Smokers, non-smokers turn out to support bylaw
Meeting participants support smoking ban, but concerned about enforcement
Smokers and non-smokers alike turned out at a public meeting on June 20 to support a proposed bylaw to ban smoking in public buildings in Iqaluit.
No communities in Nunavut have bylaws to ban smoking, and Iqaluit wants to set a precedent for the rest of the territory.
Participants raised concerns that entranceways to public places would be blocked by clouds of smoke if smokers were forced outside. Others said that if a bylaw is to be effective, children should be educated about the dangers of smoking starting in kindergarten.
Mike Courtney, an Iqaluit resident, spoke of the costs associated with treating lung cancer and bronchiolitis caused by cigarette smoke.
He said he’s in favor of setting a date for the smoking bylaw to take effect. “It just gives everybody that leeway to get it done,” he said.
“For example, let’s say the bylaw is to take effect on April 1, 2003. The business sector wants time to implement it, so that gives them the time to start working on it. Otherwise, if you don’t set up a date, then we’ll keep going meeting after meeting to discuss it, and never getting it done. And that will allow it to keep dragging on.”
Doug Lem, owner of Nunavut Catering Chicken and Ribs, said that he’s been getting a mostly positive reaction to his decision to ban smoking from his restaurant. He said the majority of his customers praise and thank him because they can bring their children and not worry about smoke.
One resident said the success of the bylaw would depend on the ability of the city to enforce it.
Others were concerned about a suggestion that coffee-shops should permit smoking at certain hours because, they said, it’s important that teens have a smoke-free a place to go.
A new Iqaluit resident said she was amazed at the number of smokers in the city. She said that she has lost a family member to cigarette smoking and she supports the smoking bylaw.
Ban smoking in bars?
Banning smoking in bars could make the situation worse, said Steven Ejetsiak. “Clients being under the influence of alcohol and not being allowed to smoke in there, will go home and probably smoke twice or three times as much – and their children will be present while they’re smoking,” he said.
Ejetsiak said he’s been smoking cigarettes most of his life. He realized how bad it got when he started collecting cigarette butts from various offices and public places. “Whenever I ran out of cigarettes, I would take the cigarette butts and roll them to make a full cigarette to smoke,” he said.
When he told people gathered at the public meeting that he has been smoke-free for six days, he was given a round of applause.
Iqaluit Mayor John Matthews said he was pleased with the turn-out at the meeting. “No one wants to subject children to second-hand smoke. Everyone is saying ‘Protect the children.’ It gets more difficult and controversial when it comes to adults, especially where liquor is concerned.”
He said enforcement of the bylaw will be driven by the public. “With restaurants, it’ll happen fairly easily. I think that the patrons will support and enforce it, because if I take my family to a smoke-free restaurant, and someone next to me lights up, then I can just go up to the manager and ask what’s going on.”
He said it will be more difficult in the bars. “You don’t have children involved.”
However, he said implementing all aspects of the bylaw at once would increase its chances of success.