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North Van snuffs out smoking in green spaces

The City of North Vancouver is about to go smoke-free and the District of North Van is also cutting down.

The City of North Vancouver is about to go smoke-free and the District of North Van is also cutting down.

Cigarettes, cigars, pipes, bongs, joints, e-cigarettes, hookahs and vape pens are now verboten in city parks and plazas and on city paths, following a Nov. 4 meeting. The only grey area in the policy may be enforcement.

The city’s six-person bylaw team has so far received 2,585 complaints in 2019, according to bylaws manager Paul Duffy.

“We have all the tools we need as far as enforcing this bylaw. The staff, maybe not so much,” he told council. “I think we’re reaching capacity with that number of staff.”

City bylaw officers generally work in teams of three, seven days a week. One officer per shift focuses on parking while other officers focus primarily on areas such as construction complaints, graffiti, illegal suites and animal control.

Duffy suggested bylaw officers could spend time in city parks explaining the policy to residents and essentially merge the smoking and off-leash dog beats.

Alerting residents may allow smokers to “self-enforce,” Coun. Tina Hu suggested.

While there was some question as to whether smoking would be entirely banned in the Shipyards, Mayor Linda Buchanan suggested treating the waterfront area as a smoke-free gathering place was an “obvious extension” of the policy.

Council also voted unanimously to start a cigarette butt recycling program and to develop a policy opposing vaping advertisements on city property such as bus shelters.

While the city’s previous mayor expressed concern that cigarette receptacles could exacerbate the problem by making smoking more acceptable, Buchanan ultimately decided that the environmental harm posed by flicked butts washing into waterways was the more pressing concern. “I’d love to see that we have a completely non-smoking population but we’re not there yet,” she said.

There has also seemed to be a huge uptick in complaints regarding cigarette litter recently, Buchanan said.

The ban includes the Green Necklace and Spirit Trail, although residents can still smoke on sidewalks provided they aren’t within 7.5 metres of a building.

While Canadian judges have previously deemed that smokers are not a group suffering social, political or legal disadvantages, city staff noted that the city “could be susceptible to a Charter of a Human Rights Code challenge,” according to a staff report.

Meanwhile, District of North Vancouver council is moving to stub out the darts in district parks.

District council reviewed its parks bylaw in 2018 but opted to continue to allow smoking in parks as long as it was done more than six metres from children’s playgrounds, playing fields, swimming beaches, food concessions, or picnic areas and in any part of a park where there is a public event.

After lobbying by members of the public, council voted unanimously Nov. 4 to apply the ban to all parts of municipal parks, as well as wooded trails that aren’t within designated park areas.

Those caught vaping, or smoking tobacco or cannabis, will be subject to a $100 fine, up from the $25 fine the district previously had in place.

After agreeing a ban would cut down on noxious fumes and toxic litter and reduce wildfire risk, support from council was unanimous.

“I think a lot of people thought we probably already banned it in our trails. Why would anybody walk in a trail with a cigarette? It seems a little counterintuitive as to why you would be in that trail in the first place,” said Coun. Lisa Muri, introducing the motion.

Matina Spiropoulos, the Lynn Valley resident who organized a campaign to ban smoking in parks, welcomed the news and said she was thankful to council for listening. “Most of all, I would like to thank everyone who took the time to write their letters to DNV. This decision benefits us all. Enjoy the fresh air on the trails,” she said.

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