Published: September 23, 2011 2:00 PM
Updated: September 23, 2011 5:40 PM
Metro Vancouver will impose a ban on smoking in almost all areas of its regional parks.
Friday's board vote passed by a wide margin, with Surrey and Vancouver directors in favour.
It outlaws smoking throughout Metro-run parks, trails and beaches – except where designated smoking areas are set up and signed.
Those smoke pits are to be set up in heavily used areas where people spend large amounts of time – such as beaches, shelters, reservable buildings and campsites.
A last-minute attempt to water down the smoking restrictions failed.
Electoral director Maria Harris proposed an amendment that would have prohibited smoking in only congested areas of Metro parks, leaving smokers free to puff in large swathes.
Langley City Coun. Gayle Martin, chair of the parks committee, supported the change, saying smokers are "an easy target" for the politically correct but a more "common sense" approach is needed.
Vancouver Coun. Andrea Reimer was among those who voted to defeat the change, calling it a compromise of a compromise.
"There is no inherent right to smoke in a public place," she said.
"The time has come," added Pitt Meadows Mayor Don MacLean. "I just spent time in Whistler and every one of their parks is smoke-free."
Richmond Coun. Harold Steves said smokers are now so scarce they pose less risk through second-hand smoke than in the past.
He questioned how a "little whiff of smoke along a trail" could do much harm.
Posting signs and other printed information on the policy would cost the region up to $23,000.
A Metro staff report estimated only 10 to 15 per cent of park-goers smoke and that most would likely voluntarily comply with the new restrictions without any extra spending on enforcement.
Parks officers will be able to issue fines but the focus will be on educating smokers of the ban.
Smoking zones are to be designated only where there is little risk of second-hand smoke exposure to others, smoking litter is contained and there is no risk of fire starts.
Wreck Beach Preservation Society vice-chair Judy Williams opposed the smoking ban, calling it "the last nail in the coffin" of smokers' rights.
"People should have the choice," she said.
Several cities across the region either partly or fully ban smoking in their municipal parks.
The planned policy affects regional parks like Tynehead, Campbell Valley, Lynn Headwaters and Belcarra regional parks, as well as some beaches, such as Centennial Beach at Boundary Bay and Sasamat Lake.