City to ramp up no smoking enforcement in parks and beaches

The city reportedly took a lax approach to the rules since their inception several years ago

In an effort to curb smoking in beaches and parks, the City of Penticton is ramping up enforcement of bylaws banning smoking in those areas.

Tickets and fines will come after a short period of education, in which bylaw officers will be handing out brochures to smokers in public parks and beaches to inform them of the bylaws.

Penticton’s own bylaw on the matter was last updated in 2013, according to bylaw supervisor Tina Siebert, which was to define a public municipal open space.

Related: A girl guide cleanup reveals 658 cigarette butts

Currently, 14 areas in Penticton are designated as smoke-free, but the city says those rules aren’t being followed. In fact, a recent beach cleanup by local girl guides found 658 cigarette butts in the beach along Skaha Lake.

“From 2013 to present, there’s been about five tickets issued from the RCMP. Whether or not they’ve been collected, I don’t know,” Siebert said. “We haven’t done a whole lot of enforcement, and I think a lot of it is because in 2013, when this bylaw was changed, there wasn’t a lot of education that this bylaw even existed. So, something we can certainly work on going forward.”

No smoking signs were installed on most of the areas where smoking is barred, but Siebert said there needs to be more education for the public before enforcement is ramped up.

“We’ll do a period of public awareness, if supported, and that can include some infographics, social media, we can do a brochure,” Siebert said during Tuesday afternoon’s council meeting. “That way we’ll get the awareness out there, and potential enforcement thereafter.”

For councillors, the notion of stepping up enforcement was popular, but there had been a couple of issues, including for Mayor Andrew Jakubeit who asked where people should be going to smoke.

In particular, he pointed to the Okanagan Lake beach, where smokers can’t smoke on the beach, likely couldn’t smoke on the walkway and, arguably, would be disallowed from smoking on the sidewalk across the street as well.

“It’s a little bit easier to sort of shame someone, say you can’t smoke here, but actually over there you can,” Jakubeit said. “You see it on a cold winter’s day, people are outside and they’re outside of their office building, huddled, smoking away. They’re used to being sort of isolated. But we’re not giving them an option.”

Siebert told council that the option hadn’t been considered, but noted that if some resistance were to crop up from smokers, it could be looked at more seriously.

Councillor Tarik Sayeed, himself a smoker, said he’s “perfectly fine” with ticketing people who smoke in public spaces, but he did corroborate Jakubeit’s concerns.

“The challenge is, we’re not giving a solution to the smokers. I understand that, that it’s not good for you,” Sayeed said. “But they will end up smoking anyway if you don’t give them a designated smoke (area), as the mayor said.”

Councillor Andre Martin, too, agreed with that idea, making note of specially designated areas for dogs on beaches. But Councillor Campbell Watt pushed back against that idea.

“We don’t have any designated drinking areas on the beach. People find ways to go and have a drink somewhere. Could be a restaurant, could be their car, could be whatever,” he said. “I think we do the same thing with beaches — they’re smoke free.”

Sayeed pushed another issue with the plan: few people are unaware of bylaws barring smoking in public park space.

“I don’t think we need to go through an educational piece for it and then waste your time, the staff’s time,” he said.

But Martin said he hoped an educational component could reduce the need to fine smokers.

“If we’re asking the smokers to follow the rules, clearly they’re not. They have no regard for the park or whatever that’s there,” he said. “If we go out with a campaign, reminding them about there’s not supposed to be any smoking out here, and reinforce the fact that the girl guides had to pick up 658 cigarettes, maybe somebody will think twice about it. And at the end of the day, that’s a good thing.”

Siebert said she would report back to the city by the end of September on how enforcement of the bylaw has gone so far.