City of Calgary seeks feedback on public vaping bylaws
The rules around public vaping and waterpipe smoking in Calgary may be getting an update depending on what residents think. The city has launched a public engagement survey to get opinions on how restrictive new bylaws should be.
Outright prohibition is being considered for:
- Waterpipe smoking in workplaces, public premises and specified outdoor places
- Smoking and vaping in outdoor public parks and at outdoor public events
- Smoking and vaping in hotel and motel rooms
Extensive research over the last decade has indicated that shisha smoking is a serious health risk, leading the World Health Organization to recommend prohibition in public places.
“Studies by the World Health Organization estimate that a single waterpipe smoking session is the equivalent of smoking between 40 to 100 cigarettes. Yes, that’s correct: 40 to 100 cigarettes from one single session,” said Dr. Brent Friesen of Alberta Health Services.
Friesen also said there are many misconceptions regarding shisha smoke, including that it is a safe alternative to cigarette smoking.
“Water cools the smoke, allowing the person to inhale more deeply and absorb more of the toxins into their lungs,” he said.
Alberta based research has found that even non-tobacco or herbal products used in waterpipes produce toxic air pollutants and carcinogens. These include carbon monoxide and trace metals from the charcoal used to heat shisha. The studies show those toxins are equal to or greater than what tobacco products produce.
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Angeline Webb, the regional manager of health policy with the Canadian Cancer Society, said she is most concerned about renormalizing smoking behaviour.
“Our youth smoking rate has already plateaued and might be on the rise,” she said.
“Our vaping rate among youth in Alberta has significantly increased, so we have to do everything we can to make sure that this does not become a huge public health crisis.”
Webb said use of new products that target youth such as Juul and Vype e-cigarettes has tripled in Alberta over the last few years. Webb stated the best practice for reducing youth vaping rates is to reduce childrens’ exposure to these products in public spaces frequented by families.
“Alberta kids deserve protection from exposure to any sort of tobacco use or smoking behaviours,” Webb said.
“There is absolutely no safe level of exposure to second-hand shisha smoke. There is no safe level of consumption either — tobacco or herbal. Research is extremely clear on that issue.”
Friesen agreed, saying no amount of ventilation can eliminate the risk. He added that smoke settles on furniture and surfaces which can affect employees at lounges and hotels as well as nonsmokers.
Other municipalities in Alberta such as Red Deer and Okotoks have introduced bylaws restricting and/or banning the use of waterpipes and vaping in public places and Edmonton is introducing a phased approach to prohibition over the coming months.
Calgarians can have their say on the issue at engage.calgary.ca/smokingvaping.
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