Smoking bylaw quickly outmoded
Mayor suggests smoking increasingly scorned

by Glen Korstrom
Northern News Services

NNSL (Feb 20/98) - Though Yellowknife's smoking bylaw passed narrowly after much discussion five years ago, Mayor Dave Lovell says public opinion is shifting so fast that it may need to be revised soon.

No person may smoke in a public place such as a stairway, hallway, washroom or escalator, but in offices and malls there can be designated smoking areas.

Smokers can light up in up to 70 per cent of restaurants and 90 per cent of bingo halls, bowling alleys and arcades.

In pubs, a non-smoking section is still entirely at the discretion of the owner.

Some diners, including the A & W restaurant and the two Javaromas are completely non-smoking. A & W manager Peggy Ramsay says the policy helps business, mainly with families.

Lovell says former alderman Jean Wallace helped steer the city's first anti-smoking bylaw through council but, "now it appears it wasn't pervasive enough."

"For a hundred years we went without a smoking bylaw," Lovell says. "Now in the past 10 years it has become increasingly unacceptable to smoke."

Current Ald. Cheryl Best, who's also a smoker, says drafting the bylaw involved several community groups and appears to be working.

"The market sets demand. If a restaurant owner sees most of his customers are going to the non-smoking section, he could expand the section," she says.

Best says she sees fewer smokers in Yellowknife than she did five years ago. The best way to curb smoking is through peer pressure, or frowning when someone lights up, rather than strict laws, she adds.

To date, there are several hundred studies of the effects of second-hand smoke, demonstrating a variety of health risks -- not only lung cancer, but also cancers of the urinary system, colon, kidneys, pancreas and ovaries.

"It's like peeing in one side of a swimming pool," Lovell says of smoking in a restaurant where air circulates to the non-smoking section.

Exposure to second-hand smoke can also bring death from heart and artery disease. It is particularly dangerous for newborns.