Penticton council revisited their ban on smoking on area beaches this week, and while the ban is still on its way to becoming fact, it has been modified to allow one group to bring tobacco to the beach.
The bylaw has been rewritten to include an exemption for the traditional use of tobacco in aboriginal ceremonies. The revision, however, didn’t come at the request of the Penticton Indian Band, the Okanagan Nation Alliance or other native groups.
“As part and parcel of our due diligence process, we also sent a copy of the bylaw to Interior Health. Their tobacco reduction co-ordinator took a look at it and provided us with comments,” said Mitch Moroziuk, director of operations. “They did provide us with one very valuable comment, that we should consider putting in an exemption for the traditional aboriginal cultural use of tobacco in aboriginal ceremonies.”
The bylaw had previously been given third reading, which was rescinded to allow for the revision. Acting Mayor Garry Litke suggested that council use the opportunity to also revisit other parts of the bylaw, which he wanted to relax somewhat by allowing smoking in designated areas.
“I’m worried about families on the beach that have to pack up and leave because dad needs a smoke, or dad has to walk across the street and not supervise the children properly because he needs to go for that smoke,” said Litke. “I am wondering if there is an opportunity for us to take a step back and look at perhaps some designated areas where they could actually have their cigarette in a safe place with the appropriate receptacle and that would be a little bit more harmonious.”
Other councillors, while accepting of adding the exemption for ceremonial tobacco use, were not willing to soften the bylaw.
“I think the point is the family could go to the beach for a couple of hours and not have a smoke. I think most people can do that, and if they can’t, it would be a nice healthy attempt anyways,” said Coun. Helena Konanz, adding that people have found that they can manage long plane flights without smoking since a ban was introduced there.
“You know what people have done pretty good, there haven’t been any deaths from not smoking,” said Konanz. “I think that probably you could go to the beach for the day with your children and not have a smoke. I think we should leave it as it is.”
While supporting the bylaw as it was, Coun. John Vassilaki was concerned about adding more work for bylaw officers.
“I would like to caution city council, with 1.5 to 2.5 bylaw officers that we have, there is no way on earth that they will be able to do their job properly. Just about every meeting we pass more bylaws,” said Vassilaki. “If we keep putting them on the books and we don’t enforce them, then we should just stop or go home and do nothing. We don’t have staff people to take care of all these bylaws.”
This bylaw, however, did pass third reading, with only Coun. Wes Hopkin opposed.