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Local pub owner worried about changes to smoking bylaw

Pub owner says new rules will result in more littering
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A man smokes a cigarette outside the Crown & Tower Pub in St. Albert.. CHRIS COLBOURNE/St. Albert Gazette

Smokers in St. Albert will have fewer places they can light up in, after city council passed stricter regulations on Tuesday.

Smoking and vaping is now prohibited in all parks and trails, and it must be done at least 10 metres away from doorways. That is double the previous allowance of five metres.

City council passed all three readings of an updated smoking bylaw during their Sept. 3 council meeting, and some councillors expressed concern about “unintended consequences,” such as increased littering.

"(I've) been hearing complaints from Whyte Avenue (in Edmonton) about extra littering because they don’t have ashtrays really available,” Coun. Sheena Hughes said. The City of Edmonton tightened up its regulations last September.

Hughes asked administration to log any complaints made about extra littering, and to recommend any amendments to the bylaw as necessary.

One local pub owner said the new regulations will increase littering in the parking lot outside his establishment, because smokers will be pushed into the middle of a parking lot with the new 10-metre rule.

The new regulations will create both a safety hazard for patrons and problem with littering, said Troy Marchak, owner of Crown & Tower Neighbourhood Pub.

“I know what smokers are like – they just flick it where they’re standing and butts will end up in the parking lot,” he said. The Crown is situated across from Inglewood Towne Centre, and is surrounded by other businesses.

“For my location, it doesn’t work. It doesn’t make sense, because safety will be an issue,” Marchak said. “It’s a busy parking lot – there’s cars coming and going all the time. I don’t know how it’s going to work.”

The move to pass an updated smoking bylaw came out of discussions around regulations for cannabis smoking last year. A public survey conducted earlier this year showed 61 per cent of 2,100 respondents supported a full ban on smoking in public places, and 46 per cent agreed current regulations were not strict enough.

St. Albert also gathered feedback from stakeholders, including the youth, environmental, senior and community services committees, along with the Chamber of Commerce, Homeland Housing and school board.

Councillors expressed surprise the Chamber submitted no feedback on the bylaw, noting its members could be the most impacted by the changes.

Coun. Ken MacKay said he was worried unintended consequences may include “creating a problem for enforcement” arising from the increased distance from doorways smokers can light up.

“I was actually quite surprised how little feedback we got from some of our businesses, because I think this will have impacts,” he said. “I think we’re potentially creating a problem that is not existing currently, but at the same time we didn’t get the feedback.”

MacKay also asked administration about how many tickets per year bylaw enforcement hands out with the city’s existing bylaw.

St Albert's manager of policing Aaron Giesbrecht said the number is “very few.”

“Typically catching somebody in the act, tickets issued, are relatively few and far between,” he said. The bylaw states offenders could face a $250 fine.

Before passing third reading of the new bylaw, Coun. Natalie Joly said she loves living in a city where one of the biggest problems is the smoking bylaw not being enforced enough.

“This is impacting all of us. This is one step that has been a long time coming," she added.

The new smoking bylaw defines a park as “any developed or undeveloped space owned, controlled, or maintained by the city.” It also makes an exception for pipe ceremonies.

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