Update: 6meter No-Smoking bylaw means nothing in Vancouver

***Updates at the bottom of the post

I was walking downtown yesterday past the BCIT campus on Seymour  and I choked on a giant cloud of cigarette smoke billowing from the dozens of students smoking on the sidewalk right between two signs like this.

Not only were they not 6 meters away from the doors, they were leaning up against these signs posted on the wall. I couldn’t believe the absolute disregard for the bylaw, let alone the hundreds of people that had to walk through this plume of smoke to either walk down the sidewalk or walk into BCIT.

This isn’t the only place that’s like this. On any given day, especially around lunch time, the alleys are filled with smokers polluting the air. Any sidewalk that crosses an alley, which is pretty much all of them, subjects every person to walk through a cloud of smoke.

This got me wondering as to who enforces this 6 meter smoke-free bylaw.

I reached out through Twitter and started asking questions, first to the Vancouver Police Department. They responded fairly quickly with this tweet.

I then asked the question again to the City of Vancouver and got no response so I started to do my own research as to who enforces Health ByLaw 9535 s. 2.2.

The bylaw reads as follows:

As this reads, it would be safe to assume that the entire downtown core should be almost entirely smoke free. 6 meters is 20 feet and most sidewalks are less than 20 feet from the building to the road and the doorways from one establishment to another are also less than 20 feet in most cases. Even finding space in a back alley that is not within 6 meters of a doorway or air intake is hard.

In principle the bylaw is great. It explains what “a person” or smoker is not permitted to do but the “enforcement” really doesn’t enforce anything. Other that stating that “a responsible person must not allow a person to smoke”, there is no indication of responsibility for who enforces this, how it’s monitored or any threat of fines. It sounds like it’s the responsibility of everyone to not allow people to break this law.  So are we expected to become vigilantes?

Unless I’m missing something, to me this by law does nothing  to change smokers behaviors. It just says it’s illegal. To the smoker that doesn’t care about their health or the health of those around them, this bylaw is really just a formal way of asking them to please not smoke within 6 meters of a doorway or air intake. The responsibility lies entirely with the offender who really doesn’t care in the first place.

To me this is unacceptable because non-smokers still have to walk through these clouds of smoke, sometimes with kids, getting exposed to second hand smoke and ultimately cancer.

How do we solve this? Who should enforce it? Should the businesses or landlords be responsible?

If the city is not enforcing this bylaw than maybe private security firms like the ones used by the  Downtown Vancouver Association to patrol downtown, could be utilized in a way to help change smokers behavior.

Either way, more needs to be done.

What do you think?

*Update #1

The City of Vancouver responded on Nov 2nd with this tweet which isn’t very encouraging. No tickets and it’s the businesses responsibility.

**Update #2

I tweeted the following yesterday as I heard of a new fines for dog owners that have misbehaving dogs. I was confused as to why our city would spend time and money on peoples pets rather than enforcing the smoking by law.

Well, the city responded and has forwarded my feedback to Vancouver Police. Will be interesting to these where this goes next.


Author: craigcherlet

I’m a nature loving, family man who’s been tinkering with sales, marketing & technology since the late 1980’s. My mission is to help you start and grow an online business. Come check out my website.

5 thoughts on “Update: 6meter No-Smoking bylaw means nothing in Vancouver”

  1. I agree the law is more of a suggestion. But I disagree that it hasn’t made a difference. I am curious, how did you (anyone) typically deal with a public smoker before the law was in place?

    I’ve always detested second-hand smoke and I am delighted to recognize the cleaner ‘public air’ in Vancouver. I was skeptical when the by-law was introduced but it is undeniable to me that it has made astounding difference. In the past, passing through smoke was nearly constant and unavoidable. Clearly it’s still a common occurrence, but not overwhelming.
    It’s true there are many apathetic people that will continue to do as they please, but more often than not, if approached the right way, they will refrain, or at least think twice about it in the future.
    In my experience, if you don’t like the results your achieving, you need to change your approach.
    You don’t have to be a ‘vigilante’ to ask someone to refrain from doing something, or to encourage someone to be more considerate. You don’t even need to pose an opposition or conflict.
    It’s human nature that we don’t change immediately, or the first time something is brought to our attention. Also, it’s human nature we will rebel if we are oppressed by someone with whom we can’t empathize. We are influenced easier by those we admire or respect. Or if you can make someone laugh, they will also hear you sooner.

    Since smoking is not an immediate threat (don’t get me wrong, I am not defending smoking in ANY way), it is understandable the bylaw would not be enforced. The day it was passed it was obvious this wouldn’t be the case. Regarding ‘bad dogs’: dogs can immediately cause very serious injury and people get scared and cause more of a commotion.. that’s why those laws are enforced more. (Yes cancer is very serious but there’s more chance to prevent/avoid it than a sudden dog attack)
    As much as I don’t want to deal with it myself, I would sure feel petty to waste our professional resources on something that could be handled without them. There’s hundreds more of us available anyway.
    I do agree it’s unfair to be in the situation in the first place because of smokers that are inconsiderate, but honestly I feel people (citizens) don’t take enough responsibility for things already. We complain about problems that could often be solved with some communication and open relation. It’s not always easy to know how, but it gets easier every time you try. This is coming from a shy girl who does not welcome confrontation.

    I found this rant searching for appropriate ‘no smoking’ signage for my workplace. People are respectful of the front entrance, but our side door seems to welcome smokers. For one thing it’s covered from the rain, and doesn’t get much traffic through the door (just past it), but also because no one has ever said anything in protest. My co-workers don’t want to upset anyone.
    Recently it’s nice outside which means it’s bloody hot in our kitchen so we keep the door open. Unfortunately the smoke wafts in. I was able to get one regular customer to go away, by making a lame joke: ‘Hey [John] we took SMOKED meat off the menu, but thanks anyway!’ I shut the door as we laughed, indicating I didn’t expect him to leave, but I didn’t want the smoke. He goes around the corner now,
    Unfortunately though, for this particular spot, I can’t converse with every passerby, so I am going to put a sign up. I will put the official 6 meter signage up, but underneath I plan to have one that reads: For the #*&$%^@% ‘s who don’t oblige, think about who has to clean up your butts, and who serves your food! (Rough humour seems to be the only way to have an effect on the type around my workplace).

    I kinda think businesses should be responsible for enforcing such rules. They should care for the well-being of their (potential) customers and the state of the environment/property they are on. It is similar to having to clear ice from the walkway in the winter. I guess it depends where the property borders?
    I do think it’s great to write in and voice your concerns to the city and authorities. People don’t do this often enough. We just assume they know what’s going with some things, but they need scores of voices to know that something is significant enough to attend to. I just feel we should learn to create other options too, and make sure we are not only relying on outside forces all the time.

  2. Businesses also don’t care and have no reason to anger a patron by asking them to respect the no smoking bylaw. Abigail’s restaurant has a large smoking clientele (including their own cooks and staff) who hang out in the doorway of the neighbouring residential unit and patio of neighbouring brunch restaurant (zen cafe), producing a constant haze of smoke. When we ask them to ask their customers to respect the non-smoking signs, they simply say its not their problem and they can‘t control what people do. When searching to see who enforces the bylaw… nothing.

      1. I work in a City Building and we have these bylaw signs on our own doors but they expect us to go and tell them to move on and it’s really not something you would like doing, especially in the Downtown East Side. They use to congregate on the bench we use to have, until I decided to take the bench away myself. They even set fire to the bark mulch. We are not bylaw officers so they don’t have to listen. If the City wanted to, they should give that job over to Bylaw Officers but then laws would have to be changed to allow them to ticket you on privet property.

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