Edmonton's cannabis rules could spark changes to tobacco smoking laws

As Edmonton city council debates the rules on cannabis, there’s a push for putting cigarettes, cigars and vaping on the same playing field.

Anti-smoking advocates push for stricter rules on public tobacco smoking

The Saskatchewan Coalition for Tobacco Reduction released a report outlining a list of policy recommendations aimed at reducing tobacco use and generating revenue for tobacco control enforcement and programs. (iStock)

Similar risks should have similar regulations, that's what anti-smoking advocates are telling Edmonton city council, as councillors decide where people should be allowed to smoke cannabis in public when it's legal in October.

As council debates the rules on marijuana, there's a push to put cigarettes, cigars and vaping on the same playing field.

Les Hagen, executive director for Action on Smoking and Health, said his group's priority is to make public spaces safer. 

"We are asking for restrictions that encompass any form of smoking or vaping — whether that's tobacco or shisha or cannabis — in public places that are used by kids, including parks and public events."
Les Hagen, executive director of Action on Smoking and Health, said they want council to restrict tobacco smoking in all public spaces where children play. (CBC )

Hagen said public events would include concerts, festivals and farmers' markets.

Several councillors, including Ben Henderson agree the city should revisit rules around cigarette smoking and vaping.  

"My feeling is, whatever we do for cannabis we should be doing for smoking," Henderson said Friday. "If we're worried about kids being exposed to cannabis we're equally worried about them being exposed to cigarettes."

Currently, smoking cigarettes is allowed in most public spaces in Edmonton, as long as it's at least10 metres away from playgrounds, spray parks, courts and sports fields.

Tuesday, council will discuss amending the public places bylaw, which in its current form, would allow cannabis consumption in parks and on sidewalks within 10 metres of a doorway and 30 metres from children's amenities like playgrounds.

Hagen said 30 metres from where children play isn't far enough.

Coun. Andrew Knack thinks council should consider stiffer guidelines for both tobacco and cannabis.

"If we choose to go more strict than what the current proposed rule is of 30 metres away from a playground — say we want to do a greater distance or the whole park — do you align tobacco rules?" he said. "I think there's likely a logic to that."

The stricter approach to regulating public cannabis consumption is a far cry from what Alberta Health Services and Hagen were suggesting earlier this week, when they claimed Edmonton was on the verge of being one of the most lax jurisdictions in the world.

On behalf of the Campaign for a Smoke-Free Alberta, Hagen sent a release on Friday with the title "Edmonton to become the new Amsterdam of cannabis consumption?"

Alberta Health Services representatives have presented their case for stricter public consumption rules to city councillors several times since the bylaws were introduced this spring.

"We do recommend that municipalities implement strong regulations banning cannabis consumption in public places," AHS spokesperson Kirsten Goruk said in a statement Friday. "Cannabis is an intoxicating substance and should therefore be treated similarly to alcohol."

Henderson also said he doesn't want to force the cigarette issue at a time when cannabis bylaws are getting so much attention. 
City council will debate and decide whether to amend the public places bylaw to tighten rules around public cannabis consumption. (CBC)

"My one hesitation to pushing too much at the same time is that it actually raises the temperature on all of this," he said. "And my feeling is we need to lower the temperature on all of this."

Council is scheduled to debate the public places bylaw starting Tuesday or Wednesday at a meeting at city hall.



Natasha Riebe


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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