City council is in support of cracking down on smoking in outdoor spaces.
During Monday nights meeting, representatives from the Canadian Cancer Society made a case for introducing a bylaw banning smoking in public places in order to reduce the exposure of children to second-hand smoke.
Council offered unanimous support for staff to return a report on the implications of such a bylaw.
Well make this one of our priority reports, said city manager Beth James.
While people have a right to smoke, said Mayor Shari Green, the question is where do they have that right?
"Is it in their home, is it in their car, or is it in a place that impacts other people who have a right not to be exposed to second-hand smoke?" she said. "And you have to balance as a council and in public policy the greater good and the benefit of the community over the individual."
Cancer society health promotion co-ordinator Kerensa Medhurst said Prince George has an opportunity to stand out in the region, citing 27 B.C. communities that already have similar bylaws.
Youll notice theres no northern communities on this list, said Medhurst. Im hoping that after our presentation, Prince George will want to be a leader.
According to Medhurst, smoking bans in public places not only reduce exposure to second-hand smoke, but they also lead to a reduction in community tobacco use.
She cited statistics that say tobacco kills more than 6,000 British Columbians per year, which Medhurst said is more than the mortality rate for breast and colorectal cancers combined.
This is a great cause youre bringing before us, said Coun. Dave Wilbur. To me, its a no-brainer and cause I fully support.
Which public places would be affected by a prospective smoking ban are yet to be determined and will be included in the staff report.
According to the Canadian Cancer Society, strong outdoor smoking bylaws typically include all city-managed properties including trails, plazas, parks and recreation facilities; bar and restaurant patios; and exemptions for traditional tobacco use in First Nations ceremonies.
The bylaws need to fit the need of each community, said Medhurst.
Though they supported the idea, there were concerns among councillors over a potential bylaws enforceability.
A bylaw officer wouldnt get to an offender in time to issue a ticket, said Coun. Brian Skakun.
Some people are going to smoke around others and there are other smokers who are considerate, Skakun acknowledged.
Public safety and civic facilities director Rob Whitwham said more research would have to be done regarding the enforcement issue. He said that in Vancouver, they rely on education to achieve their objective. Bylaw enforcement is a secondary piece, he said.
Such a bylaw would be more about education and changing behaviour over time, as opposed to handing out tickets, said Medhurst.
I believe, as a former smoker, the education does work, said Coun. Frank Everitt.