The first wave of new legislation governing smoking will kick in on Monday, March 31, as a slate of new provincial laws come into effect that prohibit smoking in all workplaces, workspaces and within three metres of public doorways, windows or air intakes.
Tobacco sales in public buildings are also being banned, while the province will change the way tobacco products and advertisements are displayed.
An earlier provision of the law, which would have prohibited smoking in cars with children present, was removed after the provincial government decided that society was not ready for the law. However, Leonard Krog of the opposition NDP has introduced a private members bill that would ban smoking in cars with children under 16.
For Whistler, the new provincial laws are only the tip of the iceberg. The Resort Municipality of Whistler is currently waiting for a legal review of a new bylaw that would follow Vancouver’s lead and ban smoking on patios and public places.
“It goes a step beyond what the province has done, but not quite as far as Vancouver,” said Mayor Ken Melamed. “It does propose to extend the ban to patio areas, and a certain distance from buildings like bus shelters.”
Although there is some grumbling that Whistler might be shooting itself in the foot by making the experience worse for visitors, Melamed said they are comfortable with the bylaw.
“We’re feeling somewhat relaxed about our approach, given the fact that the strongest and biggest changes are being implemented by the province on March 31. We’ve taken that direction (from the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority) and are having a conversation with the local businesses in town about the pending of the new bylaw and how we can implement it to have the least impact on businesses and guests and to give them more time to adapt to the changes.”
While enforcement was identified as an issue, Melamed says that will be discussed in the future when the bylaw comes up for its first reading. He could not say when that would be, given that the municipality’s lawyers have a backlog of items to address.
“When this comes up there will be opportunity for a public dialogue,” said Melamed.
The new laws will impose some hardships on the restaurant and bar industry in Whistler. Joey Gibbons of the Gibbons Hospitality Group — owners and operators of The Longhorn Saloon, Buffalo Bill’s, and Tapley’s Pub in Whistler — manages two establishments that established separately ventilated smoking rooms after the last changes to the provincial Tobacco Act. Smoking will no longer be allowed in those rooms after March 31.
“It impacts two of the three places we have in town — Tapley’s and Bill’s both have smoking rooms — and it’s going to affect us, absolutely,” said Gibbons. “We’re going to deal with it the best we can, and are figuring out our plan. Our customers are used to having those rooms, and will have to go outside now.”
At Tapley’s Pub, Gibbons glassed in a section of the patio to create a separately ventilated space where smoking was allowed. At Buffalo Bill’s, the solution was more expensive with the creation of a room with a ventilation system.
Gibbons recognizes that tobacco laws are becoming more stringent everywhere, and supports the effort to improve public health. However, he is concerned what the impact may be on customers if the bylaw is approved and patios also become smoke-free zones.
“We’re on the world stage here and we work hard to invite people from all over the world,” he said. “Everybody’s intention is to create a safer world, and we’re totally on board with that but we don’t want to do it at the customers’ expense and want to make sure we’re not sending people outside to a cold smoke hole like in high school, and treat people like third class citizens. We want to make it comfortable for people to be outside to smoke.”
Gibbons gives high marks to the municipality for engaging restaurants and bars in a dialogue about the bylaw, and believes that a solution can be found that satisfies all parties.
In the meantime, he says their first task is to meet provincial laws by next Monday and to let the public know about the changes. Most of their regular customers at Tapley’s already know, he added.
“Our Tapley’s customers knew what was gong on before we did,” he said. “They also know that we’re going to do everything we can to make sure they’re still our customers after March 31.”