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The Evolution of Smoke-Free Spaces

June 22, 2016 by HealthyFamilies BC

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Times have changed when it comes to cigarette smoking in public places.

Imagine walking into work and seeing colleagues smoking at their desks; booking a seat on an airplane or restaurant and being asked “smoking or non?” or seeing an adult smoking in a car, windows barely cracked, with a young child in the backseat. You’d probably be shocked.

It wasn’t that long ago that these things were happening. But times have changed. As more information on the health impacts of smoking and second-hand smoke has come out, society has become less complacent. Driven by public demand, the laws and rules around where people can (and can’t) smoke are changing. These changes are offering up more smoke-free spaces and clean air for British Columbians.

Take a look at the evolution of smoke-free spaces:

Mid-1980s: If you were working in an office space before or up until this time, the memory of hazy air and ashtrays on desks is probably all too familiar. Now, under the Tobacco Control Act and Worksafe BC, smoking isn’t allowed in workplaces that are fully or mostly enclosed.

1989: Smoking was banned on domestic flights in Canada.

1994: Canada was the first country to ban smoking on all domestic and international flights. Other than the signs telling you “no smoking” there isn’t much evidence that just over 20 years ago you could smoke in your seat!

2008: Under the Tobacco Control Act, BC outlawed indoor smoking rooms. Just like airplanes, no longer can you walk into a restaurant and ask to sit in a “smoking section.” Now, you won’t see any signs that it was even possible at one point.

2009: the Motor Vehicle Act banned smoking in a vehicle with a child under the age of 16. Even if the windows are down, drivers will be fined for lighting up with children in the car.

Did You Know?
Providing smoke-free public spaces helps:
  • Young children and youth challenge the notion that smoking is normal behavior.
  • Provide protection from second hand smoke (a known carcinogen).
  • Protect the environment. Cigarette butts continue to be the most prolific form of litter collected in shoreline clean-ups around the globe.

Today: All K to 12 schools have also been designated tobacco-free 24 hours a day, even when school is not in session, for the reasons listed above.

By law, areas within three metres of a doorway or air intake of a public or workplaceare now smoke-free. In some local government areas across BC that buffer zone is even bigger (six to ten metres).

BC, like most other provinces, continues to evolve in the amount of smoke-free public spaces. These changes provide everyone with the benefit of clean air.


Photo credit: PictureBC

Related blogs

A Smoke-Free Home? You Can Do it!
Making Your Apartment or Condo Smoke-Free
A Look at the Importance of Clean Air

Recommended resources

HealthlinkBC: The Harmful Effects of Second Hand Smoke
QuitNow: Staying Smoke-Free
Government of Canada: Tobacco Act
BC Government: News Release

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