Dark times are ahead for Ucluetians who like to light up.
Ucluelet’s municipal council has officially adopted a new smoking bylaw aimed at keeping second-hand-smoke away from non-smokers.
BC’s Tobacco Control Act makes it illegal for smokers to smoke within 3 metres of doorways or inside public buildings, but Ucluelet’s new bylaw goes further by stipulating that smokers must be at least 8 metres away, both horizontally and vertically, from any doors, windows or air intakes.
This includes e-cigarettes.
The bylaw also prohibits smoking on balconies, patios, yards or sidewalks that are connected to, or associated with, businesses with food or alcohol services and on public lands including parks, beaches and trails.
Anyone caught contravening the bylaw will face a $50 fine though its language indicates enforcement will not be a top priority for district staff.
“The intent of this bylaw is to set standards of general public interest, and not to impose a duty on the District of Ucluelet or its employees to enforce its provisions,” the bylaw states.
Coun. Randy Oliwa told the Westerly he believes the community will support the new regulations.
“It’s a general recognition that we as a society are moving towards a healthier lifestyle and I believe the community supports that,” he said. “The community will benefit by not being exposed to air pollution in our public areas; additionally litter and conflict should be reduced.”
He added the district should be proactive in its educational outreach by installing signage and distributing information to ensure locals and visitors are up to speed on the new bylaw’s ramifications.
Coun. Sally Mole acknowledged the bylaw carries stricter stipulations than similar smoking bylaws in other communities but said it was the right step for Ucluelet to take.
“It is, of course, easy enough to adopt; how it’s enforced may be a little more challenging but the first step is establishing the bylaw,” she said. “It does seem a little more harsh perhaps but I think it does give us the tools to enforce if we want to.”
She added the bylaw’s enforcement could be focused on specific high-use areas.
“One of my pet peeves is [smoking at] the skate park. We’ve got little, little, kids there and then we’ve got some older kids who do hang out there and smoke and then there’s the littering aspect; it’s just trashy looking,” she said.
“If we chose to, we could say ‘Let’s start enforcing this bylaw in that area and just generally clean it up,’ and maybe you just start in little pockets and build that message.”
She agreed with Oliwa sentiment that the community would support the new bylaw.
“I don’t think it’s one of those key controversial items in the community but I think this is just one step in helping that healthy community vibe that we’re trying to put out there and I think the community supports that general concept very much so,” she said.
“We all want to live in a healthy community…We want to be seen as a healthy community but also live as a healthy community.”
Ucluelet’s police chief Sgt. George Jenkins told the Westerly his detachment could help the district enforce the new bylaw.
“In absence of a bylaw officer, or when they’re not working, we’ll step in and take some of that responsibility,” he said adding anyone who sees someone contravening a known bylaw should contact the district office.
“Ideally most bylaw issues should go to a bylaw officer but we’ll certainly step in and support the legislation and make sure that it’s adhered to.”
Ucluelet has been working on the new bylaw since a May 2015 presentation from Central Island Medical Health Officer Dr. Paul Hasselback who urged council to consider a strong anti-smoking bylaw.
“Ucluelet is one of a few communities that have not looked seriously at a clean air bylaw when it comes to tobacco,” Hasselback said during his presentation.
“I put it out to you as a challenge and I’m happy to work with you if you’re willing to consider that.”
He had also stressed the inclusion of e-cigarettes.
“What we’ve been suggesting is that e-cigarettes be handled the same way that other tobacco products are, so where tobacco products are allowed—and there’s lot of places where people can use tobacco products—would be the appropriate locations for using electronic vaping devices as well,” he said.