Smoking issue smoulders

Iqaluit officials look to other communities for non-smoking bylaws



IQALUIT — A non-smoking bylaw in Iqaluit will be drafted only after the public is consulted, officials say.

The city council has directed Iqaluit’s senior administrative officer, Rick Butler, to prepare a report recommending how it should proceed in writing and implementing a non-smoking bylaw.

“The initial indication is that any municipalities that have done it well have done it slowly and in an orderly, thoughtful, well-timed, publicly involved way. That’s what we would be looking at,” Butler said.

Councillor Kirt Ejesiak has stated the need for a smoking bylaw at recent city council meetings, saying smoke-free areas should be mandatory in restaurants and other public places.

But Ejesiak isn’t calling for a complete ban on smoking in public places.

“I’d like to see what other places are doing because we certainly want to follow what everybody else is doing, plus also play a lead role in what other communities in Nunavut are doing,” he said.

Yellowknife banned smoking in all businesses except bars in September 1999, but no municipality in Nunavut has passed such legislation.

Butler said a report will be brought to council in coming weeks. Then, he said, councillors and interested residents can work together on the issue of the bylaw. Public education will be important if the transition is to be successful, he added.

Hay River, a community of almost 4,000 people on the south shore of Great Salve Lake, is going through similar non-smoking deliberations.

Tom Hamilton, a Hay River councillor, presented a sample non-smoking bylaw to his community in early September. The bylaw suggested that half of every bar be non-smoking, and that smokers be allowed 25 per cent of the space in restaurants. That didn’t go over so well with the public.

“We’ve had to compromise in some areas,” he said in a phone interview. “The bar, because it’s an adult facility and there’s not youth going in there, we’ve relaxed that quite a bit to allow 90 per cent of it to be smoking. But on the other hand, we’ve gone to recommending that any place where a minor is going to be able to be from April 1, 2002, be non-smoking.”

Hamilton said one restaurant owner told him he had no problem with the new proposal as long as all restaurants are required to be smoke-free.

“I looked at numerous bylaws from other communities that have tried to strengthen their smoking bylaws by eliminating smoking … in certain places,” Hamilton said. “What my research has shown is that any place where the bylaw has gotten stronger, there are significant decreases in the number of people smoking in the community.”

When smokers are ostracized, he said, it makes the habit less attractive to youth.

According to a 1999 survey, 70 per cent of Nunavut’s adult Inuit are smokers, more than twice the national average.

Hay River has formed a committee to look at the proposed non-smoking bylaw from all angles, and to compromise where necessary. This approach is what Butler wants to avoid.

“Let’s work out the kinks, let’s see what the issues are with the business community and anyone else that’s affected by this before we go further with this, putting laws in that no one really understands or appreciates,” he said.

Ejesiak wants to see movement “sooner rather than later.”

“There’s millions of people that die in the world every year from smoking,” he said. “Our young people are having epidemic problems with smoking. You just have to stand outside the school at lunch hour or after school and you’ll see kids as young as 12 years old smoking.”

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