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Groups want smoking banned

City councillor opposes early changes

Nathan VanderKlippe
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Aug 30/02) - A number of local citizens want the city to accelerate the schedule on its smoking bylaw, saying the current system is not working.

"Carcinogenic fumes (are) being inhaled by non-consenting lungs who pay this price to be and work in public places," said Ruby Trudel, in a letter she wrote to city council, dated Aug. 15. "How can that be an acceptable public standard?"

Effective Jan. 1, 2002, the bylaw forces all Yellowknife restaurants to made 75 per cent of their dining rooms smoke-free. The bylaw calls for a 100 per cent ban, which will automatically roll in on Jan. 1, 2005.

"We would be interested in moving that up," said Elaine Berthelet, who is with Tobacco Action Yellowknife. "Our preferred date would be Jan. 1, 2003. The question is, why wait another two years?"

Some restaurant owners were ambivalent about the idea.

"I really don't care," said Renata Bullock, owner of Bullock's Bistro. "I'm not against it and I'm not supporting it."

The idea has some support from most city councillors.

"That's probably something we should look into," said Mayor Gord Van Tighem. "The way it was set up was done by the past council, and societal norms may have changed."

"You can't discount the health of your community, but you have to be fair and compromise a little bit," said Coun. Dave Ramsay, who suggested bringing in the smoking ban in 2004.

"Restaurants should declare whether they are going to be smoking or non-smoking, but to mix the two in any kind of percentage doesn't make much sense," said Coun. Alan Woytuik.

Woytuik said he would support a review of the current policy, which he said is not working very well.

"I see no reason to delay it (the full ban) any further," said Coun. Kevin O'Reilly.

"I think it represented an unhealthy compromise at the time. I'm hoping we can move it as far forward as possible."

Coun. Blake Lyons opposed outright any changes to the current plan.

"If we suddenly changed the schedule, that could cause some discomfort and economic loss," he said, adding that restaurants deserved "fair notice" of a smoking ban.

On Jan. 1, 2000, restaurants were mandated to provide half of their seating area smoke-free. When the policy was first implemented, municipal enforcement officers canvassed all of the local restaurants, checking to see if space was properly allocated.

Since then, restaurant infractions have been inspected on a complaint basis, said Doug Gillard, manager of municipal enforcement.

In the past two years, he estimates 10-15 fines, each worth $100, have been issued.

Most of those were for cab drivers smoking with a passenger or people smoking in arenas, he said.