Iqalungmiut want smoking ban in restaurants

Fewer people favour smoking ban in bars

By NUNATSIAQ NEWS

DENISE RIDEOUT

Iqaluit residents who were surveyed for their views on smoking being banned in public places are eager to see restaurants and coffee shops smoke-free, but half of them still want to be able to light up in bars.

The results of the survey, conducted by the City of Iqaluit and the Nunavut government’s health department, show there’s a good level of support for a no-smoking bylaw in Iqaluit.

Over the last year, city council has discussed the possibility of banning smoking in public places, such as bars, cafés and restaurants, just as hundreds of other cities and towns have done in Canada.

Through a telephone survey conducted in September, city officials asked 500 Iqalungmiut their opinions on tobacco legislation.

The results were released at this week’s city council meeting.

“There’s certainly an overwhelming response in the survey that says smoking has to be handled better,” said city official Dave St. Louis in presenting the results.

Almost 84 per cent of those surveyed said restaurants should be smoke-free, and 75 per cent supported the idea of banning smoking in Iqaluit’s coffee shops.

Seventy-nine per cent of respondents said if restaurants were smoke free they would attend them as often or even more often.

But banning smoking in the city’s bars didn’t get nearly the same support. Only half of the Iqaluit residents surveyed said bars should be smoke-free.

Still, if smokers could no longer light up in bars, 56 per cent of them said that wouldn’t dissuade them from going to them.

With those numbers in hand, city councillors now want to push ahead and draft a no-smoking bylaw for Iqaluit.

City council is considering several ways to approach the ban. One would be to ban smoking in all establishments and entrance-ways to establishments.

A second method could be to ban smoking in places that allow access to people under the age of 18, and in places, such as cafés, bars and restaurants, whose primary business is food and beverage service.

City councillors debated the best approach to take. Councillor Stu Kennedy warned against legally requiring restaurants and bars to ban customers from smoking.

He said smoking bans in other cities, such as Kitchener and Ottawa, have resulted in some businesses shutting down because they’ve lost customers who are smokers.

“Let’s be sensitive. They are small businesses here,” Kennedy said.

Kennedy also pointed out that some business owners in Iqaluit have taken it upon themselves to make their establishments smoke-free. He said many more businesses may do the same thing.

Kennedy then urged council to consult with the city’s business owners again before crafting a no-smoking bylaw.

But deputy mayor Kirt Ejetsiak encouraged his fellow councillors to get on with the issue.

“I had expected council would be looking at a draft bylaw by November,” he said.

The city’s administration is currently looking into the legality of regulating private bars. That information will be presented to city councillors at their next meeting, scheduled for Jan. 14.

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