Sidney has taken steps that could turn its downtown core into a no smoking and no vaping zone.
Councillors, meeting as the committee of the whole, asked staff to investigate steps towards such a declaration. If implemented, the measure would go beyond the prohibitions of the region-wide bylaw that the Capital Regional District (CRD) passed in May 2018. While it already prohibits smoking in many parts of downtown, it still allows smoking in some areas, including a large portion of Beacon Avenue when closed to traffic for events, and locations where buildings are more than seven metres from the edge of the sidewalk.
Mayor Cliff McNeil-Smith said the declaration would set a positive precedent for the community and the region at large, a view shared by a majority of council. Coun. Scott Garnett agreed. “We need to do something that is more comprehensive,” he said.
Declaring downtown Sidney smoke- and vape-free would require public education and additional signage and Coun. Terri O’Keeffee questioned the additional value of such signage in wondering whether Sidney could enforce the declaration.
Coun. Sara Duncan joined O’Keefee in voting against the measure. She wondered whether the declaration would push downtown employees who smoke into neighbouring residential areas, creating conflict with residents.
Supporters of the proposed declaration acknowledged these arguments but noted the additional signage would be minimal and effective, as McNeil-Smith argued. “If people are aware that our downtown is smoke-free, people are going to observe it,” added Coun. Barbara Fallot.
Coun. Chad Rintoul also pointed out that the enforcement issue is a familiar one, pointing to the existence of the CRD bylaw. The fact that enforcement might be difficult does not render the bylaw useless, he suggested. Council also moved with two other measures designed to stamp out smoking in downtown Sidney. They include the requirement that organizers requesting the closure of Beacon to make their events smoking and vaping free.
While that motion passed unanimously, councillors split over the question of whether to research the costs of installing containers for cigarette butts in time for the 2020 budget. Coun. Peter Wainwright said Sidney can always take the item out of its budget if the other two measures prove effective. But failure to include the item now would prolong the problem of cigarette butts for at least another year, he said.
McNeil-Smith joined Rintoul and O’Keefee in opposition. O’Keefee said the containers come with a cost, including staff time.
“There is a lot on our plate,” she said. “In the scheme of all those other things, I would rather see us go with the other two options.”
Duncan defended the containers, noting they might end up being cheaper than declaring Sidney smoke- and vape-free.
She also injected the debate with a note of caution in arguing that anti-smoking measures can only be so effective in light of human behaviour.
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