The first week of Halifax’s new smoking bylaw is coming to an end and the municipality has surpassed its goal of having at least 30 designated smoking areas in place.
But as the zones — the only municipal areas where individuals are legally allowed to smoke or vape in Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) — continue to be added, some concerns are being raised about why certain locations were chosen.
One such spot is the designated smoking area on Argyle Street in front of the Neptune Theatre and The World Tea House.
“A little bit of conversation with local businesses about where they’re putting these areas would have gone a long way,” said Philip Holmans, who owns The World Tea House.
Holmans did not request a designated smoking area and said he was surprised to find one in front of his store on Tuesday.
His big concern is how it is going to affect his customers, especially in the warmer months, when the store sets up a patio and often keeps doors and windows open to let in fresh air.
“Who’s going to want to sit outside and drink a nice cup of tea in a cloud of smoke?” he said.
He said the majority of his customers are not smokers. They are health conscious, and some have respiratory issues while others are cancer survivors.
The designated smoking area does meet the provincial requirements of being at least four metres away from a business door, window or vent, but Holmans said that more needs to be taken into consideration.
“Smoke doesn’t go up, smoke goes out, so they have to realize it’s not just a column that goes up in the atmosphere, it’s going to the surrounding areas.”
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The spot is on the same side of the street as the Neptune Theatre where, as Holmans points out, customers of the theatre will often line up.
“Once a month for pay what you can night there are often hundreds of people. Now there are going to be hundreds of people waiting outside a smoking zone.”
Since the bylaw took effect on Monday 311 has received about 200 calls in regards to the bylaw. Questions have ranged from, “where are the smoking zones?” to “what is the best strain of cannabis?”
HRM spokesperson Brendan Elliott said 20 of the calls are from people interested in having the municipality take a second look at where they have placed a receptacle.
“It’s a delicate balance between recognizing we definitely need to have places for people to smoke but also that it was a rule by council that they want a healthy livable community,” Elliott said.
The municipality is now working to respond to concerns and will be revisiting sites which people have complained about but Elliott said he cannot guarantee they will be changed.
“We want to be able to help people who don’t want them in front of their businesses,” he said, “but we also have to be realistic: is there another spot where we can go to place it?”
Holmans said he is looking forward to having a discussion with the municipality and hopes they can work together to find a better spot for the designated area currently in front of his store.
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