The push to go smoke-free outdoors in Chilliwack addresses both fire safety concerns and serious health issues.

The push to go smoke-free outdoors in Chilliwack addresses both fire safety concerns and serious health issues.

Outdoor smoking ban in Chilliwack addresses health and fire issues

Chilliwack takes the next step toward becoming completely smoke-free and will rely on self policing for the most part

Forget about having that cigarette break sitting on a park bench or at an outdoor event.

Chilliwack is taking the next step toward becoming completely smoke-free — both inside and out.

They’ve just drafted a new bylaw to formally ban smoking in outdoor public spaces.

“Many municipalities have gone in this direction,” said Mayor Sharon Gaetz, citing no-smoking rules adopted in Vancouver, Victoria, White Rock, and Whistler as examples.

Council unanimously voted in July to have staff draft a bylaw to prohibit smoking in outdoor public spaces, and it came before council and was passed at the Tuesday council meeting.

“The (outdoor smoking ban) could be somewhat hard to enforce and it’s always difficult to ask someone to butt out,” she said. “Education and self policing are the avenues we intend to pursue with this.”

The push to go smoke-free outdoors in Chilliwack addresses fire safety concerns from the spike in smoking related wild fires and bark mulch fires, most of which are caused by carelessness of smokers.

With a big spike in grass fires and bark mulch fires, city officials were asking people this summer not to smoke in parks, trails and other public spaces across Chilliwack.

“This year the Fire Department has seen a 200 per cent increase in such fires,” according to the city staff report in the Aug. 18 council agenda package.

By this time last year there were only 45 bark mulch or grass fires reported. But there have been a whopping 134 fires in the same time frame this year.

But an outdoor smoking ban is also about health considerations, and the dangers of second-hand smoke.

Fraser Health and Canadian Cancer Society officials submitted an extensive background document, mapping out a number of health benefits for Chilliwack by going smoke-free outdoors, and they appeared in council chambers Tuesday to give a presentation.

“Chilliwack would benefit from a ban on outdoor smoking even in the absence of any wildfire risk,” according to the document.

Chilliwack’s average rate of smoking attributable deaths is 30 per cent higher than the B.C. average.

“Environmental and economic research and data illustrates clear and timely positive impacts on public safety, protection and health,” according to the backgrounder.

“The City of Chilliwack is to be commended for its leadership in this important initiative.”

jfeinberg@theprogress.com

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