City council mulls freedom to light up

on Monday, a delegation from IH the Canadian Cancer Society and the BC Cancer Society presented information on smoke-free bylaws.

Back in the day you could have a cigarette anywhere you want — at City Hall, in line for the cinema and of course at the bingo hall.

Things have changed and many municipalities have moved for ever more stringent regulations on smoking. In City council on Monday, a delegation of Kerri Wall and Trish Hill from Interior Health, Patti King from the Canadian Cancer Society and Andrea Winckers from the BC Cancer Society presented information on smoke-free bylaws.

The discussion was particularly focused on smoking on the hospital grounds, but also took into account parks and other public places.

“There are quite a few communities in B.C. that have passed restrictions that exceed the tobacco control act legislation the province has,” said Trish Hill.  “Outdoor smoke-free bylaws are under consideration in Vernon, Sparwood and most recently Prince George.”

Hill said strong outdoor smoking bylaws typically include city managed properties like trails, community plazas, parks, beaches and recreation facilities.

Most communities start out small with protecting children and youth in playgrounds, sporting fields and beaches.

“We can help to customize a bylaw to fit the priorities of the community,” she said.

The criteria for the bylaws depend on the communities. Some have banned smoking altogether, while others have just a buffer zone around playgrounds and parks.

Coun. Angus Davis said he was surprised back when smoking was initially banned in buildings.

“I said they’d ban smoking in public buildings the day hell freezes over,” he said. “I was involved with the municipality at the time and I was so surprised how quickly and rapidly people agreed to that.”

Davis said he was a smoker in the past and was supportive of the regulations on smoking in public areas.

CAO Wayne Staudt said staff would look at how other communities implemented bylaws before diving in. He added that there was only one person on city staff that looks into those types of things and so it would be added to their list.

Coun. Sharon Cross brought up the issue of the hospital not being able to enforce smoking policy. Hill explained that since it is only policy, it can’t be enforced by hospital security as they can’t compel someone to identify themselves without peace officer status.

Coun. Diana J. Scott said that there is the danger of telling people too much what they can and can’t do.

“It’s a slippery slope, especially when you’re talking about addiction,” Scott said.

Scott said the hospital is a tricky place, since many people smoking outside the doors are patients who had to expend a lot of energy to get to the smoking area.

“You have to have a little bit of compassion too and try to balance that,” she said.

Hill said it is an addiction and the hospital tries to treat it that way, something that in the past was treated as a choice.

“Under no other addiction would we allow someone to go out in minus 20 degrees,” she said. “We would treat it inside and I don’t think we’ve quite made it there yet.”