Parks officials consider blanket smoking ban

The crusade against second-hand smoke could get a boost in Metro Vancouver, with park officials poised to consider a blanket ban on smoking -and possibly even campfires -in all regional parks.

The move, aimed at reducing second-hand-smoke exposure in Metro’s public spaces, is one of four options suggested by staff for public consultation as part of a draft regional nosmoking policy.

But some Metro park committee directors are already balking at the proposal, which calls for all Metro property -from parking lots and roadways to campsites and trails -to be off-limits to cigarettes to provide the “highest level of health benefit” for both smokers and non-smokers.

Passive smoking

Second-hand Smoke

It could also potentially mean the end of fires at picnic sites and campgrounds such as Centennial Beach in Delta and Derby Reach campground in Langley.

“You’re outdoors, for goodness’ sake,” said Gayle Martin, a Langley city councillor and park committee chairwoman who is also a smoker. “What about the fumes from cars and the [stuff in the] air and the pollution? Where does it stop?”

Unlike municipalities such as Vancouver and Coquitlam, which have banned smoking in all parks, Metro Vancouver doesn’t restrict smoking in parks and ecological areas, except when the fire danger is high or extreme.

But the staff report, which will go to Metro’s park committee Wednesday, suggests Metro could pursue a fullfledged smoking ban, or go with one of three less stringent options: Designating smoking zones on specific sections of beach or campsites; banning smoking at playgrounds and areas where children play; or maintaining the status quo.

Gudrun Jensen, operations services division manager for regional parks, said staff are recommending Metro send all four options to public consultation before it develops its no-smoking policy for the region.

She noted the issue goes beyond second-hand smoke, to toxins from cigarette butts leaching into the ground, the risk to wildlife and the increased fire hazard.

She acknowledged that if Metro did pursue the full ban -or even some of the partial bans -it would likely consider banning fires at its two campsites, Derby Reach in Langley and Matsqui Trail, or possibly at beach picnic sites to “harmonize” the policy. That would have to be worked out in the discussions, she said.

“We’d need to look at all kinds of things,” Jensen said, adding that the biggest risk for second-hand smoke is when people are stationary, such as around a campfire.

“There’s a lot of emotions and a lot of opinions; we have to look at what’s going to serve users best. There’s a lot of pros and cons, say, for a full ban. It would be administratively simple and follow some of the other municipalities’ examples. On the other hand, do we need that level of intense regulation, that level of enforcement?

About 8.6 million visitors a year already use the region’s outdoor facilities, which cover 13,592 hectares and are strung across the region from Pacific Spirit Park in Vancouver to Burns Bog in Delta, Derby Reach in Langley and Tynehead Regional Park in Surrey.

Scott McDonald, CEO of the B.C. Lung Association, lauded the proposal, saying 90 per cent of people in B.C. don’t smoke and their health shouldn’t be jeopardized by secondhand smoke or campfires.

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