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Health officer pushes for no smoking bylaw

Local bar owner cautions against a smoking ban in Whistler



If the region's medical health officer has anything to say about it, Whistler will have a no smoking bylaw in effect before the 2010 Olympics.

Dr. Paul Martiquet has once again implored council to consider a bylaw, which would ban smoking in all in pubs, clubs and restaurants. The bylaw would put an end to designated smoking rooms, such as the one found in Tapley's Neighbourhood Pub, as well as any smoking on outdoor pub and restaurant patios.

"You are a world class community without a world class bylaw," Martiquet told council Monday night.

After the meeting Martiquet explained his concerns in more detail. In particular, he talked about the harmful effects of second hand smoke, which can cause heart disease, lung cancer and respiratory ailments.

In Whistler 20 per cent of the population smoke, affecting the health of the remaining 80 per cent.

"The fact is that second hand smoke has a deleterious effect on the non-smokers in the establishment," said Martiquet.

Bar owner Dick Gibbons, who is a non-smoker himself, said he understands the medical health officer's position but he said completely banning smoking in clubs and pubs is not the answer.

"I think we would all wish… that cigarettes were never invented," he said. "(But) I'm not sure if it's our responsibility in Whistler to change people's personal habits when they come to visit us."

In fact, he believes Whistler has already found a working solution in the form of the designated smoking rooms. These protect workers and other non-smoking patrons, while at the same time meeting the needs of smokers.

"I think we came up with a very reasonable compromise," said Gibbons, adding that the compromise cost him tens of thousands of dollars to put smoking rooms in Tapley's and Buffalo Bill's.

"We have to remember the business we're in. We're here to satisfy the wishes of our guests who have travelled here from all over the world at huge costs for a special holiday… To send them outside into the freezing cold weather to puff on cigarettes, I don't know who wins on that one."

Under provincial Workers Compensation Board regulations, smoking is allowed only in designated smoking rooms and on outdoor patios, in order to protect employees from second-hand smoke.

Other municipalities, such as Vancouver and Richmond, have taken the WCB regulations one step further by instituting a complete ban on smoking in restaurants and pubs. Martiquet would like to move in the same direction.

This isn't the first time Martiquet has pushed for a no smoking bylaw. In the past, however, he was met with opposition and concerns about Whistler's European clientele, who are used to more relaxed smoking laws in their home countries.

Martiquet said that has changed in recent years with several countries across the Atlantic going smoke free. Italy recently passed legislation banning smoking in bars and restaurants unless it was in a separate ventilated room. Norway and Ireland, on the other hand, have legislation, which bans smoking indoors and does not allow for the creation of smoking rooms.

"Europe has caught up and bypassed Whistler, which is supposed to be a world-class community," said Martiquet.

Heather Lochner, communications manager with the Canadian Cancer Society B.C. and Yukon division, supports the push from the region's medical health officer, pointing to statistics such as the 500 deaths every year in B.C. attributed to second-hand smoke.

B.C. also lags behind on a national level, she said. Six provinces and two territories have adopted or announced 100 per cent smoke-free laws, including restaurants and bars. Whistler could send a strong message with its role in the international spotlight she said.

"We're sending the world a message (in Whistler), especially with the Olympics coming up," said Lochner.

Council supported a request from Martiquet to bring representatives from the Vancouver hospitality sector to Whistler to talk about the effects that the smoking ban has had on their businesses.

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