By Lyonel Doherty
Smokers in Oliver will soon have to be very mindful where they light up in the Wine Capital of Canada.
Smoking where you’re not supposed to in Oliver could cost you $50 for a first offence and $400 for a third offence under the new Smoke Free Bylaw.
On Monday, Town council was all set to give first three readings to the draft bylaw, but more questions have prompted the municipality to go back to the drawing board.
The bylaw severely limits where people can smoke in public. In fact, smoking will be prohibited in virtually all public spaces in Oliver.
Where can you smoke, then? Good question.
Last month members of council asked a bunch of questions for staff regarding bylaw enforcement, definitions and fines.
For example, customer service area means a partially enclosed or unenclosed area including a balcony, patio, yard or sidewalk that is part of a business. Under the draft bylaw, you won’t be able to smoke in these areas anymore, which seriously concerns Murphy’s Pub and Grill owner Christine Mackinnon.
“I hate smoking. I can’t handle it. But 90 per cent of people smoke here,” she told the Chronicle.
Mackinnon said she would definitely lose customers if this bylaw is adopted the way it reads now.
“I would shut down . . . I don’t have business.”
Mackinnon said she totally understands prohibiting smoking in parks and playgrounds because of the health implications for children. But banning smoking in designated areas of a business will have too much of a negative impact.
“Where do you want people to smoke? How far do you have to go?” she asks.
Mackinnon said the government should stop selling cigarettes if they are so bad for people’s health.
“So stop selling it. Why sell it if you know it’s bad?”
Town council has directed staff to communicate with businesses such as Murphy’s Pub to discuss their situations.
The bylaw would also prohibit smoking at outdoor public events where the public is invited to gather on Town-owned, controlled or operated property.
Public outdoor spaces are also on the list for no smoking. That’s any area owned or controlled by the Town, such as a children’s playground, playing field, trail, recreational facility, utility easement or street when used as part of an outdoor event.
Enforcement of the bylaw will be performed by bylaw enforcement officers only.
Deputy Corporate Officer Linda Schultz said preliminary research of fines shows a range of not less than $25 (and not more than $75) for the first offence.
Councillor Larry Schwartzenberger suggested that a first offence should be hit with a $50 fine, while the second should cost $100. A third offence should have a $400 penalty, he added.
Schwartzenberger questioned a section of the bylaw that prohibits smoking in customer service areas. He reminded council that Murphy’s Pub has a patio that allows smoking, so he wanted to know if these businesses can continue to have them.
“Will they be shut down?” the councillor asked.
Schultz said she spoke to Interior Health and was told the Town’s bylaw will supersede any patio exemptions. In this case, smoking in those areas will be prohibited under the new bylaw, she confirmed.
“I’m not sure if we want to do that,” said Councillor Dave Mattes.
He said if the Town deletes “customer service area” from the bylaw, this will allow the businesses to operate the way they do now.
Sid Ruhland from the Firehall Brewery said
smoking is prohibited in the areas they control (including the Beer Shop’s outdoor patio).
He noted that smokers must leave the business to smoke, though there are ashtrays set up on the property away from the business because. He said staff have problems with smokers littering and causing fires.
“Unfortunately, many people disobey our signage and requests, and smoke on the patio, and then ash out their butts in our flower pots, dog dishes, or on the patio floor.”
Ruhland said they continue to post signage and actively request smokers to smoke off-site.
“I pull butts out of my kids’ hands and mouths on a regular basis here, which is super frustrating and disappointing.”
Ruhland said many smokers dispose of their butts properly, but many do not, which works against the family-friendly and community-oriented social space that staff at the brewery work hard to achieve.
One downtown smoker, who wished to remain anonymous, said she feels singled out by the bylaw.
“As it is, we already feel like losers.”
The woman fears the bylaw will force smokers to hide out and smoke in the bushes and back alleys.
“I know it’s a shitty habit, but it’s an addiction and people need help quitting.”
Why not create a smoker’s rehabilitation centre here? she pointed out.
The woman said the Town will need to hire more bylaw officers to enforce the new rules, especially when the fruit pickers converge in Oliver this summer.
The draft bylaw will come back to council on May 28 for first, second and third reading.