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Complaints, confusion taint roll out of Halifax’s designated smoking areas

Click to play video: 'Halifax designated smoking area briefly replaces 2 accessible parking spots' Halifax designated smoking area briefly replaces 2 accessible parking spots
Fri, Oct 19: An apparent misunderstanding over where smokers can smoke has left accessibility advocates fuming – Oct 19, 2018

It has been nearly a week since Halifax rolled out its newly amended Nuisance and Smoking Bylaw, and it’s been marked by confusion and complaints over the establishment of 58 designated smoking areas throughout the municipality.

The Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) introduced the zones, the only municipal areas where individuals are legally allowed to smoke or vape in Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM), as a measure to deal with the legalization of cannabis.

But the roll out of the policy has been anything but easygoing.

READ MORE: Halifax councillor apologizes after smokers left frustrated over lack of designated smoking areas

A fraught roll out

The bylaw was originally supposed to come into effect on Oct. 1, only for the municipality to announce on Sept. 19 that logistical issues would push the date back to Oct. 15.

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At the end of September, the municipality announced that it would, in “the coming days,” begin to accept applications from businesses for designated smoking areas, with a map showing the location of those designated smoking areas being brought online soon after.

The municipality began to accept the applications less than a week before the bylaw came into effect, and when the bylaws came into effect on Oct. 15, there were only nine designated smoking zones in place.

But for many Haligonians, the slow introduction of smoking areas has been exacerbated by what some businesses described as a lack of consultation by the municipality.

A designated smoking area on Argyle Street in front of the Neptune Theatre and The World Tea House has drawn the ire of management at both locations.

“A little bit of conversation with local businesses about where they’re putting these areas would have gone a long way,” said Philip Holmans, owner of The World Tea House, in conversation with Global News.

WATCH: Concerns raised over some Halifax designated smoking area locations

Click to play video: 'Concerns raised over some Halifax designated smoking area locations' Concerns raised over some Halifax designated smoking area locations
Concerns raised over some Halifax designated smoking area locations – Oct 18, 2018

Holmans did not request a designated smoking area and said he was surprised to find one in front of his store on Tuesday.

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Councillors even felt compelled to apologize over the poor execution by the municipality.

“I’m sorry to folks, especially cigarette smokers, who are smoking something that’s always been legal,” said Matt Whitman, councillor for Hammonds Plans-St. Margarets, on Monday.

David Hendsbee, councillor for Preston-Chezzetcook-Eastern Shore, told Global News on Oct. 15 that he decided to move the marker at the Porter Lake Bus Terminal after receiving complaints from constituents.

“I got some chatter on Facebook and a phone call asking me why it was put there in such an obvious spot in view of an elementary school,” he said, referring to Porters Lake Elementary, which is across from the terminal.

“I took it upon myself to move it to a location here farther away from the school, but also near the bus pad terminal.”

READ MORE: Halifax councillor David Hendsbee takes matters into own hands, moves designated smoking area away from school

HRM is set to continue its roll out of the bylaw, with more designated smoking areas expected to be introduced over time. The municipality has said there will be no cap on the number of designated smoking areas.

The municipality is still accepting applications, and businesses are required provide a description of the proposed designated smoking area and a rationale for their request.

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Brendan Elliott, a spokesperson for the municipality, said compliance officers wouldn’t begin to issue tickets until more of the designated areas are in place.

“It’s about education; it’s about saying here’s why you can’t smoke here,” he said. Officers will be handing out information cards about the new bylaw that include a link to the online map, which Elliott encourages smokers to check regularly.

“Until we have places for them to smoke, we’re not going to tell them to put their cigarettes out. We just want them to be respectful for the people around them.”

It’s unclear if the HRM has begun to issue tickets at this time.

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