawrelak Park, Fort Edmonton Park, Muttart Conservatory grounds and Edmonton Valley Zoo and about 70 per cent of Edmonton's parks. (CBC)

Cigarette smokers will face more restrictions in Edmonton when cannabis is legalized in October.

City council passed a bylaw Tuesday that will prohibit people from smoking cannabis, cigarettes and cigars in nearly 70 per cent of Edmonton's parks — any location where there are children's amenities like playgrounds and sports fields.

After hours of debate and in a highly divided vote, council voted seven in favour and six against.

Andrew Knack, Bev Esslinger, Mo Banga, Tim Cartmell, Aaron Paquette and Mayor Don Iveson voted in favour of amendments proposed by Coun. Michael Walters to add further restrictions to where cannabis can be consumed in public. 

The initial bylaw presented in early June would have allowed cannabis smoking in parks, but not within 30 metres of children's amenities such as playgrounds.

The bylaw forbids cannabis and cigarette smoking at Hawrelak Park, Fort Edmonton Park, Muttart Conservatory grounds and Edmonton Valley Zoo. 
Ryan Pleckaitis, director for complaints and investigations, said the new bylaw would forbid marijuana and tobacco in any public park that contains a playground.

Coun. Tony Catarina was one of six who didn't support the amendments. 

"This takes us to a place where we're going to have so many people forced into basically breaking the law," he said during Tuesday's council meeting. "And given that it's about cannabis, where it's being legalized, those two things don't square up for me."

Coun. Sarah Hamilton suggested council was overstepping its boundaries. 

"One of my concerns is that we're legalizing purchasing, we're legalizing possession, but we're doing our darndest to make sure that consumption stays in that realm of prohibition."

The original bylaw presented in June required cannabis smokers to be 10 metres from a doorway, patio or bus stop.

The new rules will require cigarette smokers, who currently can be as close as five metres, to do the same.

"While it's more restrictive, I don't think it's sensible in a way to say you can smoke a cigarette within five metres of an open door but you have to smoke a joint 10 metres away from an open door,'" Walters said. "So alignment on public sidewalks makes a ton of sense."    

Walters said administration can work with local business improvement groups to designate areas where people can smoke in places like Whyte Avenue.

Last year, Edmonton transit authorities gave out more than 700 tickets for illegal smoking while the city's peace officers gave out more than 300.

The city estimates they will need at least eight more full-time peace officers to enforce the amended bylaw.

The fine for smoking in restricted areas is $250.

While pot smokers will be banned from hospital property, cigarette smokers will not be.

About the Author

Natasha Riebe

Journalist

Natasha Riebe landed at CBC News in Edmonton after radio, TV and print journalism gigs in Halifax, Seoul, Yellowknife and on Vancouver Island. Please send tips in confidence to natasha.riebe@cbc.ca.

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