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Squamish smokers to face tougher restrictions

Council debates how far to keep smokers from municipal properties



The District of Squamish built on provincial smoking regulations last week, fine-tuning a bylaw with the help of a Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) lobby group during Tuesday’s strategy session.

An early text of the bylaw calls for a 25-metre buffer between pluming cigarettes and municipal properties, be they parks, buildings or trails.

“I don’t think we can do it,” said Councillor Corrine Lonsdale. “That could put us in someone’s backyard, or some other entity, like a church or business. I’d prefer to take the 25 metres out and just say no smoking on public trails, parks, etc.”

Councillor Jeff McKenzie sounded a different objection. “There are too many regulations already,” he said. “This is a personal responsibility.”

Two VCH representatives coaxed council through the debate. One of them told council that only 19 per cent of the population still lights up. That demographic, continued VCH tobacco reduction coordinator Nathalie Collette, would be understanding of any new regulation. “There is just such a small amount of people who do smoke,” she said.

Cindy Watson, an environmental health officer also with VCH, said municipalities with their own bylaws have been successful. In Vancouver, she said, smokers are prohibited from lighting up within six metres of municipal properties.

Council looked over a number of municipal bylaws catalogued by the Lower Mainland Local Government Association (LMLGA). According to Lonsdale, a 25-metre buffer appears in none of those texts.

An amendment was moved to nix that number from the bylaw. An exception was made for Brennan Park, where a smoking zone would be established for weddings where alcohol might be involved. A further exception was made for the Helping Hands Drop-In Centre, where the majority of clients are smokers.

On March 31, British Columbia introduced legislation restricting smokers from lighting up within three metres of any entrance, airway or air intake, as well as indoor public places, like bars or restaurants. The legislation brought the province in line with a number of other jurisdictions, including Ontario and Nova Scotia.

Aside from Vancouver, other municipalities, like Pitt Meadows, have also enacted legal restrictions. Meanwhile, some municipalities have struggled with the issue. Early this week, Maple Ridge’s council decided not to tighten the screws on smokers, mainly because it didn’t want to pay for enforcement.

In 2007, the LMLGA struck a task force designed to create continuity across Lower Mainland municipalities looking to increase regulations against smokers. The task force recommends prohibition in bars and restaurants, as well as a 7.5 metre buffer separating smokers from the usual hotspots, including parks, entrances and patios. The task force recommended implementation by 2009.

The Squamish bylaw will move up the municipal process and is likely to appear in a forthcoming regular business meeting.