Victoria considers the toughest smoking bylaw in Canada

The city of Victoria is considering one of the toughest laws in Canada to restrict smoking in public ... so tough, some councillors believe it can't possibly be enforced. (Reuters/Eric Gaillard)

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As Victoria and communities in the surrounding region consider tougher smoking bylaws, some say this infringes on civil liberties, while others in various parts of the world believe the regular restrictions have done all they can do and prescription restrictions or outlawing tobacco are part of their discussion.

"I've tried to quit 12 times. It's tough. My question is if they don't want anyone to smoke, why are they still selling the cigarettes and making all that tax money and all the money related to selling the product. It's so easy to buy cigarettes and so we get mixed messages. I think it'd be better for everybody if they just said ... this is a banned product, it kills you, it gives you cancer, it's bad for your health, it's bad for second hand smokers, it's bad for everybody. So why not just make that very clear for everybody and then not make it available."

Mercedes, who was nonetheless enjoying a cigarette outside in Victoria, B.C.

The new law being proposed by city councilors in Victoria and some of its neighbouring municipalities doesn't go as far as she's suggesting ... but it would bring the region in line with the harshest anti-smoking laws in Canada.

Smokers would be prevented from lighting up in any public square, playground, park, or on a sidewalk within 7 metres of a building ... something critics say would make it practically illegal to smoke just about anywhere downtown.

Dr. Murray Fyfe is the city's Medical Health Officer at Island Health. He supports the proposed bylaw and he was in Victoria.

Some councilors say the changes to the Clean Air Bylaw in the Capital Regional District go too far. Ben Isitt proposes a middle ground that would include "designated smoking areas" in and around Victoria. Ben Isitt is a Victoria City Councilor who also serves on the Regional Government which is proposing the new bylaw. He was in Victoria.

This kind of debate has been playing out across Canada as jurisdictions struggle with how to balance the rights and liberties of smokers and non-smokers alike. And according to Cynthia Callard, that balancing act is likely to get more difficult ... because the strategies governments have been using up until now aren't going to be as effective in the future. Cynthia Callard is the Executive Director of Physicians for a Smoke Free Canada. She was in Montreal.


What do you think of this bylaw? Is it going too far? Or a great idea?

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This segment was produced by The Current's Sarah Grant and Deanne Bender.

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