August 2, 2018 9:01 am

Poor, vulnerable, marginalized to be punished most by smoking ban: YWCA

WATCH: Anti-poverty advocates in Nova Scotia say vulnerable and marginalized citizens are expected to be those most negatively impacted by widespread smoking restrictions. Alexa MacLean explains.

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Despite a Halifax staff report highlighting that “smoking is an addiction and vulnerable and marginalized populations could be impacted by the smoking ban,”  regional council still voted 13-3 in favour of imposing smoking restrictions throughout the municipality.

The restrictions would prohibit smoking of any kind in areas that aren’t otherwise designated.

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The decision has led anti-poverty advocates to unite their voices in concern over the impact a smoking ban would have on citizens who are struggling to get by.

“People who are living in poverty will be absolutely at the top of the list, and then you look at who lives in poverty.  Who’s most likely to be in poverty? So, we know there’s racialized Nova Scotians, Indigenous Nova Scotians, people who have experienced trauma and violence,” said Miia Suokonautio, the executive director of Halifax’s YWCA.

READ MORE: Halifax to revisit smoking ban, consider exempting tobacco from enforcement

Dartmouth Centre councillor Sam Austin convinced his colleagues on Tuesday to request a new staff report examining whether or not removing tobacco from the prohibition is feasible or not.

As of now, the municipality is moving forward with an October 1st launch of smoking prohibition in public places.

“We’re not going to be issuing tickets necessarily right away, everytime someone reports something on a complaint basis we will go speak to people and inform them of the plan,” said Jacques Dubé, the chief administrative officer (CAO) for the municipality.

Dubé has been given the authority by Regional Council to select what areas can be claimed as designated smoking zones.

Suokonautio, however, argues that those places already exist.

“We already have regulations [saying] you can’t smoke in school, you can’t smoke in the workplace, you can’t smoke within a certain distance of the entrance to the hospital, you can’t smoke in a car when a child is present, very reasonable regulations,” she said.

WATCH: Dartmouth councillor wants tobacco excluded from smoking ban

The city staff report, presented to Regional Council on July 17th, outlined how the fines would be implemented.

Unlawful smoking would result in fines no less than $25 and no more than $2,000.

The report explains that city staff are “recommending banning all smoking on municipal lands for two reasons.”

READ MORE: Halifax’s new smoking and cannabis bylaws to be in place by Oct. 1

The first reason listed in the report is to curb the health impacts from the exposure of second-hand tobacco smoke. The report says “cannabis smoke has many of the same chemicals as tobacco smoke.”

The other reason given by city staff is that “health officials also identify that a ban on smoking will help prevent the normalization of cannabis use in children and youth.”

Suokonautio believes the ban recommendation goes against “good social policy.”

“Good social policy comes when we understand its impacts on everybody, and that’s our hope for the request with the staff report,” Suokonautio said. “I too share a desire to protect our children; I too share a desire to protect those with chemical sensitivities and asthma. But I also care about those who have the littlest and so how do we address this so that as many of us can benefit as possible?”

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