Smoking

Three months in, two tickets issued under Halifax’s smoking bylaw

There are now 80 designated smoking areas in HRM as smokers adjust to new rules

Two smoking fines have been handed out since Halifax’s smoking bylaw went into effect in October, but the municipality says it’s still focusing on education.

Const. John MacLeod, spokesperson for Halifax Regional Police, confirmed tickets for $183.95 and $25 were issued on Oct. 19 and Nov. 26, respectively. Both were for smoking tobacco.

Dartmouth Centre Coun. Sam Austin wasn’t aware of this, but he’s not surprised.

“Well, I mean that is the bylaw, right?” Austin said.

Bylaw N-300 bans the smoking and vaping of tobacco and cannabis on municipal property, except in a designated smoking area, or DSA. The bylaw came into effect on Oct. 15, two days before the legalization of cannabis in Canada. Fines range from $25 to $2,000.

Tobacco was included in the bylaw so enforcement officers would not have to distinguish between it and cannabis when enforcing the ban.

The two tickets were issued on Spring Garden Road and Barrington Street by police, said Brendan Elliott, spokesperson for the Halifax Regional Municipality, in an email to The Signal.

Elliott said the municipality’s compliance officers haven’t issued any tickets. Instead, compliance officers distribute information cards about the new rules. The cards direct smokers to an online map showing the DSAs in the municipality. There were 80 locations as of Nov. 28.

No pending requests for DSAs

There are areas around the municipality without a DSA. The HRM adds DSAs by request, and Elliott said there are currently no requests pending.

Smokers still gather on the sidewalk near the Halifax Infirmary’s Summer Street entrance, though it’s not a DSA and doesn’t have a waste receptacle for butts. Halifax resident Raymond MacNeil said it has been a long-standing cigarette smoking area for hospital visitors, so he was surprised it wasn’t a DSA.

“This isn’t a smoking area?” MacNeil said, when informed the nearest smoking area was beside the Public Gardens. “That’s a bad place to be smoking, in front of the park.”

There are no DSAs in Middle Sackville, Upper Sackville, Lucasville and Beaver Bank, which Coun. Lisa Blackburn represents. She said she hasn’t received any complaints since Oct. 15, and remains a supporter of the bylaw. She expects there will be requests for DSAs at community facilities that people rent for events in her district.

“My goal when voting yes for it was that there would be an easing in of the bylaw and, through that, would be your public education,” Blackburn said.

Coun. Steve Craig, who represents Lower Sackville, said there doesn’t appear to be an issue with the five DSAs in his district.

“Three months into the process, I have not heard of — or experienced really — anybody expressing concern, in Sackville, anyway.”

‘We spent a lot of money’

Coun. Steve Streatch of Waverley, Fall River and Musquodoboit Valley, opposed the inclusion of tobacco along with cannabis in Bylaw N-300.

“We took a very heavy-handed approach as it related to cigarette smokers who, in my view, were not even part of the perceived issue that council was dealing with,” Streatch said.

“We spent a lot of money going through this process, a lot of staff time, a lot of money to set up these locations … I believe as time goes on council may want to revisit this and relax our approach.”

Austin said no new compliance officers were hired to enforce the bylaw, so costs incurred would be staff time and DSA expenses. He said council has not been updated on the total amount spent.

He is still not a fan of the bylaw.

“I don’t know if I’d vote now to reverse it because we’ve already now sunk the resources in,” he said.

Austin acknowledges a “silver lining” — receptacles at DSAs help reduce litter.

Elliott said municipal staff have reported that, overall, streets are cleaner since the bylaw’s implementation.