KNOX – Not many smokers left to complain about ban by B.C. ferries

Vehicles line up for ferries at Swartz Bay terminal. (Image: Victoria Times Colonist)

AS OF MONDAY, you may not smoke anywhere on a B.C. Ferries vessel or at its terminals.

No smoking tobacco, no smoking e-cigarettes, no smoking dope (yes, the ban includes medical marijuana), no smoking crack.

No hot-boxing your car, either, as the ban extends to your vehicle, even while waiting for the ferry. If you can’t handle a two-sailing wait followed by an hour and 35 minutes of filling your lungs with nothing but salt air, best to make a reservation.

On ship, the designated outside smoking areas will disappear. And yes, the ban applies to B.C. Ferries employees, so you might want to refrain from asking any stupid questions of crew members with nicotine-stained fingers next week.

They might be grouchy.

How will the ban be applied? Lightly. There will be no mid-strait keelhauling of rule-breakers, a minor disappointment to those of us who have always appreciated the swift certainty of B.C. Ferries justice, in which the terminal’s booming public address system sends red-faced queue-jumpers on a Drive Of Shame to the back of the line. The focus will be on voluntary compliance and, where necessary, “education” by crew members, none of whom will be expected to engage in a wrestling match in the Pacific Buffet.

And you know what? It will work. The days of smokers balking at bans are long gone. So, largely, are smokers.

No one was smoking, inside their cars or out, during a quick amble around the parking lot at the Swartz Bay ferry terminal on Friday. Nor was anyone puffing away in the small designated area (by the smokestacks, appropriately) aboard the Skeena Queen during the 35-minute puddle-jump to Salt Spring Island.

A loudspeakered announcement of the impending smoking ban drew not so much as a shrug from passengers, almost all of whom were buried in their laptops.

Once upon a time, there would have been a fuss about a decision like this. It used to be that smoking was allowed pretty much anywhere.

The air in the typical office was as thick as that at a Grateful Dead concert. Butts poked out of sand-filled ashtrays at the bottom of escalators. Your car had an ashtray, too (and your truck had a rifle rack). Guy Lafleur smoked in the locker room (though curling was the only sport that actually had an ashtray on the playing surface). In restaurants, non-smoking sections were relegated to a tiny corner with the vegans, Moonies and similar annoyances.

But then things changed. Butts were banned first on airline flights in 1989, then in indoor workplaces, then on school property, then in bars and restaurants, with the capital region leading the way despite much wailing and gnashing of teeth in 1999.

B.C. prohibited smoking in bus shelters or near open doors and windows in 2008, when it also halted tobacco sales in rec centres and hospitals. Can’t light up with a kid in the car anymore (and, like porn, tobacco may not be sold within sight of children).

Since April 2015, there has been no smoking (at least in theory) in the capital region’s public squares, bus shelters, beaches, playing fields and parks. (Persistent offenders are tranquillized, ear-tagged and relocated to the old leper colony on Bentinck Island, off Metchosin.)

In April 2016 the province’s law was altered to apply to vaping, too, and expanded the no-smoking zone to within six metres of all doorways, open windows and air intakes. That’s what triggered B.C. Ferries’ move. There’s pretty much nowhere on board most ships that is outside the six-metre zone.

Spokeswoman Deborah Marshall says there has been little pushback from the public since B.C. Ferries announced the impending ban in August. “Over the years we’ve had more complaints from customers who don’t smoke who were concerned that we were still allowing smoking.”

Maybe that’s because smoking rates have been steadily falling. Half a century ago, half of all Canadians over age 12 smoked. By 2011 the rate had fallen to 19.9 per cent. By the 2016 census it had dropped to 16.9 per cent.

The 2015-16 Canadian Community Health Survey showed southern Vancouver Island had a smoking rate of just 14.6 per cent, a figure that fell to 8.6 when just those who smoked daily were considered.

In other words: not that many smokers left to complain.


About Mel Rothenburger (7629 Articles) is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

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