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No butts: city toughening up smoking rules

 Ashli Barrett/Lacombe Globe

The City of Lacombe will likely have some tougher smoking rules and regulations by summer’s end.

During their regular meeting Monday, council got their first look at the proposed smoking bylaw which would see a blanket ban on smoking of any substance in the city’s parks, trails and city-owned facilities – a result of recent discussion on cannabis regulations and recommendations put forward by the Cannabis Readiness Committee (CRC).

“The (CRC) created some recommendations to handle recreational cannabis. One of them was to prohibit the use of recreational cannabis in any public space,” said Diane Piche, corporate services director for the city. “It is also considered that smoking of any substance, including tobacco, should be prohibited in public spaces.”

Lacombe does not currently have a smoking bylaw and instead relies on the Tobacco and Smoking Reduction Act, as well as a municipal smoking restrictions policy which restricts the use of smokeless tobacco at the Gary Moe Auto Group Sportsplex and the Lacombe Memorial Centre.

The aim of the proposal is to be able to enforce prohibition of smoking in those public areas, according to Piche, as well as allow citizens to use the spaces without being impacted by smokers.

For cannabis, as discussed by council previously, there will be zero-tolerance for public consumption of recreational cannabis anywhere in the city.

For those smoking cigarettes, however, restrictions will be limited to trails, parks, playgrounds and city-owned facilities. Smoking would be allowed on public sidewalks, but not within 10 metres of any door.

Some councillors felt the restrictions didn’t go far enough, while others thought they were going a bit too far.

Medical cannabis use, for example, would fall under the same rules as tobacco. Coun. Reuben Konnik said he felt cannabis of any kind should be part of the widespread ban of cannabis consumption in public spaces.

“I get that for those who smoke it for medical reasons, it’s important to them, but it’s not like it’s an EpiPen where you have to have it right there,” he said. “They could just smoke it in their own private residence. You don’t need to be out in public smoking it at all...It should just be no public smoking of cannabis, period, medical or otherwise.”

Mayor Grant Creasey noted that not everyone within Lacombe is going to be a Lacombe resident, and therefore some place had to be provided for those needing to use cannabis for medical purposes. Coun. Thalia Hibbs also added they needed to be aware of why people use medical cannabis and careful not to make assumptions over the urgency or non-urgency of its use, while Coun. Jonathan Jacobson said he was in favour of leaving medical cannabis rules as they are.

There was also some debate over whether all trails should be included in the ban on tobacco use, particularly around Lacombe Composite High School, which borders trails on the south end of Cranna Lake.

Should the bylaw be passed as-is, Creasey suggested there might be some unintended consequences with forcing high school students smoking onto public sidewalks.

“We’re going to force them onto the sidewalk in front of private property, and I don’t see that as being very palatable, either,” he said. “We might want to look at doing something else in that particular area.”

Coun. Chris Ross disagreed.

“I think it’s a strong deterrent to considering smoking in any way, shape or form,” Ross said, referring to students under the age of 18. “Go home and smoke, is my opinion. We have a responsibility to demonstrate a strong deterrent.”

Coun. Hibbs, meanwhile, felt they should just target problem-area trails, and expand the list in the future if needed. Coun. Don Gullekson said banning smoking on trails didn’t make sense to him, when smokers would affect more on public sidewalks downtown, regardless of not being able to smoke within 10 metres of any entrance.

Ultimately, however, the bylaw passed first and second readings, with the only change to the bylaw being an increase from the minimum required five-metre allowance to entrances to 10-metres.

Should the bylaw pass third reading, approximately 155 signs will be installed at parks, playgrounds and city facilities to inform area residents and visitors of the ban on smoking of any substance. The installation and signs will cost about $5,400.

As per the council agenda package, once the signs are installed, bylaw enforcement will then be able to apply fines to anyone caught smoking in those prohibited areas.

The bylaw is expected to come back for debate during council’s next regular meeting on Monday, Aug. 13 at 5 p.m. in council chambers.

A similar bylaw was passed by the City of Edmonton on Tuesday.

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