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Martin shaking her head over proposed anti-smoking bylaw expansion

Does the City have its head in the clouds when it comes to expanding its anti-smoking bylaw?

At least one council member seems to think so.

Gayle Martin told her fellow councillors at their Sept. 10 meeting that she was left shaking her head at the notion the City needs more stringent non-smoking rules than it currently has in place, and argued that enforcing them would be difficult at best.

A report before council — which came in response to a request from the Heart and Stroke Foundation that the City strengthen its anti-smoking bylaws — looked at the implications of expanding so-called buffer zones and banning smoking at all public events as well as in parks, on playgrounds and on beaches and inside enclosed transit shelters and shelters where people wait for taxis and other vehicles for hire.

According to the report, most Lower Mainland communities that have buffer zones in place, require smokers to stand between six and 7.5 metres from doors, windows and air intakes. The City of Langley’s buffer zone is just three metres.

The reason for that, Mayor Peter Fassbender reminded council, is that areas of the City are so compact that a smoker would have to stand in the middle of the street in order to comply with a 7.5 metre buffer zone.

Fassbender said a ban in parks and playgrounds might be appropriate, but added there will be a cost involved in putting up signage.

According to the report from staff, such a ban would require the installation of 55 signs at a cost of $100 each.

One of the key points, both Fassbender and Councillor Rosemary Wallace pointed out, is that there would be an educational component to an expanded bylaw — and that is to reinforce that second-hand smoke affects people.

But Martin disagreed.

“I don’t know why it’s up to us to educate the public,” she said. “Second-hand smoke isn’t good — everybody knows that.

“Is it that we want people to think we’re doing the right thing?”

She argued that such rules have the potential to turn into a time-suck for bylaw officers.

If it is meant to target repeat offenders a bylaw officer would have to be sitting to wait for someone to break the rules, noted Martin.

“It’s done on a complaint basis and by the time a bylaw officer gets there the smoker will be gone and the officer’s time is wasted.

“I’m shaking my head here.

“This a legal substance,” she said, while acknowledging that it might be appropriate to have designated smoking areas in public green spaces.

“Most people who smoke are considerate of other people, especially when there are children (around),” said Martin.

“There’s no manpower to enforce another bylaw,” agreed Councillor Teri James.

“We’d be putting this into place to make ourselves feel better because we don’t necessarily condone smoking.”

“We can look at events, public gathering place and parks, but I’m not sure we should go back to the commercial (area),” said Councillor Dave Hall.

Hall also suggested it would be appropriate for the City and Township work jointly on a consistent set of rules.

“The debate over enforcement is valid,” said Fassbender. “But the educational component is worth continuing.”

No decision was made.

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