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Vernon  

Butting out at bus stops?

Would you support a smoking ban at transit stops? 

Members of Vernon city council heard from two transit workers who believe the majority of people in this city would. 

Jenna Sealey and David Hancock conducted a poll on social media asking residents if they would support a smoking bylaw in Vernon that reflects the provincial standard.

*The province has set standards and the push is to have Vernon expand on those and create a bylaw around the buffer zone, which is 3 meters to include public spaces, common areas, transit stops.

The overwhelming majority of those who participated said, 'yes' they would support a smoking bylaw.

Sealey and Hancock urged council to consider adopting a smoking bylaw similar to the ones in place in other municipalities, like Lake Country

"Secondhand Smoke is a class A carcinogen," said Hancock. "There is no safe level of exposure even in an outdoor setting. E-cigs and vaping may be slightly less harmful, but they are not harmless."

The Lake Country bylaw bans smoking — of any kind — in any public space including within 7.5 metres of any transit stop; in any park, or in any common area.

"With marijuana legalization right around the corner, it's a perfect time to put a bylaw in place," Hancock told the council. "People should be free to enjoy community spaces and events without being exposed to harmful smoke and/or substances."

Doreen Stanton, general manager of Vernon and Shuswap Regional Transit came to council to support the members of the JOHSC (Joint Occupational Health and Safety Committee).

"They discovered in the course of their work that there were people stepping on to the bus and taking that last puff," said Stanton. "They knew they didn't like it. When they looked into it they discovered Vernon didn't have a bylaw."

Unlike Lake Country, Lumby even UBCO, Vernon does not have a smoking bylaw.

The Lake Country bylaw was chosen as an example because it's the closest neighbour in which the most recent smoking bylaw already exists. 

"The bylaw officer to population ratio is also very similar, so we are hoping Vernon would see the same success," said Hancock.

"Enforcement was mentioned as a concern. The thought of making it complaint based puts the responsibility on the public to report offences, creating a joint effort with bylaw enforcement. Public education will also be important, with signage playing a large role in order to make the bylaw successful."

BC Transit is working on rolling out templates that would go on bus stops, and municipalities would then post their bylaws on those templates. It a step that would work for communities that have smoking bylaws.

Vernon councillor Dalvir Nahal supports what was brought forward. 

"A lot of people are sensitive to that smell. If we can't drink in public why do we allow smoking in public?" Nahal would like to see private designated areas.

Councillor Scott Anderson helped in the process to bring the transit delegation before the council.

"I can guarantee you on July 1 people will break out a joint and say that this my right now, and that isn't going to fly. It is going to bother a lot of people."

Anderson is in favour of some kind of regulation before July 1, and when the council does decide on this, he says he will decide on this with marijuana in mind.

"I am not against legalization, but as this has to be put into consideration. This probably won't be put in as a provincial regulation, and if it is it will be a lot laxer than it should be. So as a municipality we should be doing something."

Council will now look at the proposal and decide what makes sense for the community and bring it before staff at the next meeting.

"What we will have to do is take a look at which of those recommendations we really agree with and which ones we don't," said councillor Katherine Lord.



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