A few years ago, we saw the introduction of some very aggressive laws in British Columbia to protect the public from second-hand smoke. Simply put, it is now against the law to smoke:
- in any indoor public place – work, bars, restaurants, malls.
- on public transit or transit shelters.
- in taxis and work vehicles.
On top of this, a 3 metre non-smoking “buffer zone” was created around all public doorways, windows and air intakes. Some communities took it even further (as found on the BC Lung Association website):
Vancouver & Richmond
- Smoking is prohibited within customer service areas of food and/or liquor establishments (patios for instance).
- Within 6 metres of a door, window or air intake of a building.
- Within 6 metres of the perimeter of a customer service area.
And mostly unedited text from the BC Lung Association:
- Smoking is prohibited in any common public area; in a taxi cab or limousine; on a school bus, public bus or any form of public transportation.
- Smoking is prohibited in an enclosed or partially enclosed shelter where people wait to board a vehicle for hire or public transit; in a building (except as otherwise permitted by the By-law).
- Smoking is prohibited in a vehicle if any occupant of the vehicle is under 19 years of age.
- (Smoking is prohibited) Within seven and one-half metres (7.5 m) of any opening into a building including any door or window that opens or any air intake.
- Smoking is PERMITTED in a private club or in enclosed premises that are not open to the public.
District of North Vancouver
In addition to BC Tobacco Law restrictions, the District’s new Smoking Regulation Bylaw, 7792 prohibits smoking within six meters of:
- A patio connected to a business.
- Any opening into any building, including any door or window that opens, or any air intake.
- A children’s playground, swimming beach, food concession, picnic area, skateboard park or playing field.
- The site of any public event or activity that the District has authorized by the issuance of a permit.
- The grounds of any municipal building used for public recreation.
- Lynn Valley Village or Maplewood Farm.
- A transit stop or transit shelter if other people are there.
- The new bylaw also prohibits smoking in taxicabs.
Pretty darn thorough aren’t they? And just recently we’ve also seen smoking banned in parks throughout Metro Vancouver! So what’s my issue you ask? As the title of this post outlines, there appears to be an extreme lack of enforcement and I’m pretty much fed up about it.
I can’t begin to count how often I’ve encountered someone “on fire” at a bus stop. Or just outside a door. Or underneath the open window that I happen to be sitting opposite to. And while I’ve been apt to speak up and politely ask the person to “extinguish” themselves, the replies have typically not included language found in most Disney movies. Heck, I’ve even heard language not found in hardcore adult movies (or so I’ve been told). In fact, only a couple of days back I ended up coming to the defense of a young mother (with kids in tow) who asked a teen to stop smoking at a bus stop after he told her to “mind her effing business.”
Now in the interest of disclosure, I don’t smoke. Never have, never will. And while my opinion is that each person is their own boss in such matters, I don’t feel that a smoker’s right to light up means I should be subject to toxins produced by the cancer sticks – especially when the law is on my side. But there’s the kicker. While the law may be on my side, I feel I have very little recourse but to subject myself to verbal battery should I try to raise the issue.
Should the police enforce the law? Bylaw enforcement officers? Parking enforcement officers in Vancouver? Definitely! Yet if that means we take them off the streets to go on a smoke hunt, then we’ve likely not got our priorities straight as they obviously have been tasked with other (and quite often more important) duties. So what should we do? I think Josh Lavoie poses a darn good suggestion on twitter:
And what’s not to say these new peace officers, while looking to nab those smoking where they shouldn’t, don’t have other duties assigned to them? It may not be the best solution, but at least it’s a start.
Everything needs to start somewhere.