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Maple Ridge snuffs out smoking bylaw

A smoker outside the Maple Ridge Business Centre on Thursday. - Colleen Flanagan/The News
A smoker outside the Maple Ridge Business Centre on Thursday.
— image credit: Colleen Flanagan/The News

Maple Ridge council has butted out a no-smoking bylaw that would have extended the no-smoking distances from doors and windows to 7.5 metres.

“Personally, I would question us defeating a bylaw on one or two items that potentially have a common good,” Mayor Ernie Daykin said Tuesday.

“I’m embarrassed to go back to Fraser Health,” Coun. Cheryl Ashlie added Thursday.

“It is a big issue with Fraser Health and all the work that we’re trying to do. To now do an about-face on a progressive bylaw, just doesn’t add up.”

Council has been discussing the smoking regulation bylaw since last year.

The new set of rules would have extended the distance smokers must be from outside doors and windows from three metres, as set out in the B.C. Tobacco Control Act, to 7.5 metres.

Ashlie said people have complained that three metres isn’t enough to keep smoke outside of buildings. Fraser Health has also been pushing for a greater distance.

Other parts of the new bylaw would have banned smoking from beaches, playgrounds, picnic areas, skateboard parks or sports fields.

According to a district video of the meeting, Couns. Corisa Bell, Michael Morden and Al Hogarth voted against the bylaw, as well as a motion by Coun. Bob Masse to defer the issue.

Bell said she supported the new distances, but didn’t want to pass a bylaw that district may not be able enforce.

A staff report describes the bylaw as having mainly an educational function. Instead, the district should just have an educational campaign, Bell added.

“Since being elected, I’ve not heard one complaint about smoking.”

She sees many smokers near downtown buildings that don’t get tickets from bylaw officers.

Hogarth, a smoker, said exceeding the provincial distance could put the onus of enforcement on to the district.

“I’m going to start defending myself as a smoker.”

He said motor vehicles put out more carcinogens than his cigarette.

“I think I’ve been pushed far enough,” he said earlier.

To improve air quality, focus on building and vehicle emissions, he said.

“I’m opposed to the cost of getting into that enforcement game,” added Morden, who also noted that people with medicinal marijuana licences can light up anywhere and that the B.C. law was adequate.

“I just see that we’re going into a position here that has no good end.”

With three voting against and Ashlie, Masse and Daykin in favour, the vote was tied, leading to the bylaw being defeated. Coun. Judy Dueck was absent.

With the bylaw’s defeat, Maple Ridge’s old smoking bylaw from 1997 remains in place. That still allows smoking rooms in restaurants, pubs and work places, and allots 30 per cent of casino space for non-smokers.

However, the bylaw is superseded by the B.C. Tobacco Control Act, which in 2008, banned all smoking indoors in any public or work space. It also set out the minimum distance of three metres from doors and windows and bans tobacco from school grounds.

Fraser Health still favours the 7.5 metre-distance.

“We don’t think it’s [three metres] is adequate. That’s why we’re promoting the 7.5 metres,” said Ken Shaw, manager for environmental health.

But he hoped Maple Ridge might again try to pass the bylaw. Doing so would make it consistent with the City of Pitt Meadows, which already has the 7.5-metre distance.

“We’re fairly tenacious,” Shaw said.

Daykin said he doesn’t know what will happen next. As mayor, he could bring the issue back to council for another attempt.

“It will be interesting to see what the public feedback is on it.”

Ashlie said council has discussed the issue previously. “I never thought in a million years, this would be an issue.”

She said the district has already taken on the enforcement of smoking rules and that bylaws can focus on problem areas and start enforcement if there’s a problem.

“There’s no lack of ability to enforce.”

Most of the population, about 83 per cent of whom don’t smoke, are becoming more protective about their air space, she added.

Port Moody and Surrey have supported the 7.5-metre smoking distance, while Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, Delta and New Westminster only require three metres. Richmond and Chilliwack don’t have a smoking bylaw, instead relying entirely on the B.C. law.

Starting with Manitoba and New Brunswick in 2004, Canadian provinces eventually outlawed all smoking in bars and restaurants.

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