Maple Ridge smoking bylaw successful second time

Smokers must now be 7.5 metres from doors and windows outdoors.

Smokers lost another battle in the anti-tobacco campaign after Maple Ridge council approved its bylaw Tuesday, setting a 7.5-metre distance that they must be from doors and windows.

“From my perspective, there’s considerable public support for this bylaw,” said Mayor Ernie Daykin.

With the provincial standard under the B.C. Tobacco Control Act set at three metres from doors and windows, “I think our community is looking for more than the minimum.”

However, the split on council from March 25, when the bylaw was defeated in a tie vote, endured.

Couns. Corisa Bell, Al Hogarth and Michael Morden voted against, with the mayor and Couns. Cheryl Ashlie and Bob Masse in favour.

Coun. Judy Dueck, back from vacation, voted in favour – resulting in a 4-3 decision in favour of third reading.

“I haven’t really changed my mind on this at all,” said Hogarth. “I feel the three metres is quite sufficient.”

Hogarth asked bylaws director Liz Holitzki how many complaints the district received about smoking. She replied that the district doesn’t keep track because the current smoking bylaw from 1997 isn’t enforceable, but that her department probably received about 100 complaints about second-hand smoke in a year, many of those concerning outdoor smoking.

The new bylaw bans smoking on beaches, sports fields, picnic areas and playgrounds, as well as requiring smokers outdoors to be a minimum of 7.5 metres from doors and windows when they light up.

E-cigarettes and medicinal marijuana have been added to be included in the definition of a cigarette. Under the bylaw, users of medicinal pot also have to observe the distances.

Bell supported the idea of restricting smoking, but questioned the ability to enforce the bylaw and wondered how the bylaws department would respond to a complaint about someone smoking on a beach. The bylaw will take “significant amount of resources” to enforce. She wanted bylaws officers to focus on more serious issues, adding she’s heard people say that many bylaws aren’t enforced.

That’s a common comment, until someone is asked to provide a certain address, replied Holitzki.

“I beg to differ. They are being enforced.”

Education, telling people they’re breaking a bylaw, is always part of bylaw enforcement.

“Just because it’s a little difficult, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it. We should do it,” Holitzki said.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Ashlie said, second-hand smoke is 57 times more carcinogenic than pollution.

And there’s nothing wrong with exceeding provincial regulations, as Maple Ridge does with its streamside regulations, she added.

The bylaw will come back to council for fourth reading, with a clearer definition of  a medical health officer.

Maple Ridge will join Pitt Meadows, Surrey and Port Moody in requiring the 7.5-metre distance.

Langley city, Port Coquitlam, Coquitlam, Mission, Delta and New Westminster only require three metres.