Within the next few months, smoking of any kind throughout the Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) will only be allowed in designated smoking areas.
But the municipal government still hasn’t decided where those places will be, even though these sweeping changes are expected shortly after Labour Day.
“Enforcement is a very difficult issue. [I think bylaw officers] will need to be really friendly about it and try to avoid confrontation because smokers you know, they’re addicted, so they’re going to be tense about things like this,” Barry Boyce said, a Halifax citizen who smokes from ‘from time to time.’
This April, Regional Council requested city staff create a report that recommends the municipal framework for upcoming cannabis legalization.
That report was recently presented to Regional Council and recommendations to amend existing bylaws were passed.
The amendments that have generated a wave of public reaction is the prohibition of smoking on all municipal land unless otherwise indicated.
“This is pretty heavy-handed when our federal government wanted to make this [cannabis] regulated and decriminalized and we locally make it more regulated with more legislation,” Matt Whitman said, the councilor for District 13.
Whitman was one of three regional councillors who voted against the amendments.
Councillor Tim Outhit and Richard Zurawski were the others.
The estimated annual cost of enforcing an all-out smoking ban and restrictions around cannabis cultivation is estimated at around $970,000 a year and could have a direct impact on the 2018/19 operating budget, according to the report.
Costs include the need for an additional eight By-law Compliance Officers and modifications to existing signage.
The annual expense is anticipated to be partially offset by the collection of fine revenue.
“I think it’s going to be very, very hard to enforce the new bylaw and I’m not willing to pay a lot of money for the illusion of enforcement. So, I’m not convinced that it’s possible to enforce this,” Whitman said.
Tobacco smoking in Nova Scotia is already regulated by the Smoke Free Places Act.
Municipalities have the authority to pass bylaws that put additional restrictions in place.
WATCH: Sweeping changes coming to where people can smoke in Halifax Regional Municipality
Councillor Whitman feels the decision by regional council to outright ban smoking on all municipal property unless otherwise indicated isn’t the right approach.
“I think we almost had the balance as is. You’re currently not allowed to smoke outside of buildings and on sidewalks, in front of businesses, so we already had it, we just needed to enforce it and so now what we’ve agreed to pay for is for a lack of enforcement,” he said.
According to the Halifax city staff report, cannabis smoke has many of the same chemicals as tobacco smoke and therefore health officials consider cannabis to have the same negative health implications as second-hand tobacco smoke.
The report also views banning smoking as a tool for preventing the ‘normalization’ of cannabis use in children and youth.
The report goes on to explain that only banning cannabis would require laboratory testing to prove the substance in question was indeed marijuana.
While occasional tobacco smoker Barry Boyce recognizes that smoking carries many health risks, he cautions that an outright ban would increase negative stigma against smokers of any kind.
“I know some of the commentators make smokers sound like evil people and that’s just not a helpful attitude. We’re talking about health here, the health of everybody, so smokers are not evil. They just need a place to do it,” he said.
The Chief Administrative Officer of the municipality will have the ability to choose where designated smoking spaces will be.
Whitman feels enforcing those specific places throughout the municipality will be challenging.
“It’s one thing to choose the areas in downtown Halifax but HRM runs from beyond Sheet Harbour all the way to Hubbards,” Whitman said.
“So are staff going to visit every one of the 16 districts and pick out where to smoke in Clayton Park and Fairview and Spryfield and Chezzetcook? It’s just not a reality. What we have now is a system that isn’t broken, what is broken is the fact that the current system is not enforced.”
According to the report, unlawful smoking could lead to fines of $25 to $2,000.
© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.