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smoke-free spaces

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There is no safe level of second hand smoke. Standing near someone at a bus stop who is smoking means that you – and everyone else near you – is smoking as well. The World Health Organization has classified second-hand smoke as a carcinogen – it increases risk of lung, laryngeal, throat, and possibly even breast cancer. It increases your risk of heart and lung disease, heart attacks and stroke and can worsen symptoms of allergies and asthma.

The Sunshine Coast is home to the only municipalities from Richmond up to Whistler that do not have enhanced smoking bylaws. Enhanced bylaws go beyond the regulations in the provincial Tobacco Control Act, which ban smoking in indoor public buildings, within 3 meters of windows, doors and air intakes, and in “partially enclosed” transit shelters and hospitality patios (e.g. bars, restaurants and cafes). As you can see in the table below, in this region the most common bylaws include all patios, playgrounds and recreation fields, and transit stops and shelters. Banning smoking on beaches and trails is also increasingly common.

How we compare to neighbouring communities

Momentum is building

This year, the Clean Air Society is partnering with concerned residents and representatives from Vancouver Coastal Health and the Canadian Cancer Society to encourage our local governments to enhance our smoking bylaws. Here’s why:

It’s time. Enhanced bylaws exist in 1/3 of B.C’s communities as well as across Canada and around the world. For instance, Ottawa, New York and Paris all have strong municipal laws that aim to almost completely eliminate their resident’s exposure to second hand smoke. The Sunshine Coast has a window – right now – where we can be on the front end of this health promoting public policy.

There is public support. A 2013 survey by Vancouver Coastal Health showed that, depending on the space in question, between 60% and 80% of Sunshine Coast residents are supportive of bylaws. See more details here (Smoking Bylaw Survey).

This is what building a healthy community looks like. The decisions we make about the places we live, work and play have a huge impact on our health. This is why most official community plans, including those along the Coast, have goals for supporting healthy community. Smoke free spaces are a fundamental part of this healthy community policy package.

It is one policy that meets three goals:

  1. Smoke free spaces protect people from second hand smoke, which is proven to cause cancer. There is no safe level of second hand smoke and the danger for your health increases the more you are exposed. It is simply not fair that staff serving on hospitality patios are the only workers left who are regularly exposed to second hand smoke in their workplace. Similarly, it is not okay that people who do not drive – often the elderly or young families with children – are routinely exposed to second hand smoke in transit stops.
  2. Smoke free spaces support people who are trying to quit smoking. The less ex-smokers are exposed, they less they will be triggered to start again. For some, smoking is more addictive than heroin. For all smokers, quitting is the best thing they can do to improve their health. Quitters clearly should receive all the support we, as a community, can provide.
  3. Smoke free spaces means young people are less likely to start. And you simply cannot become addicted to something you never start.
For many who are left smoking, it is an addiction not a lifestyle choice. Tobacco is the only product that when as used as directed will kill half of long term consumers. Even with today’s low smoking rates, tobacco remains the #1 cause of preventable death and disease. It is a product that warrants action at every level – and enhanced bylaws are simply the best way for municipalities to do their part.

If enhanced bylaws are something you would like to see in your community please be in touch with our Smoke Free Spaces committee chair, Caitlin Etherington, at caitlin.etherington@vch.ca.

Quick Statistics

  • Vancouver Coastal Health estimates smoking rates on the Sunshine Coast are 18%, which is closer to the Downtown East Side than to the rest of the region (12%) or B.C. in general (15%).
  • Smoking is the #1 risk factor for lung cancer, lung disease and heart disease.
  • Smoking results in 6,000 deaths per year in British Columbia.
  • Second hand smoke has at least twice the amount of nicotine and tar as the smoke inhaled by the smoker; it has five times the amount of carbon monoxide, a deadly gas that robs the blood of oxygen.
  • Regular exposure to second-hand smoke increases the risk of lung disease by 25% and heart disease by 10%.

From our blog

  • Smoke Free Bylaw proposal for the Town of Gibsons and Sechelt

News on this topic from around North America

  • NEWS: Nunavut woman launches petition to ban smoking inside multi-unit buildings

    Mon, 13 Apr 2015 04:13:20 -0700 Sharon Angnakak is looking for 1,000 Nunavummiut willing to support a territory-wide ban on indoor smoking in multi-dwelling buildings. Last week the Iqaluit woman launched an online petition drive to gain support from 1,000 people in Nunavut for this goal: a ban on all smoking inside multi-dwelling buildings. “If you have children or not and live in an apartment building, condo, row house where ...
  • Archie Macpherson: I fell victim to the toxic effect of second-hand smoke

    Wed, 01 Apr 2015 10:12:55 -0700 SPORTS commentator Archie Macpherson is backing a charter for children to highlight the dangers of second-hand smoke and the aim of creating a tobacco-free Scotland by 2034.
  • Outdoor dining areas to be smoke free from July 6

    Mon, 13 Apr 2015 23:39:45 -0700 FROM July 6, all commercial outdoor dining areas in NSW will be smoke-free, under the Smoke-free Environment Act 2000, NSW Health is reminding.
  • Children of smokers are 'four times more likely to get heart disease later in life'

    Wed, 25 Mar 2015 04:21:17 -0700 The dangers still exist even if smokers try and limit their child's exposure to second hand smoke - so the only way to protect children is to not smoke at all, say Finnish researchers.
  • Dog died from lung cancer 'caused by grandmother's second hand cigarette smoke'

    Tue, 24 Mar 2015 17:21:03 -0700 A smoking grandmother who exposed her beloved pet to cigarette fumes has been left heartbroken after the animal died from lung cancer. Heather Goddard was left devastated when X-rays showed that her beloved pet dog, Clover, had dark spots on her lungs.
  • Letter: City must protect citizens

    Sat, 11 Apr 2015 23:06:00 -0700 In less than a week, our Pitt County Commissioners will be voting on a very important Rule: Tobacco-Free Public Parks. Although many residents continue to feel that Pitt County has an obligation to tobacco, this Rule is about the health and safety of our children.
  • Sulphur passes smoke-free ordinance

    Mon, 13 Apr 2015 19:35:50 -0700  The Sulphur City Council passed a controversial smoke-free air ordinance at its Monday meeting.
  • Contra Costa County tobacco prevention group lauds cities' anti-smoking laws

    Wed, 25 Mar 2015 17:42:10 -0700 The Contra Costa County Tobacco Prevention Coalition is recognizing six cities' efforts to reduce exposure to second hand smoke. Over the next month, the coalition will present the "Award for Outstanding Contribution to Tobacco Prevention" to city leaders in Concord, Walnut Creek, El Cerrito, San
  • Smoking bans now in effect

    Mon, 13 Apr 2015 04:25:40 -0700 LAWS banning smoking within four meters of public buildings are now in effect.
  • Smoking ban gets mixed reaction

    Mon, 13 Apr 2015 13:30:42 -0700 RESIDENTS have mixed reactions about new smoking bans around Victorian schools, hospitals and police stations that came into force yesterday.