City smoking bylaw strengthened

At the recommendation of Fraser Health, New Westminster is strengthening its smoking control bylaw. But unlike a new bylaw approved in Surrey it isn't to give teeth to the authority's ability to enforce rules on hospital property.

Last week, Surrey council approved allowing security at Surrey Memorial to call city bylaw officers to issue tickets for smoking on hospital property. Fraser Health spokesman Roy Thorpe-Dorward said "the timing is a complete coincidence" that New Westminster is adopting new rules, although he admitted it is an issue at Royal Columbian Hospital, as it is throughout the region.

"We are aware of concerns at RCH as well, and there is signage up to know smoking is prohibited on hospital property," said Thorpe-Dorward.

He pointed out hospital staff and site security can tell people not to smoke on hospital property because it's prohibited, but they don't have any ticketing authority. If they check back and the smoker is still refusing to cease they can be asked to leave the hospital ground. The last resort is to call in local police, just like they would do for anyone being belligerent or disruptive.

"We're also looking on our own at strengthening our own practices," said Thorpe-Dorward of enforcing the Fraser Health smoking prohibition.

Last year, Fraser Health recommended New Westminster beef up its smoking bylaw. The proposed amendments considered by council Monday include banning smoking:

• Within 7.5 metres of doors, windows and air intakes for public and workplace buildings, which is more than double the provincial regulation of three metres;

• On restaurant and pub patios; and

• In outdoor public places such as parks, trails, beaches, playgrounds, playing fields and outdoor sports venues.

"Our primary goal is to protect non-smokers and protect everyone from second-hand smoke," said Thorpe-Dorward.

The report said almost all restaurants and pubs in the city already have voluntarily made their patio areas non-smoking, but admits those that do permit it may object to the proposal.

It also noted the city would have to erect no smoking signs throughout its parks and public spaces. Additionally, the health authority has agreed to take a lead role in enforcing the amendments by investigating complaints and issuing written notices. Another amendment to be considered by council calls for municipal tickets to be issued to businesses allowing smoking on their patios or not posting the required signage.

City staff recommended the new regulations take effect on Sept. 1 to allow Fraser Health to give advance notice to businesses, and for those businesses to educate their customers.

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