Smoking ban on Vancouver's beaches, parks and golf courses may get early start

Smokers at Vancouver's parks, beaches and golf courses might be in for an unpleasant surprise as hot weather could mean a smoking ban for the rest of the summer.

A permanent smoking ban will go into effect Sept. 1 no matter what the weather does, but it might be illegal to light up as early as Wednesday, said Vancouver park board spokeswoman Barb Floaden.

If fire hazard ratings are boosted to extreme, a smoking ban will be issued throughout the city's parks, beaches and golf courses, Floaden said.

"There's a trend here with warm, dry weather," she added.

Fire hazard ratings are at high in Metro Vancouver, but the park board will be discussing a possible change to extreme on Wednesday, Floaden said.

Whenever fire hazard ratings hit extreme, the park board restricts activities that could cause forest fires in its parks, beaches and golf courses. This includes a ban on smoking and using coal BBQs.

The last ban was issued on July 22, 2009. It lasted until August rainstorms brought the fire danger down to low.

Smoking bans issued for fire danger are separate from the no-smoking bylaw that goes into effect in September, Floaden added.

"That's going to happen whether its raining or not," she said.

But if the fire hazard rating lifts to and stays at extreme for the rest of the summer, Monday was the last chance for smokers to light up at Metro Vancouver's beaches, parks or golf courses.

Come September, those who continue to smoke in banned areas should prepare to fork over significant amounts of cash. Smokers will be fined a minimum of $250 and a maximum of $2,000 for each violation of the bylaw, Floaden said.

Tickets could be issued for those caught smoking during the hot spell, but Floaden said most people are willing to butt-out when fire risks are the reason behind the ban.

"People are really keen to comply when there's a fire hazard," she said.

Shawn Nelson, a Trail resident who is "trying to quit" smoking, visits Stanley Park a few times a year. He is aware of the coming ban, but said it's "a little bit of an overkill" to ban smoking on the beaches.

"I've never heard of a sand fire before," he said.

However, he does not smoke on the walking trails in the forests and takes his cigarette butts with him when he leaves the park, he said.

Pitch and putt golf courses will also be included in the coming smoking ban. The ban will be an "inconvenience" for Jonathan Mortenson from Brighton, England. Mortenson, who lives and works in Vancouver, enjoys smoking cigarettes while he golfs at the Queen Elizabeth course.

"But if there's a fire hazard, I guess its fair enough," he said.

(Published by The Vancouver Sun – July 27, 2010)

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