Compared with other municipalities in Canada, Yellowknife is one of the least restrictive about smoking in public spaces.
In Yellowknife, smoking is banned within three meters of exits and entrances to city-owned facilities. The majority of provinces and the Yukon however, have laws prohibiting smoking within five to six meters of city-owned property.
Some southern municipalities have enacted bylaws that ban smoking as far as 30 meters from recreational centers and outdoor sports fields.
In August, Coun. Julian Morse proposed looking into expanding the no-smoking zone around city sports facilities.
City administration was directed to explore best practices for restricting smoking near city facilities, from maintaining the status quo, to a full-on smoking ban. It’s findings were presented to council on Tuesday.
Most of the smokers the Yellowknifer spoke to Tuesday said they wouldn’t mind if the city tightened restrictions on smoking.
“Doesn’t bother me,” said Joe Maloney about possibly having to walk further away from buildings to light up.
Jimmy Mackenzie said it was O.K. by him if smoking was banned in parks and on trails.
One smoker, who asked not to be named, said stricter smoking laws “would feel like they’re taking away my personal right.”
“You can’t stop everyone from smoking,” the woman said, “You’d have a lot of angry people.”
She added that she always smokes away from kids.
“I have children of my own and I would never smoke in front of them,” she said.
To be sure, the city no plans as of yet to change the rules around smoking. Administration on Tuesday offered various potential changes to the smoking-by law based on restrictions in other Canadian cities.
For example, the smoke-free zone around public buildings could be extended from three metres to six metres, as in Prince George, B.C., or 7.5 metres, as found in White Rock, B.C.
The non-smoking radius around parks and rec centres could expand from three metres to 10 metres, as in Edmonton, or as wide as 30 metres, as in Winnipeg. In Nanaimo, B.C. and Regina, smoking is banned on all city-managed properties, including trails and parks, with the exception of designated smoking areas.
Yellowknife could choose to do the same.
Smoking was banned inside Yellowknife restaurants, bars, office buildings and other buildings used by the public in 2003. In 2004 the Government of Northwest Territories and Workers Safety and Compensation Commission expanded the ban to beyond three meters of any exit or entrance to an enclosed space where people work.
Provincial and territorial governments set the laws around smoking. Yellowknife City Council can’t go against territorial laws, but it can choose to amend the smoking by-law to enhance restrictions on tobacco, vaping and e-cigarettes.
Reports of smoking by-law violations in Yellowknife are low.
Municipal Enforcement Division reported to two smoking by-law violations in 2016, and one so far this year.