Marco Vegt

Marco Vegt

Smoking ban to waft into parks, playgrounds

Sweeping health-based ban comes before Capital Regional District board July 9 for approval

Marco Vegt and her daycare students ascend the final few metres atop Mt. Tolmie before settling into their usual spot.

Four-year-old Iris points out a discarded cigarette butt squished against a mossy patch of rock and wrinkles her nose.

“That’s why we don’t want to see smokers up here,” says Vegt, pulling out small pieces of hard candy for the eager kids. “I live just behind here, and I’ve actually never noticed smokers. They know to stay well away from kids.”

On July 9, the Capital Regional District board will consider approving the Clean Air Bylaw, which will extend the ban on smoking to include all parks, playgrounds, playing fields, public squares and bus stops and increase the current smoke-free buffer zone outside of doorways, windows and air intakes from three to seven metres.

The driving force behind the bylaw continues to be protecting the health of non-smokers and preventing exposure to secondhand smoke, said Saanich Coun. Vic Derman, who also sits on the CRD committee that approved the bylaw for the board on June 25.

Derman said enforcement details are still to be worked out, but added Island Health officials – who are contracted by the CRD for health inspections – could likely incorporate non-smoking enforcement into their duties.

“It’s kind of like a speeding law: you don’t expect the roads to be monitored all the time. Certain roads are monitored more often, whereas back roads are monitored very occasionally,” he said. “But we know the community buy-in is significant on this.”

Staff had initially considered adding e-cigarettes into the ban, but Derman said the evidence of secondhand smoke harm isn’t yet conclusive.

“We didn’t want to pass a bylaw for health reasons when the evidence isn’t available, and it does need to stand up in court,” he said.

With bus stop enforcement, Derman said B.C. Transit may be able to partner with Island Health in some way, but the discussions are at early stages.

“It’s certainly the right way to go. In the past, the CRD introduced bylaws concerned with smoking in restaurants and was a leader on that. At this point, we’re playing a bit of catch-up with other jurisdictions across North America,” he said.

Regardless of the bylaw, Vegt said she’ll continue to enjoy the views of Greater Victoria from Mt. Tolmie each week with her kids, and she’s convinced smokers will continue to be respectful.

“Smokers kind of know to stay away from people because the health concerns are such a big deal now,” she said. “I’ve never had a problem.”

editor@saanichnews.com