© timescolonist.comSmoking in parks may been soon banned in the Greater Victoria area
The days of enjoying a leisurely smoke on a Greater Victoria park bench or at the beach could be numbered.

The capital region will undoubtedly follow other municipalities in considering a smoking ban in outdoor areas such as parks, playgrounds, beaches and trails, local politicians say.

"It's a big issue for parents," said Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin, adding residents are often as much concerned about smokers tossing cigarette butts as they are about second-hand smoke.

"I've had several people raise it as an issue for them. It's something we should take a look at."

The trend for smoke-free parks, playgrounds, beaches and trails is picking up steam.

About 50 municipalities across the country have enacted bylaws restricting smoking in open areas such as parks and playgrounds. Smoking will be banned in regional parks and trails in Metro Vancouver from Jan. 1. Nanaimo is poised to pass a similar ban.

Saanich Mayor Frank Leonard said the subject will undoubtedly come up before the Capital Regional District, sitting as a board of health.

"These things work their way around the province. What we're doing today was unthinkable 25 years ago. What we do going forward, I think, will be just as progressive. But we've learned you need to move with public will," Leonard said.

Items such as smoking bylaws are better handled regionally than by individual municipalities, Leonard said.

"I think these sorts of things are just too confusing if they are patchwork," he said.

Dr. Richard Stanwick, Vancouver Island's chief medical health officer, has identified smoking regulations in parks as one of his areas of interest, as well as underage tanning and underage tattooing.

He has said that he will monitor the issue of tobacco smoke in parks and near playing fields to gain a better understanding of the risks and track community support for regulation, as well as for smoke-free buffers around elementary schools.

CRD chairman Geoff Young said he has no doubt the issue of smoking restrictions in parks will be back before the board, but noted health effects of secondhand smoke in parks are not as clear-cut as they are indoors, on patios or around doorways.

A poll of Nanaimo residents conducted this summer found more than 75 per cent of the 600 who responded supported bans at beaches, playgrounds, sports fields, on trails and in parks.

Ninety-three per cent supported a smoking ban in playgrounds, 81 per cent wanted a ban near recreational facilities and 76 per cent wanted a smoking ban on beaches.