Halifax Regional Council voted to ban smoking in hundreds of new outdoor areas across the Halifax Regional Municipality last night.
It was done to protect children from second-hand smoke, though kids don’t need to be present at the time. Instead staff will pick a list of areas – such as sports fields and skate parks – that are frequented by children.
Council chose to enact the new ban through a policy rather than a bylaw. That means it is implemented immediately without public consultation. But there will be a two-month waiting period before staff pick which of HRM’s 900 sites will be smoke-free.
Purcell’s Cove-Armdale Coun. Linda Mosher proposed the motion after hearing complaints of coaches and parents smoking around children’s sports games.
“What kind of message does it send if a coach is standing there smoking?” she asked.
Many councillors said they’d like to go even further, with Debbie Hum (Rockingham-Wentworth) saying she’d like to ban smoking altogether.
Others questioned whether the policy goes too far. Deputy Mayor David Hendsbee called it “heavy-handed” because smoking could be banned from an entire park just because of a canteen or baseball diamond in one corner.
“You’ve got to be somewhat reasonable in your approach,” Hendsbee said.
Fairview-Clayton Park Coun. Russel Walker said council should be asking for public opinion rather than “going through the back door” and approving it without consultation.
But when it came time to vote, council unanimously supported the motion.
Two places automatically included in the ban are Point Pleasant Park and Hemlock Ravine Park. Both were already declared smoke free in 2003 because downed trees from Hurricane Juan could be a fire hazard. Smoking is also banned on artificial turf fields to protect their surfaces.
Staff admitted rigorous enforcement of the new policy wouldn’t be possible and it would instead depend on public education.