Nelson council will consider making more of the city’s public spaces smoke-free at the request of Interior Health.
As part of national non-smoking week, Interior Health Authority tobacco reduction coordinator Trish Hill attended Monday’s city council meeting with information on what other municipalities have done to discourage smoking.
Provincial regulations already stipulate that smokers can’t light up within three metres of most public workplace doorways and open windows, nor on Kindergarten to Grade 12 school grounds or in cars with youth under 16 present. But individual municipalities can introduce bylaws with rules of their own.
More than 30 Canadian municipalities, including Nakusp and Revelstoke, have bylaws that ban smoking on all city-managed properties including trails, plazas and parks. Hill offered to help Nelson develop a similar bylaw.
Councillors were in support of the idea and asked city staff to put it on their to-do list.
During her presentation, Hill noted that other municipalities have experienced strong compliance for their smoke free bylaws after an initial period of public education.
“They’re mostly peer enforced — most people who see somebody smoking in a smoke-free area will just tap the [no smoking] sign and the smoker will go somewhere else,” Hill said. “Rarely would a bylaw officer become involved.”
Councillor Robin Cherbo added that Whitewater Ski Resort has a voluntary smoke-free area around the lodge, in lineups and on chairlifts — which people generally comply to, even without formal enforcement.
“It’s a good indication that smoke-free areas work,” Cherbo said.
Hill went on to explain that smoke-free places help de-normalize smoking around children and youth, so that the next generation is less likely to pick up the habit.
“It’s something even smokers can get behind,” Hill said. “Nobody wants to see young people get addicted to tobacco.”
No position on electronic cigarettes
Electronic cigarettes are becoming a popular alternative for smokers in the Nelson area and across Canada.
The battery-powered devices simulate smoking with a vapour that is inhaled.
Some vapours contain nicotine, while others are just a flavoured liquid.
Interior Health Authority tobacco reduction coordinator Trish Hill has concerns about people using e-cigarettes in public.
“Because it can be hard to tell them apart from conventional cigarettes, it kind of gives the illusion that everyone’s standing around smoking again,” Hill said.
“That re-normalizes tobacco use in our community, which isn’t a good thing for children and youth.”
She also said they can be a trigger for somebody trying to quite smoking.
On the other hand, Hill has heard anecdotally that some smokers have successfully used them with non-tobacco vapours as a quitting aid.
But due to lack of evidence, she said, “it’s a bit early for Interior Health to have a position on them.”
Health Canada has advised against use of e-cigarettes because they have not been fully evaluated for safety, quality and efficacy.
-Sam Van Schie