Victoria councillors are calling for stricter enforcement local smoking regulations but they also think smokers — of both tobacco and cannabis — should be given designated areas to puff away.
Councillors, as part of their strategic planning Monday, agreed to write to both the Capital Regional District and the medical health officer calling for stricter enforcement of the current bylaw but also asking for consideration of designated smoking areas.
Coun. Charlayne Thornton-Joe said stronger enforcement of the existing bylaw is needed as many complaints that are received are about flagrant violations of the bylaw — people smoking while standing right under or beside a sign indicating it’s prohibited. People should be able to stand at a bus stop and not inhale second hand smoke, she said.
The existing CRD Clean Air Bylaw is too sweeping, said Coun. Geoff Young, reiterating sentiments he expressed when the bylaw was amended by the CRD board to include all regional parks.
“The bylaw was too all-inclusive. It included, for example, vast areas of park where with an army you couldn’t enforce the no-smoking bylaw and the CRD has, what, two people to enforce it,” Young said.
“Clearly the bylaw exceeded the ability to enforce and because it was unreasonable and un-enforced we do have problems in areas where it is reasonable and should be enforced,” Young said.
“The problem is that the [existing] bylaw is too restrictive,” said Coun. Ben Isitt.
“It doesn’t make any allowance for designated smoking areas to smoke either tobacco or cannabis and this is particularly a problem for low-income people and people who live in strata housing where bylaws might prohibit smoking — essentially anybody who doesn’t have access to private land,” he said.
UVic, which technically is considered private land, already has areas designated for smoking either tobacco or cannabis, Isitt said. Similar provisions should be included in the bylaw for the marginalized, tenants or those in stratas that don’t allow smoking, he said.
“This is the type of thing that I think we do have to look at in some of the larger parks. It’s a can of worms but I personally don’t favour more enforcement that’s going to disproportionately impact and some would even say discriminate against the most marginalized people in our community,” Isitt said. “There is nowhere where they can lawfully consume either of those substances because the current bylaw over-reaches.”
Three years ago the CRD expanded its bylaw to make it illegal to light a cigarette at any park, playing field, bus stop, beach or public square in the capital region.
The bylaw extended the no-smoking zones around doorways, windows, air intakes and bus shelters to seven metres from three metres.
Smoking is prohibited in stores, offices and entrances to apartment buildings which are considered public spaces or workplaces, as are work vehicles, public transit, taxis, cafes, casinos, and pubs and bars.
In April, the CRD further amended its bylaw to include vaping and smoking marijuana, putting them on the same footing as tobacco.
Meanwhile, councillors agreed to ask the medical health officer to investigate the health impacts of wood stoves and fireplaces.
Island Health Dr. Richard Stanwick, the Island’s chief medical health officer, was not available for comment.