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Provincial smoking regulations not good enough for Whistler

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Medical Health Officer asks council for a no-smoking bylaw

For the second time in five years the regional medical health officer has asked council for a no-smoking bylaw for the hospitality industry in the resort.

"It's unfortunate that I have to come back to you," said Dr. Paul Martiquet at Monday's council meeting

But he said the current provincial regulations are just not good enough for a place like Whistler.

The hospitality staff at the resort deserves more, the residents deserve more and certainly the tourists are looking for more when they come to a world class resort like Whistler, Martiquet said.

His main concern is the effects of second-hand smoke.

While Martiquet praised the resort for encouraging voluntary non-smoking rules, he said it's not enough.

"It's really positive that pubs are going non-smoking voluntarily. It shows that Whistler is a healthy place to live. But it should be a level playing field. It should be a consistent application, not just voluntary."

His request to council comes at a critical time in the history of smoking regulations in B.C.

As of this month the Liberal government passed regulations that once again allow smoking in licensed establishments, provided local bylaws do not prohibit smoking inside a building.

Under these new regulations bars and restaurants can construct separate smoking rooms which must be ventilated outside or through a ventilation system.

The rooms can be no more than 45 per cent of the total floor space in the hospitality setting.

"(The regulations) represent the idea that ventilation is a solution for tobacco smoke," said Martiquet.

Martiquet is not opposed to the smoking rooms themselves but he said the health of the hospitality workers is being compromised under these regulations.

The regulations will allow workers in the hospitality industry to voluntarily expose themselves to the harmful carcinogens found in second-hand smoke.

Workers can enter the smoking room to work intermittently, to perform their duties, but they cannot spend more than 20 per cent of their shift in there.

Although the regulations state workers must give their consent to work in a smoking room and are protected from discrimination if they do not give consent, Martiquet said most servers won't rock the boat.

"It's completely unrealistic to expect that type of compliance and non-discrimination, and it's clear that hospitality workers, as part of their job, will be going into those areas," he said in an earlier interview with Pique Newsmagazine.

Another impetus for Martiquet's plea to council is the 2010 Olympic bid.

"When you put on an Olympics, which is a world class event involving the athletes and healthy people, it seems to me you would like to have a healthy environment," he said.

Unlike Whistler, Vancouver has a strict no-smoking bylaw in the city's bars and restaurants.

"It would cast a poor light on Whistler if the Vancouver venues were smoke-free and the Whistler venues exposed athletes to smoke," he said.

Five years ago, when Martiquet put the same request before council, the decision for a no smoking ban was delayed pending the outcome of the Worker's Compensation Board proposed regulations.

A blanket smoking ban went into effect on Jan. 1, 2000 but it was overturned in the B.C. Supreme Court, which concluded bar and club owners hadn’t been properly consulted prior to bringing in the law.

Now Martiquet said the situation is much worse.

"In the last five years we have come to understand through scientific studies that (the effects of second-hand smoke are) much worse than it was five years ago," said Martiquet.

Smoke from the burning end of a cigarette has more than 4,000 chemicals and 40 carcinogens, including nicotine, formaldehyde, cyanide, arsenic and carbon monoxide.

By spending one hour in a smoky room, non-smokers can breathe in as much of one cancer-causing compound as can be had by smoking 35 cigarettes, according to a Clean Air Initiative fact sheet.

Marilyn McIvor, nursing leader with Coast Garibaldi Health supported Martiquet's request at the council meeting.

Councillor Nick Davies made a motion that the no smoking bylaw be put on the agenda for a future council workshop.

"(To) decide if we want to take positive steps and move forward on it," he said.

"As a cancer survivor myself this is near and dear to my heart."

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