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City wants no butts on beaches

Coun. John Vassilaki wants to know the cost of amending the no-smoking bylaw to ban smoking on beaches. He and council debated the issue at Monday night's council meeting.

By Shannon Quesnel

Penticton's leadership wants smokers to butt out before hitting the beach.

City councillors voted five-to-one at Monday's council meeting to ban smoking at publicly-owned beachesincluding Okanagan Lake, Skaha Lake, Marina Way, Sudbury Beach and Three Mile Beach.

Coun. Wesley Hopkin voted against the idea. He argued smoking is legal, the beaches are outdoor areas and people are free to destroy their own health provided no one else is hurt.

Hopkin supported a city ban on indoor smoking where second-hand smoke is a concern.

“When it comes to public areas, such as beaches and parks... I have a hard time saying we as a government should be enforcing healthy lifestyles on people,” he said.

He said he knows people should not be smoking. He called the habit a terrible one.

“Everyone knows you shouldn't do that, but there are some people who still do. We still live in a free country and if you want to destroy your body you have the right to do that. That right ends when you affect other people.”

Coun. Garry Litke countered with how much smoking costs the health care system.

“People exercising their right becomes our responsibility,” he said. “We are saddled with spiraling, unsustainable health care costs that consume half of our provincial budget and yet 20 per cent of the population of B.C. still smokes. And who ends up paying for their health problems? You and I do through our tax dollars.”

Hopkin fired back.

“Just because we as a society pay for the cost of people and the choices they make doesn't really justify us going in and making them make healthy lifestyle choices.”

Coun. John Vassilaki said enforcement might get expensive.

“I'd like to know how are we going to police this without hiring another five to 10 bylaw officers to go up and down our beaches looking for a guy trying to sneak a puff?”

Vassilaki said people might get into arguments over this as well.

“Are we going to have people on the beach fighting because somebody wants to smoke and someone is screaming at him that there's a bylaw?”

City operations director Mitch Moroziuk said people policing each other will be one of three enforcement methods. The other two will be patrols by bylaw and RCMP officers and annual no-smoking campaigns.

The city will now inform Interior Health and the Ministry of Health of its plans to amend its no-smoking bylaw.

If the amendment passes it will continue a trend Penticton started in the late '80s. Moroziuk said in 1987 Penticton banned smoking in many indoor spaces. Since then 48 municipalities have strict no-smoking rules in publicly-owned outdoor areas.

He said a 2008 survey learned most B.C. communities support a no-smoking rule for public areas, such as beaches, playgrounds, parks and sports fields. And in 2013 some Penticton businesses started banning smoking on their outdoor properties.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Shannon Quesnel at or call 250-488-3065.

News from © iNFOnews, 2013

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