Update: 6meter No-Smoking bylaw means nothing in Vancouver

***Updates at the bottom of the post

I was walking downtown yesterday past the BCIT campus on Seymour  and I choked on a giant cloud of cigarette smoke billowing from the dozens of students smoking on the sidewalk right between two signs like this.

Not only were they not 6 meters away from the doors, they were leaning up against these signs posted on the wall. I couldn’t believe the absolute disregard for the bylaw, let alone the hundreds of people that had to walk through this plume of smoke to either walk down the sidewalk or walk into BCIT.

This isn’t the only place that’s like this. On any given day, especially around lunch time, the alleys are filled with smokers polluting the air. Any sidewalk that crosses an alley, which is pretty much all of them, subjects every person to walk through a cloud of smoke.

This got me wondering as to who enforces this 6 meter smoke-free bylaw.

I reached out through Twitter and started asking questions, first to the Vancouver Police Department. They responded fairly quickly with this tweet.

I then asked the question again to the City of Vancouver and got no response so I started to do my own research as to who enforces Health ByLaw 9535 s. 2.2.

The bylaw reads as follows:

As this reads, it would be safe to assume that the entire downtown core should be almost entirely smoke free. 6 meters is 20 feet and most sidewalks are less than 20 feet from the building to the road and the doorways from one establishment to another are also less than 20 feet in most cases. Even finding space in a back alley that is not within 6 meters of a doorway or air intake is hard.

In principle the bylaw is great. It explains what “a person” or smoker is not permitted to do but the “enforcement” really doesn’t enforce anything. Other that stating that “a responsible person must not allow a person to smoke”, there is no indication of responsibility for who enforces this, how it’s monitored or any threat of fines. It sounds like it’s the responsibility of everyone to not allow people to break this law.  So are we expected to become vigilantes?

Unless I’m missing something, to me this by law does nothing  to change smokers behaviors. It just says it’s illegal. To the smoker that doesn’t care about their health or the health of those around them, this bylaw is really just a formal way of asking them to please not smoke within 6 meters of a doorway or air intake. The responsibility lies entirely with the offender who really doesn’t care in the first place.

To me this is unacceptable because non-smokers still have to walk through these clouds of smoke, sometimes with kids, getting exposed to second hand smoke and ultimately cancer.

How do we solve this? Who should enforce it? Should the businesses or landlords be responsible?

If the city is not enforcing this bylaw than maybe private security firms like the ones used by the  Downtown Vancouver Association to patrol downtown, could be utilized in a way to help change smokers behavior.

Either way, more needs to be done.

What do you think?

*Update #1

The City of Vancouver responded on Nov 2nd with this tweet which isn’t very encouraging. No tickets and it’s the businesses responsibility.

**Update #2

I tweeted the following yesterday as I heard of a new fines for dog owners that have misbehaving dogs. I was confused as to why our city would spend time and money on peoples pets rather than enforcing the smoking by law.

Well, the city responded and has forwarded my feedback to Vancouver Police. Will be interesting to these where this goes next.

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