If you’re a smoker who enjoys puffing throughout the Halifax Regional Municipality, prepare for your smoking location to be heavily restricted.
“We’re changing completely the way you look at smokers in Halifax. Whereas currently, smokers walk down the street and they will smoke anywhere they want until they see a sign that says ‘no smoking’ and then they put their cigarettes out. What we’re going into is a situation where you can’t smoke unless you see a sign,” Brendan Elliott said, a senior communications advisor with Halifax.
This week, regional council voted 13-3 in favour of amendments to the nuisance bylaw that would significantly restrict smoking in public places throughout the municipality.
The incoming changes mean smoking will only be allowed on municipal properties such as sidewalks, streets, parks and trails where there is a designated smoking sign.
Otherwise, smoking of any kind is prohibited.
“We know there’s going to be a demand for smoking cannabis and for smoking tobacco. There already is. So we’ll be looking for places, and we already are actively looking for places where we’ll have those designated smoking areas,” said Coun. Shawn Cleary.
The amendments came as a shock to some Halifax business community members.
“I thought it was sort of done very sneakily,” said Erik Greiner, bar manager at the Old Triangle Irish Alehouse in downtown Halifax. “There was no consultation. Nobody really had any warning about it and we still don’t really know when it’s taking effect.”
According to the city staff report that regional council voted on, there was “community engagement” regarding the proposed changes.
However, those engagements weren’t open to the public and didn’t include members of the business community.
Greiner says his main concern is over who will be responsible for enforcing the new changes.
“If we see patrons outside that are smoking, I want to know am I obliged to actually go out and say to them, to educate them on what the new bylaws are? Do I have to direct them to a smoking zone, [and] if I do, where is the smoking zone? And am I sending people who might have had a beer or two two blocks up the road to have a cigarette, and can I do that in safety?” Greiner said.
According to city officials, an extra eight bylaw enforcement officers are being hired to take on the new amendments.
Fines could be issued between $25-$2,000, but are being seen as a “last resort.”
“It’s a lot easier to come in strict in the beginning and then loosen the reigns than to come in with something that’s not as strict and then make it stricter,” Elliott said. “We’re not out here trying to outlaw smoking, we just want to put sings where it makes sense.”
Greiner feels the decision is “heavy-handed” by the government, regardless of the fact that designated smoking spaces will be made available and that it will negatively impact not only local citizens but tourists as well.
“It’s going to impact tourism, it’s going to impact people who don’t know Halifax, who are visitors to our city and do I have to educate every single person who comes through the door?”Greiner wonders.
“Welcome to Halifax, by the way, you can’t smoke here,”
Currently, over 1,000 signs are being produced to indicate where smoking will be allowed throughout the municipality.
The new law is expected to be rolled out a few weeks before marijuana legalization on October 17.
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