|Calgary city council is jeopardizing Calgarians health by not imposing a smoking ban in bars and restaurants sooner than 2008, says the organizer of the Smoke-Free Calgary petition.
"They feel theyve made a commitment to businesses to ride out the two years and for me that seems illogical to put business interests in front of the health of Calgarians," says Robyn Hefferton.
She has already collected 12,000 signatures on a petition that asks city council to move up its smoking ban. Under a city bylaw, the smoking ban wont take effect in bars, casinos and restaurants until 2008. She points out that Calgary will be the only major city in Canada that isnt smoke-free in all public places when Montreal goes smoke-free along with the entire province of Quebec at the end of May.
Action on Smoking and Health, a non-profit group in Alberta, recently compared indoor air quality in bars, lounges and nightclubs in Calgary and Edmonton. Edmonton imposed a smoking ban in bars and restaurants last year. The group found that indoor air quality in Calgary was 30 times worse than in Edmonton in the establishments where air quality was measured. The group also found that indoor air quality in the Calgary establishments studied was 118 times worse than the air quality recorded during rush hour traffic in downtown Calgary. The results were released at a press conference on January 9.
"These results are unacceptable and prove that second-hand smoke is a major health problem in Calgary. This begs the question are Calgarians willing to put up with indoor air quality that is 30 times worse than Edmontons for another two years? City council is sitting on their hands while Calgarians are being forced to breathe second-hand smoke in hundreds of public establishments," says Hefferton. "We urge Calgarians to call their aldermen and tell them to implement the smoking bylaw immediately 2008 is far too long to wait."
Hefferton points out that the City of Calgary "prides itself" on its environmental programs and its efforts to improve outdoor air quality, but its dragging its feet on action on indoor air quality.
City council is currently divided on the issue, with some council members wanting to impose a smoking ban earlier.
Ald. Joe Ceci says hes in support of the smoking ban being pushed up. He says its unfortunate that it currently looks like Calgary will be the last large municipality to impose a smoking ban.
"Its interesting, isnt it? Calgarians like to think theyre innovators and leaders in so many respects and we are in some I would say the environment, generally. Were doing things there as a corporation to be leaders, but this is kind of like a big anomaly that sits square on the shoulders of those aldermen, those members of city council who believe its in the publics interest to delay this until 2008," he says.
Mayor Dave Bronconnier says that the smoking bylaw was adopted after extensive public consultation. He says its happening in phases and points out that smoking is banned in any public place where minors are allowed, and is also banned in most workplaces.
"It was a program that said that were not just going to ram something down Calgarians throats. What we are going to do is consult them to say that we want to change public policy. We want to move forward on a very timely and thoughtful basis to eliminate smoking in public places," says Bronconnier.
He says it would be unfair to change the bylaw now.
"I think what Calgarians really detest most is people who say one thing and do another. Im an anti-smoker. Ive never smoked in my life and never intend to, but
I believe that when you involve your community and you take people through a process and everybody agrees with that process, the last thing that anyone should ever do is say because its so close, were into the final stretch, lets just change the ground rules in the last few months. I dont think thats appropriate," says Bronconnier.