Downtown smoking areas restricted by bylaws

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Smokers are being pushed farther and farther away from the non-smoking public as the Capital Regional District (CRD) board recently amended its Clean Air policy. The policy formerly banned lit cigarettes within a three-metre radius of any door, window, or air intake. After the CRD board’s meeting on Oct. 9, that radius has more than doubled to seven metres.

This came about after an initial proposal was made at a CRD meeting on May 8 of this year. The first draft of the extension to the Clean Air bylaw stretched the three metres to seven, but it also would have allowed municipalities to outlaw smoking on certain beaches. At stated in the meetings minutes, “Discussion ensued on public acceptance of such a broad ban in outdoor public recreation areas and the ability to enforce consistently.”

Enforcement could make or break the severity of this new bylaw. In the downtown core, seven metres, between doorways, windows, and air intakes, effectively reduces most of the downtown area to a smoke-free zone. This is further solidified considering the bylaw also outlaws smoking in public playgrounds, parks, and designated public spaces.

Gautam Arora, vice-president of Old Morris Tobacconist on Government Street downtown, says, “Enforcement is a big issue, but most smokers adhere to any law they put out there.”

The city is pushing smokers farther away and, although Arora has not heard anyone talking about the new bylaw in his store, he says, “Even if people do complain, they’re still going to smoke.” Arora made it clear business for them has not changed.

If one were to look at UVic’s smoking bylaw as an example of enforcement, then the smoking citizens of downtown wouldn’t have much to fear. It has been in effective since August of 2011 and outlaws smoking inside the Ring Road, but that hasn’t stopped people from smoking in between classes or while sitting around Petch Fountain.

When the amendment to the city bylaw was under consideration, informed citizens came to the CRD and presented board members with reasons for its amendment. Among these citizens was a member of UVic’s Youth Against Cancer Club, and Nancy Faulkner of the Canadian Cancer Society. Both parties mentioned that anti-smoking bylaws change young people’s perceptions on smoking and will likely curb the number of social smokers in the downtown area, since it will make smoking less convenient.

“The passive smoking regulations introduced in many countries over the last two decades have had large impacts on rates of smoking,” said Director Tim Stockwell of the Centre for Addictions Research of B.C., also a professor in the Department of Psychology at UVic, in an email. “Many people only smoke when they are drinking alcohol—the two drugs complement each other:  the alcohol anesthetizes the taste buds and soothes sore throats from smoking and the stimulant properties of nicotine compensate for some of the drowsiness caused by heavy drinking.”

One could often find people outside of downtown clubs smoking, but now with the wet Victoria winter coming, and smokers getting pushed even farther away from the doors, Stockwell says, “I have no doubts the bylaws would reduce rates of smoking.”

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