Calgary Counselors seeking one of Canada’s toughest crackdowns on e-cigarette use.
One of the last big Canadian cities to ban smoking in bars is on the brink of passing one of the country’s most sweeping ban on where e-cigarette clouds can be puffed — restaurants, stores, offices, transit, playgrounds and more.
When public health officer Dr. Brent Friesen told Councillors “this is an opportunity for Calgary to show leadership,” they broke with their past habit. They voted 5-2 at committee to prohibit vaping everywhere smoking currently violates Calgary bylaws.
If full council follows through at its June 29 meeting, Calgary would have one of the most comprehensive rules against e-cigarettes in Canada — on par with Vancouver, Red Deer and Bonnyville, but tougher than what Toronto, Ottawa or Edmonton now have.
The move will come ahead of a Health Canada report that weighs in on the unregulated, often pen-shaped devices that use “e-juice” and vapour that’s generally believed to be far less harmful than burning tobacco sticks.
Recommended rules from the federal government would likely cover ingredients and marketing for these fairly new nicotine delivery devices. But bylaw officials told council they have the full jurisdiction to limit “nuisance” activities, and their survey suggested people don’t want to see puffing in many public spaces.
“I see people smoking these on the trains and it makes people very uncomfortable,” Coun. Evan Woolley said.
Some e-cigarette users themselves told the Herald they’d be fine with strict limits on where they could use them.
“It’s bothersome to people around you, as I find the e-cigarettes give off much more of a ‘cloud’ than most smokes do and it hangs in the air for a longer amount of time,” said Amy Morriset.
“The majority of vapers respect this in places like restaurants and office buildings where you are in close quarters with other people,” said Alycia Barabash.
“No big deal for me,” said Karen Borle, a former cigarette smoker who likes that e-cigarette is cheaper.
Jason Kim, a vape store operator, agreed with most of the banned areas, but urged exemptions to allow e-cigarette use and demonstrations in these shops. Some Councillors suggested a separate business licence regime to allow that.
Another e-cigarette vendor urged Councillors not to treat his product as a problem, when it’s actually a solution that helps people quit cancer-causing tobacco. Sean Rankin called e-cigarettes “deli
cious,” and doubted the medical experts’ argument that they’re a gateway drug to classic tobacco sticks, fouler smelling and dirtier.
“It’s like ice cream to dog poop,” Rankin said.
Friesen and other health advocates admitted research on e-cigarettes is limited, both on its health hazards and effectiveness as a cessation tool.
Coun. Jim Stevenson hearkened back to last decade’s debates on smoking in bars as he called the crackdown risky and premature. “This could put some businesses out of business,” he cautioned.
Bars and pubs have remained ubiquitous in Calgary, more than eight years after a much-delayed city bylaw forced customers to take their habits outside.