It could become much more difficult to light up in Amherst if the town moves forward with a proposed non-smoking bylaw that will prohibit smoking on all town-owned properties. The question is how far is the town prepared to go to force smokers to butt out? Is dropping the hammer on smokers through a legislation going too far?
Under the proposed bylaw, that will be discussed during council’s regular meeting on Monday, the town will consider prohibiting smoking in all municipally-owned public parks and playgrounds, public walking trails and properties around town-owned buildings, including the town hall and library complex as well as the Amherst Stadium parking lot.
Smoking would also be banned on sidewalks and streets in school zones and on streets during public events and festivals such as Canada Day celebrations in Victoria Square.
Violating the bylaw could come with a fine of up to $200.
Amherst is following the lead of other municipalities in clamping down on smoking. Bridgewater has banned smoking from all town properties, Truro from the public portion of Inglis Place, and Kentville doesn’t allow smoking at any town-owned recreational facility.
The move comes after a presentation in January from the Canadian Cancer Society urging the town to support smoke-free recreation spaces. While the society is advocating a voluntary ban, with signage, Amherst’s proposal goes much farther.
The dangers of smoking and second-hand smoke are well publicized and the impact on the health budget enormous. Every year, too many people lose their battle to disease brought on by years of smoking – whether through cancer, emphysema or COPD.
There are some who will applaud the town for taking a tough stance on smoking, there will be those questioning how far it needs to go to send the message. The cancer society itself has indicated that 90 per cent of smokers will abide by signs asking them to butt out. It’s the other 10 per cent the town is trying to deal with.
Having a tough bylaw is one thing, enforcing it is another battle. Several town councillors have already expressed concerns with having bylaw enforcement officers lurking around every park and town building willingly handing out tickets.
Going to a bylaw may be putting the cart before the horse and could anger more people than intended. Public education and raising awareness through a voluntary effort may be the best prescription. The big stick of a bylaw is something that could come later if smokers don’t volunteer to butt out.