Council considers smoke-free zones for Nanaimo parks, buildings

Nanaimo city council will be seeking public input to determine if a smoking ban should be implemented at all city parks and facilities.

Nanaimo council will seek public input to determine if a smoking ban should be implemented at all city parks and facilities.

While smoke-free zones are already established in areas like first beach at Westwood Lake and the Nanaimo Aquatic Centre, the desire to expand those zones was expressed by the city’s parks, recreation and culture commission.

In a report, commission chairwoman Coun. Diana Johnstone said thousands of people use Nanaimo’s parks and beaches each year and the majority indicated their experience would be improved if the locations were designated smoke-free zones.

A recent poll conducted by Ipsos Reid for the Canadian Cancer Society indicates 75 per cent of Nanaimo residents support smoking bans at city-owned parks and buildings.

Richard Harding, manager for the city’s parks, recreation and culture department, said social media will be used to gauge public opinion before reporting back to the commission in September.

If implemented, smoke-free zones would be implemented at all city parks, plazas, trails, playgrounds, sports fields and city beaches.

While council voted 8-1 to undertake the public input process, Coun. Merv Unger said he believes council is overstepping its bounds, while at the same time implementing rules it can’t enforce.

“We’re at the point where the state is limiting people through over-governance”, said Unger, a non-smoker. “We’re dealing with wide open spaces and a potential bylaw that is virtually unenforceable. I think this is going overboard.”

Johnstone said the consideration is an attempt to promote healthy living in Nanaimo.

“Healthy living is a big part of our community and attempts to create smoke-free zones have been successful,” she said, adding that if implemented, some exemptions would be considered, most notably for smoking areas at facilities like Beban Park that host major events.

It is anticipated council will make a decision on a bylaw next fall.

Other municipalities like Vancouver, White Rock, Richmond, Whistler and Kelowna have all taken similar approaches to smoking in public places.

Nanaimo has about 130 kilometres of trail, 400 parcels of parkland and a number of facilities.