City eyeing public smokers

The City of Penticton will be ramping up public education and enforcement of anti-smoking bylaws in public spaces this summer.

Since rolling out the bylaws in 2013, the city has taken a mostly educational approach, issuing warnings to people caught smoking in public green spaces or on beaches. The system is primarily complaint driven, but a council report shows an apparent disconnect with the public.

So far this year, bylaw enforcement has received just eight smoking complaints, and 10 in 2016, “which could be a result of a lack of public awareness,” writes bylaw services supervisor Tina Siebert.

The issue was thrust back into the spotlight by the First Coyote Hills Girl Guides, who collectively wrote to council in May after a Skaha Beach cleanup event where they picked up 658 cigarette butts.

“Enforcing this bylaw has been challenging since typically the smoker is not seen by the time the bylaw officer attends the location,” Siebert said, noting the city already hires a summer student and relief bylaw officer to help with the influx of tourists and smoking bylaws.

Bylaw services and the city’s communications department is expected to develop a public awareness campaign about Penticton's anti-smoking bylaws over the next two weeks, with July 4 to 18 being proposed as a “warning ticket period” prior to the handout of $100 violation tickets from July 18 onwards. City council will have to approve the schedule on Tuesday.

Penticton is not alone in its lax enforcement of anti-smoking bylaws, a survey of B.C. municipalities conducted by the University of Waterloo found that 67 per cent of communities with anti-smoking bylaws have never actually issued a ticket.

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