Fort St. John resident Amy Callison says she’s been surprised to see so many people smoking in parks, pointing to one incident where she saw a father swinging from the monkey bars with a lit cigarette in his mouth just a few feet away from a group of children.
“I asked him not to smoke near the kids, and thankfully he moved further away to finish his cigarette,” she writes. “Several of the mothers sitting nearby thanked me for speaking up and said that they were afraid to say anything.”
Councillor Dan Davies originally proposed having staff prepare a bylaw banning smoking in parks, but Mayor Lori Ackerman and other councillors expressed concern about bylaw officers being able to enforce it. However, Davies argued that it’s more about creating awareness than catching offenders.
“If they’re aware that there’s a rule around it, they will refrain,” he says. “It is an awareness, and if there are a number of complaints, well, we’ll deal with that the best we can.”
Similar signs are already in place at City facilities and the Surerus Ball Diamonds, which were funded by a Northern Health IMAGINE grant. Director of Community Services Sarah Cockerill says they also raise awareness of the City’s zero tolerance policy when it comes to alcohol, in the hopes that “peers will police each other.”
Edmonton is one Canadian city that has a smoking ban in areas that children frequent, and a City Councillor’s research assistant told Callison that the cost to create the bylaw was “minimal” at $20,000 for public education ad awareness, which included signs in the 2,700 affected areas. Callison argues that cost would be greatly reduced for Fort St. John, as it would affect fewer than 20 parks.
Davies’ motion was voted down, in favour of one to seek a grant for an awareness campaign.