Media release Poverty

PSA: YWCA Halifax position on proposed Halifax smoking by-law

Key message:

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.

Key points:

  1. Those who are poor are disproportionately among smokers. In Nova Scotia in 2013, 65% of all smokers made less than $29,000 annually.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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?
  6. 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.
  7. 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




  1. The points made in this article are well out and I agree with them. Frankly, I feel that designated smoking areas should not be in public spaces like vus stoos because people with respiratory ailments are forced to cohabit the same space, all be it temporarily, plus if the space is shelted, it is occupied by smokers who are notmusing that space, on amschedule, to get from point A to point B.

    Finally, as much as I rspect an individuals’ right to smoke and to be treated with dignity, I am angered by the thousands of cigarette butts that end up on the ground, even when there are repositories for them.

    The solution is to have sheltered, designated smoking areas, away from multiple use areas such as sidewalks and parking lots. Plexiglas works well. I am not happy with hospitals, universities, businesses shoving their smokers out onto public areas, thereby congesting public space with smokers who would not otherwise be there.

  2. The fact is – people smoke. People are peacefully smoking weed and people are peacefully smoking cigarettes, right now, all over the city. Pretending everyone is going to quit just because they can’t smoke on sidewalks is delusional. So, people are going to smoke. Fact.
    Another fact – *most* people already try to remove themselves from groups of people to do so. Prohibiting these people from removing themselves from a populated area to go to a less populated spot a short distance away, and instead requiring them to stand at a set location, like a bus terminal, will only exacerbate the conflict between smokers and non-smokers. What would the city have me do if a child is hanging out near a designated smoking area at a bus terminal? Light my joint anyway? Or remove myself from the area, and the kid, and smoke my weed in peace? It’s an asinine ruling that is utterly unenforceable. I for one will be taking part in civil disobedience in ignoring this short-sighted policy. I’ve always been respectful in my weed smoking in public, and I will continue to be, but this bylaw deserves zero respect.

Comments are closed.