Council hears case for smoke-free areas

The Kootenay Smoke Free Coalition was at council meeting on Sept. 14 to encourage council to create a smoke-free bylaw for the city.

  • Sep. 21, 2015 10:00 a.m.

Arne Petryshen

The Kootenay Smoke Free Coalition was at the city council meeting on Sept. 14 to encourage council to create a smoke-free bylaw for the city.

Trish Hill, Tobacco coordinator with Interior Health, was joined by Andrea Winckers from the B.C. Cancer Agency Prevention Programs and Kerri Wall with Interior Health – Healthy Communities Initiative.

Patti King is the other member of the coalition, but she was unable to make the meeting.

The coalition represents six organizations that promote health in the community.

Hill noted they were there to talk about smoke free communities.

“That means creating smoke-free outdoor public places,” Hill said.

“This is an increasing trend in the province, as local governments really focus on reducing wildfire risk, — especially after this summer — improving quality of life and attracting new residents.”

Risk to the community

Hill spoke about the impact tobacco has on a community. She said that includes the more obvious health impacts, the risk of wildfire as well as the less obvious economic impacts.

Winckers noted that in Canada tobacco causes 30 per cent of all cancer deaths and is related to more than 85 per cent of lung cancer cases.

“Tobacco use rates are higher in the Interior region, at 20 per cent, than the B.C. average of 14 per cent,” Winckers said. “It’s the number one preventable cause of death and disease, and kills twice as many people as vehicle crashes, alcohol, suicide and homicide combined.”

Lung cancer is also to number one cause of cancer death for both men and women in Canada.

“Rates of tobacco use is much higher amongst people with mental illness, young adults, those living in poverty and aboriginal people,” she said. “Tobacco is the only legal product that kills one out of every two people when used as intended.”

Children and second hand smoke

Winckers also noted that children who grew up in smoke-free communities are less likely to use tobacco as adults. Children who are exposed to second hand smoke are also 50 per cent more likely to suffer from lung and breathing problems, have an increased risk of developing asthma later in life. The development of children’s immune and respiratory systems are also impacted more by second hand smoke than for adults.

Winckers said smoke free bylaws help to de-normalize smoking by creating smoke free zones around the places children frequent, such as parks and beaches.

Adults and second hand smoke

Second hand smoke is linked to 110 deaths among non-smokers in B.C. each year. Winkers said it also increases the risk of lung cancer, heart disease and other respiratory problems.

“Second hand smoke is extremely toxic, and there is no safe level of exposure to second hand smoke, be it indoors or outdoors,” she said. “Second hand smoke contains over 4,000 chemicals, and at least 50 of these are known to cause cancer.”

Within a year of quitting smoking, risk of heart attack is cut in half, and within 10 years risk of dying of lung cancer is cut in half.

Economic and environmental impacts of smoking

Kerri Wall said the impacts of smoking on the environment and economy should not be underrated.

“As we know from this summer’s fires, the environmental impacts are huge,” Wall said. In 2012, the latest year of statistics they have, 420 fires were caused by smokers materials in public buildings, parks or public areas.

“in 2003 we know that a discarded cigarette started the Barrier fire, which destroyed 72 homes and nine local businesses, one of which was the main local employer in the area,” she said.

The health care costs relating tobacco related ailments cost $2.3 billion annually.

Smoke free bylaws

Wall said that outdoor smoking bylaws do work.

“They are one of the most effective ways to reduce tobacco use in our communities and reduce exposure to second hand smoke — again, especially for young people,” she said. “Even in places such as Hong Kong, where smoking rates are very high, smoking has been decreased in areas where they are restricting smoking.”

Wall said public health policies that ban smoking are smart and effective policies that improve the health of the population.

There is a long list of communities that have such policies in place, such as Abbotsford, Nanaimo, Osoyoos and the Regional District of Central Kootenay.

Coun. Ron Popoff asked how the bylaws are enforced.

Wall said that only consistent complaints have resulted in enforcement activity in the municipalities they looked at.

“Most of the time it’s where people in the park, or on the trail, or the playground who say, ‘can you just smoke over there? Because the kids are right here,'” she said.