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'Clean mountain air': Smoking to be banned on trails, sidewalks in Alberta town

BANFF, Alta. — An Alberta mountain town has passed a bylaw banning smoking and vaping in most public places.
People walk across a street in Banff, Alta., in Banff National Park, Friday, July 21, 2017. The Alberta mountain town has passed a bylaw banning smoking and vaping in most public places.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

BANFF, Alta. — An Alberta mountain town has passed a bylaw banning smoking and vaping in most public places.

Banff's bylaw, which comes into effect in February, prohibits tobacco smoking and vaping in its municipal parks and green spaces, on trails and pathways, and at outdoor markets and events. It also covers bus stops, public sidewalks and in proximity to children.

"Making Banff smoke-free in public places is an effort to help residents and visitors to enjoy Banff without the health risks of second-hand smoke," Banff Mayor Corrie DiManno said in a statement Wednesday.

"We are fostering healthy lifestyles and celebrating clean mountain air by modelling the behaviours we want to see in youth and children."

Once Banff's bylaw goes into effect, smoking or vaping tobacco in the town, located in Banff National Park, would be limited to parking lots, alleys and on private property. There is also an exemption for the ceremonial use of tobacco for traditional Indigenous practices.

DiManno said the bylaw builds on a provincial law that already bans smoking in the downtown core on sidewalks outside shops and restaurants.

"The new bylaw also helps reduce the risk of wildfire and aims to prevent littering in our national park community," she said.

Les Hagen, executive director of Action on Smoking & Health, commended Banff for bringing in the smoke-free bylaw.

"It's great news for Banff and the four million visitors that visit the townsite each year," he said in an interview.

"We're hoping that this will spark Parks Canada into action."

Hagen said the organization, which works to reduce and prevent tobacco use in Alberta and beyond, would like to see tobacco use banned in all parks — including national parks across the country.

"Public health is certainly the No. 1 reason," he said. "Social modelling has a very profound impact on young people, on children and youth and, in fact, the more smoking cues that children and youth receive, the more likely they are to become smokers themselves.

"These bylaws are important because they reinforce a non-smoking norm."

Other reasons, he said, include reducing litter and preventing forest fires.

"It's time for the federal government to step up," Hagen said.

Parks Canada said in a statement that the safety and well-being of its visitors is a priority, but there are no plans to impose a ban on smoking or vaping tobacco in the national parks at this time.

"It is the responsibility of visitors to educate themselves of any municipal or provincial smoking and vaping regulations regarding distances from buildings, playgrounds, and other facilities," the federal agency said late Wednesday.

Hagen said there are a couple dozen municipalities across Canada that have banned smoking in parks, including Okotoks, Strathmore and St. Albert in Alberta. A handful of municipalities also ban smoking on sidewalks and other public places, he said.

The Banff bylaw carries fines between $250 and $500 for violations.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 14, 2022.

— By Colette Derworiz in Calgary.

The Canadian Press