September 12, 2018 11:52 pm

Old Strathcona Business Association wants city to give bars and eateries time to ‘ease into’ any new smoking rules

Cherie Klassen, the executive director of the Old Strathcona Business Association, spoke to reporters about Edmonton's potential new smoking rules on Wednesday.

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With city council set to debate changes to Edmonton’s smoking bylaw next week, a woman who represents businesses on Whyte Avenue is calling on councillors to take more time to consider any adjustments to the current rules.

“Right now, there’s a lot of unknowns and they’re very critical and the timeframe that we’ve had… really wasn’t sufficient,” Cherie Klassen, executive director of the Old Strathcona Business Association told reporters on Wednesday.

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“But I do appreciate council and the city administration having to come up with something before cannabis is legalized.”

Recreational marijuana use is set to become legal in Canada on Oct. 17.

In July, city councillors passed a bylaw amendment aligning the rules on where Edmontonians can smoke cigarettes with cannabis and vaping.

Included among the changes was a rule increasing the distance required between smokers and entrances to buildings, increasing it from five metres to 10 metres.

Council quickly rescinded the changes to allow for more consultation with the public.

READ MORE: Edmonton councillors put cannabis bylaw on hold for more public engagement

Watch below: In the summer of 2018, Fletcher Kent filed this report after Edmonton city council suspended its plan to limit smoking in public places.

The city last week released the results of a summer survey that gathered opinions from thousands of respondents.

The results showed that, overall, 68 per cent of Edmontonians supported the new distance requirement between smokers and entrances.

But the numbers were lower when looking at responses from dozens of bars and restaurants.

Watch below: On Sept. 10, Albert Delitala filed this report about recent feedback on proposed changes to Edmonton’s rules on smoking.

“I’m glad that we took a bit of extra time to check in with our public to make sure that the rules that we adopt are going to be enforceable and just to ensure that we’re putting something practical in place, and based on the feedback, it looks like it is,” Mayor Don Iveson said earlier this month.

Because of many smokers taking advantage of street ashtrays when they go enjoy the nightlife on Whyte Avenue, increasing the distance requirements would essentially ban smoking on the popular strip.

Klassen said she fears that could have unintended consequences for smokers’ safety when they move to back alleys to light up; it could also pose an issue in terms of litter.

“We’re going to need to ensure that there are ashtrays placed in areas that are accessible for that population that still is choosing to smoke,” she said, adding that while the city has ideas for creating designated areas for smoking in the neighbourhood, she is worried that there is “virtually no area” on a busy stretch between 102 Street and 104 Street.

Klassen said while she understands changes are coming, she wants council to give businesses in her area more time to “ease us into it.”

“I’m suggesting a year to see if we kind of kept it the same, what would that look like… or even six months,” she said. “I think any amount of time that’s more than a few weeks.”

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