Lazy summer days along Sylvan Lake could prove challenging for smokers, following a municipal ban on all forms of smoking in the park.
That means no more cigarettes, hookahs, pipes, electronic cigarettes, medicinal marijuana or “any lighted smoking implement designed to burn or heat tobacco, cannabis or any other weed of substance.”
Once the revised bylaw begins being enforced on July 1 — after a “educational” period in which signage is erected — fines for individuals caught smoking start at $250, and rise to $500 and $1,000 for a second and third offence.
With the imminent legalization of recreational cannabis use this summer, the Town of Sylvan Lake sought public feedback on its smoking bylaw. And many people called for a total ban in public places frequented by children.
The town’s communications officer Joanne Gaudet said it’s clear from research that second-hand smoke damages health, so it makes sense to eliminate children’s risk of exposure.
The revised bylaw passed by town council on Monday bans all forms of smoking in parks, playgrounds, school properties, child care facility properties, sports fields, skate and bike parks, outdoor theatres, outdoor pools and splash pads.
As well, outdoor smokers must now stay 5 metres away from public entrances or exits, an increase from a previous 3 metres.
As the town recently took control of Sylvan Lake’s beach from the province, council felt it timely to reconsider smoking rules, said Gaudet. There’s also growing concern about the popularity of “herbals” and e-cigarettes, which produce yet untested smoke or vapour.
And there’s a sanitary aspect to the bylaw change. Last fall, 8,600 cigarette butts were picked up during a shoreline cleanup. A smaller spring cleanup turned up 700 cigarette butts — which Gaudet found shocking. “You wouldn’t think… there was only one or two weekends of heat last winter.”
Some town councillors brought up enforcement concerns. Gaudet said bylaw officers will be out observing the crowds. ”We’re kind of at the wait-and-see stage.”
She hopes signage will deter people from smoking at the beach or in other city parks, schools and recreational properties.
Sylvan Lake must still deal with recreational marijuana smoking, which remains illegal until federal laws are passed. This issue will be covered in a separate bylaw.