Ottawa Bluesfest to go smoke free

This year's blues music festival aims to ban smoking but National Capital Commission land, where the event is to be held, has no rules that limit or restrict lighting up.
Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips performs at Bluesfest in 2011. (Patrick Doyle/Ottawa Bluesfest/Canadian Press)

Bluesfest 2013 is going smoke free, but there are questions about whether the music festival can make the new rule stick.

Festival director Mark Monahan himself quit smoking this winter. But while there is a city bylaw against smoking in public places — the music festival is held on National Capital Commission land.

The NCC doesn't have its own no-smoking policy, or the authority to enforce such a rule. City bylaw officials also have no mandate to enforce city rules outside of city property.

But an NCC spokesperson hopes festivalgoers heed the event's new edict on lighting up.

"Since last year, event promoters on NCC lands have been expected to put up signage promoting the city's smoke-free bylaw," said NCC spokesman Jean Wolff.

Bluesfest organizers say they don't know yet how the policy will be enforced, or whether it will apply to performers.

Mike Rouleau, director of operations for Bluesfest, said by the time gates open on July 4, they'll know who can and can't smoke.

Ottawa Bluesfest's new smoke-free attitude is music to the ears of Carol McDonald, president of the Ottawa Council on Smoking, but will the musicians who want to light up on stage pay attention to the signs?

"We want this for everyone, we want it for the performers, the workers, the volunteers," said McDonald.

McDonald said she hope peer pressure will be enough to keep fans from smoking, and spreading second-hand smoke.

The Ottawa Council on Smoking is in favour of the new rule. The group points to a  recent study by the Canadian Expert Panel on Tobacco Smoke that showed young women who are exposed to second-hand smoke are at increased risk of breast cancer.