Bylaw temporarily up in smoke

New Westminster Coun. Chuck Puchmayr -
New Westminster Coun. Chuck Puchmayr
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New Westminster is holding off instituting a new smoking bylaw until it can figure out a way to allow smokers to huddle outside of Queen’s Park Arena during intermissions at Salmonbellies lacrosse games.

Fraser Health has asked the city to amend its bylaw to prohibit smoking within 7.5 metres of doors and windows of public buildings; on restaurant and pub patios; and in outdoor public places such as parks, trails, playgrounds, playing fields and outdoor sporting venues. The city’s lawyers have drawn up a bylaw to reflect those changes but they’ve been asked to revise them.

On Monday, council rejected a motion from Coun. Bill Harper to exclude the last of those prohibitions. He noted the only enforcement in outdoor areas will come through the putting up of signs and public peer pressure.

“There is no intention to police this bylaw, particularly in parks. There’s no enforcement in it, you’re just going to do it by signage,” said Harper.

Coun. Chuck Puchmayr cited junior and senior Salmonbellies games where spectators who smoke gather outside during intermissions to light up.

“Everyone would be in violation but we wouldn’t do anything about it,” said Puchmayr. “It would be nothing more than symbolic. I don’t know if that’s going to achieve what we want to achieve … This heavy-handed legislation that we’re not even going to enforce makes a mockery of the process.”

Harper’s motion, however, was not successful as the other four councillors shot it down.

“It is symbolic, but symbolism is powerful,” said Coun. Lorrie Williams.

Coun. Betty McIntosh said she couldn’t support exempting parks and playgrounds because that’s where children play.

Coun. Jonathan Coté noted B.C. has the lowest rate of smoking in the country. “I really see these types of bylaws as a continuation of that process.”

However, instead of approving the proposed bylaw, council decided to direct its staff to find a way to have smoking areas in parks. Mayor Wayne Wright pointed out many veterans who fought for Canada got addicted because the government provided free cigarettes during the war.

“We can’t go up to them and chastise them for something they can’t have control of,” said Wright.

Puchmayr doesn’t want the city to have anything to do with the bylaw at all. He said the province is the one that should institute a uniform law because currently the rules differ from city to city.

Coté agreed there should be a blanket bylaw but added that this shouldn’t stop New West from instituting its own.

“Sometimes municipalities have to take a leadership role,” he said. “There is already an inconsistency whether we do this or not.”

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