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Smoke ban bylaw vote postponed, gets overhaul

by Keith Corcoran

 BRIDGEWATER - Civic politicians here have postponed first reading and are overhauling a bylaw that would ban smoking in many parts of town.

 Streets and sidewalks - the most controversial inclusion in the legislation - are out of the mix unless there's a parade in progress in which case smoking would be outlawed.

 Councillor Kevin Marlin, a bylaw proponent, said the postponement happened for good reason in order to find legislation that works and reflects the advice from agencies such as the Canadian Cancer Society and Smoke-Free Nova Scotia.

 "Certainly their advice is to take an incremental approach and council now has to decide what the first incremental step will be," he said after last week's council meeting.

 The draft bylaw now focuses on deterring smoking in what advocates define as community gathering areas.

 It was Sharon MacIntosh of Smoke-Free Nova Scotia and Michael Derosenroll of the Canadian Cancer Society who urged the town last week to consider a piecemeal approach focused on outdoor areas where children are likely to be present.

 "Our view is that the key objective of such a bylaw from a health perspective is to reduce exposure to second-hand smoke. Therefore, it makes sense to focus the bylaw on those areas," Mr. Derosenroll said.

 The latest draft of the bylaw reads that smoking would be banned in a park, playground or outdoor recreation facility such as sports fields or grandstands; on the grounds around town buildings; during an event open to the public such as festivals or exhibitions; and on a path or trail within town, and in a cemetery.

 The mention of exhibitions prompted council to make sure the South Shore Exhibition Commission was consulted before the bylaw debate went any further.

 "I don't think it's fair to blindside an organization with a bylaw that's substantive and that would have, I think, a wide-ranging effect on their activities so at the very least I wanted to get their input before we make a final decision," noted Councillor Bill McInnis.

 It was expected to be a full gallery with many opting to speak out against the bylaw.

 Postings on the protest site created on the social network Facebook encourage people to attend.

 But just two people spoke out, telling the town that the original draft bylaw that included streets and sidewalks in the ban was too much.

 Peter Roberts said he felt the bylaw was impractical and didn't see how it could be enforced.

 He said Bridgewater could be "opening a can of worms" that should be left for other levels of government, if they wish to handle it.

 Ken Edwards quit a three-pack-a-day habit in 1973. "There's a lot of people that just think that just has gone way too far," he said.

 "When it comes to telling the people what they can do, 'What's next?' is what I'm hearing. What's next?"

 Deputy Mayor David Walker said he wants the whole bylaw issue dropped.

 "I think that it is ironic that on a day when the province of Nova Scotia produces the best results in smoking reduction in five years, we've chosen that time to, all of a sudden, come down with the heavy hand and arm of the law and say we're now going to get everybody to go cold turkey."

 But Bridgewater is taking a sensible, reasonable and practical approach, Mayor Carroll Publicover said.

 "The intent of council is to try and bring about a bylaw that addresses second-hand smoking in areas where large number of people congregate and I'm really pleased that's the direction that we're headed.

 "I think the former direction was not appropriate."

 The vote on first reading is scheduled for February 11.

 Councillor Marlin originally proposed the bylaw idea in October when he was inspired by a high school's request to designate smoke-free areas between school zone signs.

posted on 02/05/08
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