Some smokers in the Montreal suburb of Hampstead say they are being unfairly targeted by a decision to crack down on smoking in public.
The town adopted the sweeping bylaw late Tuesday, which prohibits smoking cigarettes, cigars and pipes almost anywhere outdoors — including streets, sidewalks and parks.
Residents will still be able to smoke in their backyards and electronic cigarettes are exempt from the bylaw.
Polina Belkina, a casual smoker who lives in Hampstead, said that smokers are being singled out for what she says is a non-issue.
“I have been living here for almost seven years, I’ve never really seen anybody smoking on the street,” said Belkina.
The bylaw is among the most restrictive anti-tobacco legislation in the country, and also prohibits smoking on all municipal property, including in town vehicles, municipal buildings and land adjacent to those buildings.
Fines range from $250 to $750 for first-time offenders and up to $1,500 for repeat offenders. The town’s public security department will be responsible for enforcing the measures.
Hampstead Mayor Bill Steinberg said the tightened rules are aimed at protecting residents from the dangers of smoking.
“It’s going to help protect our residents from second-hand smoke,” he said.
Federal plans to legalize recreational marijuana this summer prompted the town to act, he explained. The bylaw will also apply to pot when it becomes legal.
Steinberg said the city wants to avoid setting a “bad example” for young people by having people smoking cigarettes or joints on the streets.
Is it realistic?
Since smoking in public places is allowed in Canada, Bonnie Feigenbaum, a former town councillor, questioned if the restriction is just.
“I don’t think you should be forbidden from doing something legal in the town,” she said.
Town councillor Warren Budning says he initially supported the idea, but recently changed his tune because he believes the anti-smoking measures go too far.
“The individual walking their dog at 11:30 at night, smoking a cigar shouldn’t be subject to a fine of up to $1,500,” he said.
A combination of lack of awareness and Hampstead bordering on Côte-Saint-Luc and Montreal means unsuspecting smokers could technically be slapped with hefty fines.
“The individual walking down the wrong side of Côte-St-Luc Road is liable for a ticket,” said Budning.
The bylaw should come into effect in the coming weeks.