The proposed smoking by-law will disproportionately affect Halifax’s Black, Indigenous, homeless, and poor citizens. It is, in effect, a social policy whose outcome is to criminalize the poor and increase scrutiny and risk into their lives.
We recognize the harms and costs associated with smoking. However, supportive smoking cessation in the context of trauma, violence, and poverty is what’s needed.
- Those who are poor are disproportionately among smokers. In Nova Scotia in 2013, 65% of all smokers made less than $29,000 annually.
- Those who are poor have the highest rates of smoking but also the fewest options. For example, where they live in smoke-free rental housing, they are required to go outside and smoke on the sidewalk. They simply don’t own their homes where they can make these types of choices.
- For those who are poorest and the most vulnerable, i.e. homeless, day-to-day existence happens in public spaces. In 2012, a survey of the health status of homeless people in Halifax revealed that 88% of those surveyed were smokers.
- The evidence suggests that the smoking-related restrictions [that have] have impact on smoking rates need to be understood from an income lens. According to a 2015 report, rates of smoking didn’t decrease at all in the lowest income categories, while decreases in middle and upper income brackets are driving reductions. In short, increased restrictions don’t tend to affect poor smokers.
- Pushing smoking into corners heightens vulnerabilities and risk. For example, where do women go to smoke when they leave the bar, especially if they’re inebriated?
- Using a complaints-based mechanism will (1) heighten scrutiny on the poor and (2) likely lead to further marginalization of those affected by trauma, colonialism and racism as there is clear evidence that links them to poverty.
- Fines, even as low as $25, can have deleterious effects on poor people as their inability to pay means the fines go to collections, affecting their credit ratings and even collection of HST rebate cheques. Fines are unanticipated expenses and can provide hardship to those who are just barely scraping by.
Contact: Miia Suokonautio, Executive Director, YWCA Halifax