A proposed cigarette and vape ban for Winnipeg restaurant patios is being called discriminatory by some local smokers.
Winnipeg is the last major Canadian municipality where people can light up a smoke while enjoying a meal or patio beer — but that may not be the case by the spring.
If a new recommendation passes, a bylaw that bans cigarettes, cigars, pipes, e-cigarettes, water pipes and hookahs on public patios could be in place April 1.
"People should have the right to smoke outside," said Emily Kroeker, a St. Boniface resident who has been smoking for six years.
"(The ban) seems a little discriminating."
Kroeker said she doesn’t see smoking on patios as an issue.
"As long as you’re not inside where you’re bothering people with your smoke, obviously, it should be fine," she said Thursday, after taking a drag from her cigarette outside a bus stop on Portage Avenue.
Aysuluu Diusheeva was also out for a downtown smoke break Thursday. She also said such a ban would be unfair.
"It’s kind of offensive to me, personally," she said, adding just because she’s a smoker, it doesn’t make her any less of a restaurant customer.
"It would suck if you have to go somewhere else to just have a two-, three-minute break to have a smoke," she said. "I would like to have my drink with me."
Following months of consulting Winnipeggers via phone and online surveys and in-person interactions, the standing policy committee on protection, community services and parks will recommend the public patio smoking ban to city council next week.
"Winnipeggers are pretty overwhelmingly supportive of having the ban," Coun. Mike Pagtakhan (Point Douglas Ward) said.
He said 76 per cent of Winnipeggers surveyed, which was "an accurate cross-section" of the city, supported a ban on outdoor patio smoking.
Around 21 per cent of men and 12 per cent of women smoke in Manitoba, according to 2014 Statistics Canada data.
Pagtakhan, who doubles as the chairman for the standing policy committee that moved the motion, said 80 per cent of the city’s interviewees don’t smoke.
"I’m sure there must’ve been some smokers that agreed with it," he said.
Pagtakhan said the goal is to make Winnipeg healthier as a city and for restaurant employees.
But Diusheeva said she doesn’t think the impact of second-hand smoke will change much if smoking is banned on patios, since smoke will simply spread from the sidewalk into the patio. Instead, she said there should be dividers on patios for those who wish to smoke and those who don’t.
Frankie Garcea, the owner of Cloud City Vapour Products, said places such as Boston Pizza, which have separate smoking and non-smoking patios, are the best option.
"I’d like to see it stay the way it is, but people need to be respectful," Garcea said, adding he understands both sides of the argument.
The former smoker, who now only vapes, said it can be gross when people vape on patios and create huge clouds, so he thinks smokers simply need to be aware of their surroundings.
If the proposal passes, Garcea said he and his friends will probably spend more time in their backyards as opposed to going out to restaurants.
Scott MacNeil, a smoker who said the proposed ban is "too heavy-handed," shared Garcea’s sentiments.
"A ban on patio smoking will further diminish the social experience of going out in Winnipeg and will simply see people like me decrease our evenings out," he said Thursday.
MacNeil said it should be up to each restaurant owner to decide whether they wish to allow patio smoking on their premises.
If the ban is enacted, Winnipeg will be in line with other Canadian cities — including those that have bans despite having larger smoking populations, according to Pagtakhan.
"We are the last city to ban it. It’s about time," the councillor said.