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CRD mulls expanding smoking ban to playgrounds

Mar 30 2012

First, smokers were pushed outdoors. Now, it seems, certain parts of Greater Victoria’s outdoors might not be big enough.

The Capital Regional District’s protective services committee has asked staff for a report on the implications of extending the smoking regulations to include parks and playgrounds.

The proposal was brought forward by Sidney Mayor Larry Cross, whose council has been looking at the issue of people smoking at Beacon Park during outdoor concerts.

Colwood Coun. Judith Cullington called a smoking ban near playgrounds “the next logical step” for the region to take.

“We don’t want kids on the playgrounds picking up cigarette butts. We don’t like the exposure to smoke,” Cullington said, noting that the committee is only exploring the option at this point.

Not everyone agrees the CRD should move in that direction. Metchosin Mayor John Ranns, the committee’s chairman, said the region has already had great success with its Clean Air Bylaw that prohibits smoking in restaurants and other buildings. But, he said, it doesn’t always have to be the leader and, in fact, runs the risk of undermining itself by incrementally changing bylaws.

“We started off with banning smoking, partially, inside restaurants. We said they could have smoking sections. Then, after people had spent a lot of money, we said, ‘No, sorry, you can’t have a smoking area.’ Then we said you could smoke on patios. Then we said no, and then we said you can’t smoke in the doorways,” Ranns said.

“If the public is going to have confidence in our governance, I don’t believe it’s effective to continually add increments to what you do.”

Victoria councillor and CRD chairman Geoff Young said it’s unlikely any recommended prohibition would cover all areas of all parks.

The CRD is somewhat limited in where it could ban smoking, he said, as it has to be in areas where it has a negative health impact for others, such as near playgrounds or performance areas.

“Basically, the way I would suggest we should look at it is: Are we trying to control activities that have an impact on other people, or are we trying to, basically, set standards of behaviour that we want people to adhere to even if they don’t have direct impacts,” Young said.

Young said it’s important that any bylaw amendment is enforceable.

“I don’t believe in passing bylaws that you clearly do not feel can be enforced and, certainly, I don’t believe in passing bylaws that you would appear to be unreasonable if you attempted to enforce it,” he said.

About 50 municipalities across the country have enacted bylaws restricting smoking in open areas such as parks and playgrounds. Smoking was banned in regional parks and trails in Metro Vancouver from Jan. 1.

A poll of Nanaimo residents last summer found more than 75 per cent of the 600 who responded supported bans at beaches, playgrounds, sports fields, on trails and in parks.

Ninety-three per cent supported a smoking ban in playgrounds, 81 per cent wanted a ban near recreational facilities and 76 per cent wanted a smoking ban on beaches.

bcleverley@timescolonist.com

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