Watch above: Festival season is underway in Edmonton, which attracts thousands of people to outdoor spaces like Churchill Square. As crowds gather, one city councillor is sparking the debate over smoking in public places. Kendra Slugoski reports.
EDMONTON – Should Edmonton’s Churchill Square become smoke-free? That’s a question Ward 10 City Councillor Michael Walters says he will be bringing forward to council.
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Walters says he’s heard from numerous people and experienced first-hand that cigarette smoke can deter people from visiting the square, which he says should be a family-friendly environment.
“People gathered around Street Performers recently, as an example – hundreds of people with little kids, and in walks any number of people smoking cigarettes with seemingly no regard for the people around them,” said Walters.
“It’s outside, but if you stand there in a crowd and four or five smokers come in and start huffing and puffing all around you and your children, you’ll understand that it doesn’t matter that it’s outside.”
In April 2012, the City of Edmonton banned smoking within 10 metres of playgrounds, spray parks, outdoor rinks and sports fields. Smoking cigarettes is also banned at City Hall’s wading pool.
Walters believes it’s worth debating whether or not Churchill Square should also be a smoke-free zone, how much it would cost to enforce that and how much people would be charged for breaking that law if it comes to fruition.
“This is a civic square, it’s a public space where lots of people congregate; and then smokers come in to the middle of those packs of families and people, it’s a terrible experience for them.”
With Churchill Square becoming an increasingly popular place for festivals and families, Mayor Don Iveson also believes it’s a question worth asking.
“I think that there might be a case to be made for trying to tackle the smoking and the litter that comes with it with cigarette butts,” he said Wednesday. “I think pushing the smoking to the boundary of it, for example, or to a designated area I think that would be a better approach.”
Walters says Churchill Square is a good place to start, adding it’s a possibility that other civic attractions could soon be considered, as well.
“I’ve heard about bus stations, transit stops, Fort Edmonton, other city-run facilities and I think it’s an important conversation. I think it started with the square because it’s the place that we want to attract people and have it busy and active year-round.”
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