Some members of Weyburn city council would ask for a period of consultation before passing any bylaws that would outlaw smoking on patios for restaurants and lounges, and Health minister and MLA Dustin Duncan has ruled out making the ban at the provincial level at this time.
Locally the City has not enacted such a bylaw, which the provincial government left open as an option when they amended the provincial legislation on smoking, the Tobacco Control Act, in 2009.
Coun. Nancy Styles said she would want to weigh out all the pros and cons of the issue before making a decision on the matter.
"You'd definitely have to have public consultation on it," said Styles. "There's certainly a lot of issues you have to think about; there's nothing that's black-and-white."
As far as the restaurant and hotel sector, added the councillor, "I would definitely want to know how they feel. It's important to talk to your constituents."
For council veteran Bill Rudachyk, he said his personal feeling as a non-smoker is to enact the ban, but as a councillor his feeling is that the ban should be put in place by the province and not by the municipality, even though the municipality has been given the power to enact it.
"If the City of Estevan is not prepared to do it, then it would disadvantage local businesses. It needs to be provincial legislation," said Rudachyk.
He noted when he was in business with a drugstore, he was one of the first establishments to ban the sale of cigarettes from his pharmacy, which did affect his business as a result.
"I would like to see no smoking at all in any area of a restaurant," he added, noting this is his personal point of view.
The veteran also noted as he is not running in the upcoming municipal election, this would be an issue to put before the new council, because if it's brought up now, it would not be finished being dealt with by the time the election came around, and the partially-finished issue would then be left to a new council to clean up; he would prefer the new council dealt with it from the start.
"I personally would like to see the legislation at the provincial level," he said, adding if the province wasn't prepared to go all the way with it, they must have had a reason at the time.
Health minister Duncan said there was a reason at the time the decision, and explained it came down to an issue of balance.
He acknowledged there were some tough measures brought in, including making it illegal to smoke in a vehicle with a minor, but he said a balance was needed because the choice to smoke is still a legal one, so the loophole of smoking on patios was a nod to smokers.
As far as a municipality being put at a disadvantage if they enacted a smoking ban but a neighbouring community did not, Duncan disagreed, saying this would actually be a selling point for the community that did enact the smoking ban.
"Non-smokers are well in the majority in Saskatchewan; if an individual restaurant or the City of Weyburn wanted to put in the ban, I would see that as a selling point that could be used," said the MLA. "I'm actually surprised we don't see more restaurants doing that. You could even have that as part of their advertising."
The minister said they consulted widely at the time with health and industry leaders, and decided not to ban smoking on restaurant and lounge patios, even though some other provinces have already done so, including Alberta.
For the Canadian Cancer Society's Tobacco Control branch, it is a priority to see the province legislate the ban on smoking to include patios of restaurants and lounges, particularly as the province has taken such strong measures as also banning smoking near doorways, and suing tobacco companies for the cost of health care of smokers and of those whose health has been hurt by second-hand smoke.
Their main concern is for workers at restaurants, who have no choice but to serve customers who are smoking on patios and subsequently are breathing in second-hand smoke.
Some municipalities, like the City of Saskatoon, have gone ahead and made the bylaw to ban smoking on patios, while in Regina, recently a number of restaurants have voluntarily put the ban in place at their establishments as the city hasn't done so.
Some of these businesses have made the move due to complaints from customers, or from polling their customers to find out what their preference was.
Coun. Winston Bailey agreed with Coun. Styles' approach on the issue.
"It would require dialogue to see where our parameters are," he said. "We'd have to research it before I'd be able to decide on it."
For Coun. Dick Michel, he said he would want to see all the facts on the issue in front of him, but then he would go ahead and make the decision.
"There's a place and time for everything, but no smoking is catching on. I go to Vegas in the winter sometimes, and I can't hack it in there, the smoke is so bad," said Michel.
"If the request came to council, we've have to make the decision at the time. Prior to making the decision I'd have to see the facts," he added, noting this would include getting input from the businesses that would be affected — but if it came down to it, he would act.
"I'm not afraid to make the decision, but I would like to see all the facts. However, it's our community, and we have to make decisions for the community," said Michel.
Asked if there is any possibility that the government might revisit this issue to close the loophole, Minister Duncan said this wouldn't happen without wide consultation with all the stakeholders involved, including the hospitality industry.
"I know this is something I'll probably hear about when the Canadian Cancer Society and I meet and talk about issues," said the minister.
Asked if the government would consider reviewing it with stakeholders if the Cancer Society brought it up and requested the ban, Duncan said the government wouldn't do that for just this one issue.
"I'm not sure yet what all the issues will be, that they will want discussions on. I don't know if we would go through all of that for one issue, but I haven't had that discussion yet with them," he said. "We made some pretty strong changes, and I think the government went quite far on some of the changes. We don't make these changes lightly."
On the issue of workers having to breathe in second-hand smoke, Duncan said that is certainly where the main concern is for the Cancer Society.
"We tried to seek that balance of protecting people and also not limiting a person from taking part in a legal activity. At that time, that was the balance we struck. We had wide consultations at the time the decision was made. I think it would be premature of me to say, at the beginning of my time as minister, that we would revisit that issue. Putting in a ban is something municipalities can do if they want, as Saskatoon has done. I think other communities would want to look at that."
The Review was unable to reach councillors Rob Stephanson or Andy Broccolo for their comments on this issue.