The Canadian Cancer Society of B.C. and Yukon is holding up communities like Whistler as an example during its push this week to ban outdoor smoking in public places province-wide.
To mark National Non-Smoking Week (Jan. 20-26), the Cancer Society is urging all MLA’s and party candidates in the province to support regulations that would make outdoor restaurant and bar patios, beaches, parks and playgrounds smoke-free throughout British Columbia.
“Communities such as Whistler have gone over and above provincial legislation to prohibit smoking in outdoor public spaces and reduce exposure to second-hand smoke,” said Brittney Parks, health promotion coordinator at the Canadian Cancer Society’s B.C. and Yukon division. “Municipalities such as Whistler have really led the way for the province, and we’re hoping the province will take their lead and take similar action.”
In 2009, the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) adopted a bylaw prohibiting smoking within 25 metres of sporting events, playing fields and other recreational areas. Playgrounds, transit shelters and any school property within Whistler were also designated as completely smoke-free zones.
“Being the poster child for anti-smoking is probably a good thing,” said Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden. “We are a very active and health conscious community, so if the province was inclined to take that further step (banning outdoor public smoking), I think it would be positively received here in Whistler.”
Parks said studies have shown that outdoor smoking bans can increase motivation for smokers to quit in those communities, like in Woodstock, Ont., where a bylaw prohibiting smoking in parks and other outdoor spaces has been in place since 2008.
“In 2010, a study showed that 38 per cent of respondents in Woodstock have said that the bylaw helped them quit,” said Parks. “Another benefit is that it decreases negative role-modelling for children, so they don’t see this activity as normal and it could decrease their ability to start smoking in the first place.”
Despite having the lowest smoking rate of any province at 14 per cent, smoking remains the leading cause of preventable death and disease in B.C., killing more than 6,000 people per year. Second-hand smoke is linked to the death of an additional 140 people in B.C. annually.
Thirty communities across B.C., including Whistler, Vancouver and Squamish, have implemented bylaws ensuring protection from smoking in outdoor areas in some form. Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Alberta and Yukon have all banned smoking on patios as well as other outdoor public spaces.
“We know that smoke-free outdoor places is a benefit to the overall health of the population, and we look forward to seeing this regulation implemented throughout the province,” said Parks.