November 17, 2017

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Possible patio smoking ban sparks public-consultation process

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>A person smokes a cigarette on a patio on Corydon Avenue.</p>

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

A person smokes a cigarette on a patio on Corydon Avenue.

City hall has launched a consultation process to gauge public opinion on whether the smoking ban should be extended to patios at restaurants and bars.

The consultation is part of a year-long process that’s expected to culminate in an administrative report in support of extending the smoking ban, followed by public hearings before a council committee in the spring and then a vote on the ban at council.

“I think we know the public opinion is in support of this,” said Coun. Jenny Gerbasi, who has been credited with prompting officials to launch the review. “That’s certainly the sense I have: there is significant amount of public support for this, and it’s also the right thing to be doing.”

The city administration took its cue from council’s community services committee, which directed it in June to prepare a report on possible implementation of a patio ban and public support.

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City hall has launched a consultation process to gauge public opinion on whether the smoking ban should be extended to patios at restaurants and bars.

The consultation is part of a year-long process that’s expected to culminate in an administrative report in support of extending the smoking ban, followed by public hearings before a council committee in the spring and then a vote on the ban at council.

"I think we know the public opinion is in support of this," said Coun. Jenny Gerbasi, who has been credited with prompting officials to launch the review. "That’s certainly the sense I have: there is significant amount of public support for this, and it’s also the right thing to be doing."

The city administration took its cue from council’s community services committee, which directed it in June to prepare a report on possible implementation of a patio ban and public support.

Winnipeg was one of the first cities in Canada to ban indoor smoking in public places when it approved a bylaw in 2003. The provincial government followed suit the following year, making it illegal across Manitoba — and became the first province to do so.

Council expanded the smoking ban in 2011 to some outdoor areas but stopped short of making it illegal for restaurant and bar patios.

The city of Regina banned smoking on outdoor patios in May. Similar legislation exists in Alberta, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Yukon.

Before the committee authorized the review in June, several anti-smoking groups attended the hearing to support the move, including the Canadian Cancer Society, the Manitoba Lung Association and the Manitoba Tobacco Reduction Alliance.

The city has since initiated discussions with stakeholder groups in late summer and launched an online survey this week.

The online survey closes Sept. 26, but the city will also be conducting a more standard telephone survey of 600 residents this fall, along with a cross-jurisdictional review of what legislation other municipalities and provinces have enacted.

The data gathered from the two surveys will be publicly distributed in a report, likely early in the new year.

Details on the review process, including a link to the online smoking survey, can be found at wfp.to/patiosmoking.

Coun. Mike Pagtakhan, chairman of the community services committee, said he expects a report back to the committee by the end of year with recommendations on how to proceed.

"If there is a recommendation to extend the ban to outdoor patios, then we’ll hold public hearings," said Pagtakhan (Point Douglas), who is in support of the ban.

"To me it’s a health issue. Second-hand smoke is a Class A carcinogen, but I want to hear what the public has to say."

Scott Jocelyn, president and CEO of the Manitoba Hotel Association, said he hopes city hall will be creative if it does enact a ban.

Jocelyn has met with civic officials as part of the stakeholder discussions and explained that bar operators have tried to be flexible in meeting public expectations.

"There’s more non-smoking patios in Winnipeg now than at any time in our history without it being legislated to do so," he said. "Operators have done that on their own, trying to cater to what people are looking for."

Jocelyn supports a ban on outdoor patios where food is consumed, but said many operators have specifically created outdoor patios for drinkers who want to smoke and he hopes the city will allow those to exist.

"We might wish that our customers didn’t smoke but the reality is a lot of them do. It’s about having a place where people can step outside and have a cigarette in a safe, secure area, without any employees, but still attached to the bar," he said.

Gerbasi (Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry) said the public engagement is instrumental in the development of a new bylaw, adding that while she believes the majority of the public support extending the smoking ban, the process could prove valuable in determining how it should be implemented.

"Sometimes ideas come up on how implementation should take place or things we hadn’t considered, but I do think it’s time for a ban on smoking on patios," she said. "I think we’ll find out a majority of the public is in support of that."

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca

Read more by Aldo Santin.

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