Sweeping health-based smoking ban comes before CRD board today for approval

CRD directors vote to extend ban on smoking to include all parks, playgrounds, playing fields, public squares and bus stops.

If you’re planning to light up a cigarette in downtown Victoria, you’d better make it quick.

The Capital Regional District board is expected to approve a far-reaching smoking ban – the Clean Air Bylaw – today (July 9) 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 new law would be stricter than provincial legislation.

Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins said the driving force behind the bylaw continues to be protecting the health of non-smokers and preventing exposure to secondhand smoke.

“To me, a smoke-free world would be wonderful, but you need steps to achieve it,” Desjardins said.

This is the third time in 18 months the CRD has attempted to bring the law into effect. CRD directors rejected a strikingly similar clean air bylaw in May 2013 in a tight 12-11 vote. It went before the board again last October seeking more public input.

CRD staff considered adding e-cigarettes into the ban, but enough information isn’t available on the health-effects of the product. Further study would have required a delay in implementing the bylaw.

Desjardins said she received little comment, either pro or con, on the smoking ban. Some, however, questioned whether the government is going too far in restricting smoking.

“My belief is that personal freedom should not impede on the enjoyment of life on the overall population,” said Desjardin, a non-smoker.

Victoria resident Mike Tennisco said smoking restrictions have gone far enough.

“To continue to penalize the users of a legally available product is now approaching discrimination. The continued vilification of this segment of the population has reached the point of a witch hunt against a group of people that the governments formerly encouraged so that the income provided by the so-called ‘sin taxes’ could fund their follies.”

The smoking ban will have the most affect downtown, where smokers will need to be at least 10 metres from doorways.

Ken Kelly, general manager of the Downtown Victoria Business Association, said less smoking in the city core will make for a “friendlier downtown.”

“For most people it will require a period of adjustment. It’s not clear what the actual impact will be,” Kelly said.

He points out that it will most likely be the hospitality and service industries that will suffer the most.

“The only thing missing is to try and find a location to smoke,” Kelly said, adding some areas that won’t be affected will be construction zones.

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