Sunshine Coast residents are being surveyed on whether they would support bylaws that ban smoking from parks, beaches, trails and restaurant patios.
The survey, which is being distributed by Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH), also asks respondents if they want to see the provincial ban on smoking within three metres of a public building extended to six metres.
“It doesn’t have to be all those options,” said VCH regional tobacco reduction coordinator Caitlin Etherington, who is spearheading the survey. “It’s a matter of what makes the most sense for the Sunshine Coast.”
Noting that “one of the central pillars of tobacco reduction is protection,” Etherington said the purpose of the survey is to determine “if people perceive it as a problem and if there’s support from the public for enhanced bylaws.”
The next step after the survey, she said, will be forming a Sunshine Coast tobacco task force, composed of “interested citizens” who will sift through the survey results and decide on what measures, if any, should be taken.
Etherington said she did not want to approach local governments requesting tougher anti-smoking bylaws “unless there’s real public support” for the changes.
“I don’t know for sure that we’ll even go to the municipalities — that will be up to the task force,” she said, adding that requested action might not be in the form of a new bylaw. “It’s not going to be me. I want it to be what the community is thinking about the issue.”
The survey was expected to remain active until Dec. 31, but will now be wrapped up at the end of September, Etherington said, calling the response to date “tremendous,” with about 250 completed surveys turned in.
Etherington said a small number of restaurant patios on the Coast can allow smoking because the patios are not “substantially enclosed” and lie more than three metres from the door.
Enforcing bans on beaches and in parks would not be a major issue, she said.
“What they’ve found in other regions is that enforcement is almost a non-issue. Once the signs are up, people generally comply and self-enforce. Generally the enforcement and compliance 80 per cent of the time just happens,” she said.
Several Lower Mainland municipalities have adopted tougher anti-smoking bylaws in recent years, with Surrey, White Rock, and the districts of North Vancouver and West Vancouver among those banning smoking from beaches and parks.
Etherington stressed that the restrictions are being floated “not because we want to control people, but to save lives,” and said there are two main reasons to push for more restrictive smoking bylaws.
“The first is secondhand smoke, which is unsafe at any level. The second is a shift in culture so it is easier to quit and more unlikely that young people will start,” she said. “Smoking remains the number one preventable cause of disability and death — stronger bylaws are one of the most effective things we can do to stop it.”
The survey is available at the libraries, recreation centres and municipal halls in Gibsons and Sechelt, the Sechelt Indian Band health and social development building, the Gumboot Café in Roberts Creek and the health centre in Pender Harbour. For more information about the survey or the tobacco task force, contact Etherington at 604-885-8708 or email email@example.com.