Edmonton council does about-face on smoking bylaw amid fierce public feedback

1 / 2
Edmonton council does about-face on smoking bylaw amid fierce public feedback

Less than a day after approving a new bylaw restricting tobacco and cannabis smoking in public places, Edmonton city council agreed to send the rules back to committee in September.

Mayor Don Iveson suggested the move Wednesday, admitting that council didn't give the public a chance to weigh in on stricter rules on tobacco.

Iveson said council had the best of intentions when it passed the bylaw Tuesday but that it was "moving pretty fast."

The bylaw was narrowly passed in a 7-6 vote after hours of debate. Iveson said overnight he had some "sober second thought." 

"I think we should pause," Iveson said Wednesday at council. "We have until Oct. 17 to finalize the bylaw."

Iveson said councillors have since received a lot of feedback from smokers and business owners along Jasper and Whyte avenues, complaining the new rules are too restrictive. 

"There are doors every 10 metres," he said. "People have gotten pretty good at going out to the curb and getting away from the door ... but if you essentially push them into the street or push them into the back lane, that may not be safe or practical."

Coun. Jon Dziadyk, who voted against the bylaw Tuesday, welcomed Iveson's motion.

"We made a lot of Edmontonians feel uncomfortable and unwelcome in otherwise spaces that they've frequented for years," he said. 

The bylaw will be referred back to committee Sept. 12.

While the bylaw was aimed at regulating the use of cannabis in public, it evolved to include tighter restrictions on tobacco smoking.

The bylaw originally required cannabis smokers to be 10 metres from a doorway, patio or bus stop, where cigarette smokers could be as close as five metres. 

Council decided Tuesday to restrict cigarette smokers to the further distance, as well. 

The proposed law also prohibits 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.

Those parks include Hawrelak Park, Fort Edmonton Park, Muttart Conservatory grounds and Edmonton Valley Zoo.

@natashariebe