Health officials seek same bylaw as tobacco for vaping and pot smoking

CRD to discuss issue at Wednesday’s meeting

The Capital Regional District’s planning and protective services committee will discuss whether or not publicly smoking cannabis or vaping should be treated with the same bylaw as tobacco at tomorrow’s meeting.

Currently, the bylaw prohibits people from smoking tobacco in any public place, building or structure, in any area where food and drinks are served, within seven metres of any door, window, air intake, bus stop, or at any athletic parks, fields, or playgrounds.

Dr. Richard Stanwick, Island chief medical health officer, recommends pot smoking and vaping should fall under the same bylaw as tobacco.

“Smoke is smoke, and while tobacco may have 50 established cancer-causing agents, marijuana smoke can have as many as 33. In terms of vaping, it too can carry cancer causing agents, sometimes in greater amounts than tobacco,” said Stanwick.

“I know people want to describe it as merely water vapour, but it isn’t, it’s a chemical soup being put in to the air, varying from product to product. So both cannabis and vape smoke can be hazardous to health.”

Stanwick said now is a good time to discuss this issue, as marijuana is set to be legalized by September this year. He thinks having all forms of smoke falling under the same bylaw would simplify enforcement for both the public and officers.

“This way it would be very simple and straight forward, instead of having to smell the air and say ‘oh that’s smoke is okay here,’ or ‘oh no that smoke isn’t okay in this area,’” said Stanwick.

Once pot is legalized, the province will ban people from smoking at beaches, playgrounds and parks, the same as tobacco, so Stanwick thinks making all smoke fall under the same bylaw would just make things clearer for everyone.

“Once something gets established, it’s harder to stop someone from doing something than to get them used to an idea ahead of time,” said Stanwick. “So now is the time to address this issue, right from the beginning when the education is taking place around what is allowed and what isn’t once marijuana is legalized.”

He added that another advantage to making all types of smoking apply to the same bylaw, is when new products come on the market, they won’t have to be discussed by the CRD.

This approach has already been adopted in places like Vancouver and Port Coquitlam.

“We just want to make sure our bylaw is nice and harmonized, and everyone is aware what is expected of them,” said Stanwick. “It’s this whole idea of striving for simplicity.”

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