There’s a good chance that Dr. Stuart Kreisman will enjoy the seawall and beaches of Stanley Park quite soon without inhaling secondhand cigarette smoke.
Kreisman, a doctor and endocrinologist with St. Paul’s Hospital, likes to jog, bike, and in-line skate at any time of the year in the park, and he’s not happy having smokers around puffing away.
“I find it to be bothersome and inappropriate that individuals who are looking for healthy time on the beaches end up breathing in somebody else’s secondhand smoke,” Kreisman told the Straight. “The excuse that this is outdoors doesn’t cut it.”
Kreisman has been working with the staff of the Vancouver park board on a smoking ban on the city’s parks, beaches, and trails, and it looks like some form of prohibition will soon be in place.
Vision Vancouver park board commissioner Raj Hundal told the Straight that the board is expected to take up on February 1 a staff recommendation on how to deal with smoking in the city’s park system.
Hundal recalled that staff conducted a survey last year about this issue, and respondents overwhelmingly supported the idea of a smoking regulation.
He clarified that the measure might not be a total ban but rather may involve the establishment of smoke-free zones.
“This is coming up for discussion,” Hundal said when asked how large the zones would be.
The park commissioner noted that the city would not be the first to deal with smoking in public parks. He said that the City of White Rock, City of West Vancouver, and the District of North Vancouver all have smoke-free beaches, playgrounds, and playing fields.
Many members of the previous park board have said that they wanted to ban smoking but they failed to follow through on this matter.
The smokers’ rights group MyChoice.ca doesn’t have a B.C. talking head, but its Quebec-based spokesperson Arminda Mota spoke to the Straight by phone about this potential move by the Vancouver park board.
“My short comment would be, when will the craziness stop?” Mota asked.
According to her, the anti-smoking movement has accomplished very little in reducing the smoking rate in the country.
“The more aggressive the anti-smokers get, the less people quit,” Mota said. “There is a hardcore of about 20 percent of the population, which is exactly five million adults in Canada right now.”
Mota noted that smoking is already banned in a lot of places. “My question is, how come they don’t ban it [cigarettes] period?” she said. “Take it off the market if it’s too bad for us.”
Mota said that it’s a fact that smoking is bad for health. But she also noted that “bullying” and making smokers feel guilty “doesn’t help”. She said that education is an effective way of reducing smoking.
Kreisman believes in a more robust intervention.
“The less places people can smoke, the less likely they are to smoke,” Kreisman said. “We don’t want young kids on the beach looking at a whole bunch of teenagers smoking, and saying, ”˜Look how cool they are.’”
Kreisman added, “People who start smoking don’t start as adults. They start as children. Ninety percent of smokers start before the age of 18.”