Opinion: Incentive to butt out

There may not be 100 per cent compliance, but the bylaw may be enough to discourage some from sharing their habit with those around them.

Like removing a band-aide, Chilliwack’s decision to ban smoking in outdoor public places was short, sharp and effective.

It left a sting for some, but for most there was relief.

Chilliwack had hinted change was coming after temporary “No Smoking” signs had gone up on city trails weeks ago.

But on Tuesday, city staff introduced a new bylaw that now makes it illegal to light up in city parks, playgrounds, along trails or at any outdoor sporting event or special function. Bus stops and entrances to swimming pools and skating rinks must also be given a wide berth.

Failure to comply could lead to a $500 fine.

The move drew unanimous approval.

Support for the new bylaw came on two fronts: health and safety.

The city brought in representatives from Fraser Health, who pointed out smoking related deaths in Chilliwack rank 30 per cent higher than the provincial average.

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

Support also came from the Chilliwack fire department. Firefighters have been called out to 134 grass and bark mulch fires this year caused by tossed cigarettes. That’s an increase of 200 per cent over last year.

And while the new bylaw will do little to prevent motorists from tossing butts out their car window, the bigger concern is the damage they could do if they were dropped on a tinder-dry trail.

Reaction to the bylaw was predictable. Those who smoke see this as another attack on their right to enjoy a product that is legal. Even some non-smokers argued the move was excessive and likely unenforceable.

However, there were also those who breathed a sigh of relief. There may not be 100 per cent compliance, but the bylaw may be enough to discourage some from sharing their habit with those around them.

And who knows, the bylaw might provide the final incentive for someone to butt out completely and improve Chilliwack’s dismal record for smoking related deaths.