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New West to review smoking bylaws in B.C. municipalities

Motion made in response to call for uniform smoking and vaping bylaws at Metro Vancouver
New West council has approved a motion directing staff to review smoking bylaws in BC to see if changes should be introduced in New Westminster.

New Westminster wants to take a look at smoking bylaws in other B.C communities.

Council approved a motion from Mayor Jonathan Cote to request staff to conduct a review and scan of smoking bylaws in B.C. municipalities. Staff will report back to council with a preliminary assessment and options to enhance the city’s smoking bylaws.

Cote said his motion stems from a presentation that was made to the Metro Vancouver mayors committee about smoking bylaws across the region.

“It is a bit of a patchwork, with different bylaw across the region,” he said. “Some areas of Metro Vancouver have more recently updated their smoking bylaws and are obviously probably a little bit ahead of the curve of New Westminster, who hasn’t done a review recently of this work.”

At its November meeting, the Metro Vancouver mayors committee received a presentation from Fraser Health Authority, Vancouver Coastal Health and Action on Smoking and Health about the need for a uniform smoking and vaping bylaw for the region.

During the presentation, the health officials said a comprehensive plan would include aligning restrictions on smoking and vaping of products like nicotine and cannabis. Its intended to create smoke-free parks and recreation spaces; public events and markets; playgrounds, sports fields, spray parks, skate parks, etc.; beaches and trails;

The presenters also suggested the region should consider banning smoking in hotel/motel rooms, group living facilities, public housing, new multi-unit housing, as well as hookah smoking in public establishments.

According to health officials, smoking results in 50,000 annual deaths in Canada (20% of all deaths), including 6,000 deaths in B.C. They said one million Canadians are suffering from illnesses as a result of smoking, one in two smokers will die prematurely and secondhand smoke kills 1,000 people annually.

During their presentation to the mayors committee, health officials outlined some of the recent developments relating to smoking bylaws. These include the legalization of cannabis, the increase of recreational vaping among youth, expanded smoking restrictions in outdoor areas, and a TransLink ban on smoking and vaping anywhere on the public transit system.

The presentation stated the purpose of uniform restrictions on smoking and vaping is to reduce modelling of smoking behaviours to children and youth, to maximize protection from secondhand smoke, to make rules easier for people to understand and to follow, to simplify enforcement and to reduce litter and wildfires.

Having heard the “worthwhile” presentation, Cote said he’d like city staff to look at work that’s happened in other Metro Vancouver and B.C. municipalities in regards to this ever-evolving issue.

“I do think from a public health point of view, certainly New Westminster wants to be leaders in this regard and I think we definitely have some areas to be engaged,” he said. “In terms of bylaw changes, I don’t have anything specific at this point; I’d like staff to do that research and work but I do think it is important and meaningful work for us to be undertaking.”

Coun. Patrick Johnstone said he’d like staff to report back on the interface between city bylaws and strata rules, noting the city has seen a lot of complaints about smoking in multi-unit housing. He’d also like more information about enforcement in areas around commercial properties and SkyTrain stations, where “it is never clear” who is meant to be enforcing smoking bylaws in those areas.

“This has been an interest of mine as well, so I am glad to see it come forward,” he said.

New West city council last considered changes to the city’s smoking control bylaw in November 2020, when an applicant wanting to open a hookah lounge approached the city about amending its bylaw. Council, however, supported staff recommendations to stick with the city’s current smoking control bylaw, which prohibits smoking in places like restaurants and retail businesses.

In the spring of 2014, council approved changes to the smoking control bylaw, which banned smoking on restaurant and pub patios, and within 15 metres of outdoor sports facilities, playgrounds, off-leash dog parks and picnic areas in city parks. Those changes took effect on Jan. 1, 2015.

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