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E-cigs, party buses, ambulance response among issues for B.C. cities at UBCM

Nadine Brousseau owns retail outlets in Victoria that sell e-cigarette products. The devices are widely available even though they are not authorized for sale in Canada.  - Charla Huber / Victoria News
Nadine Brousseau owns retail outlets in Victoria that sell e-cigarette products. The devices are widely available even though they are not authorized for sale in Canada.
— image credit: Charla Huber / Victoria News

The growing popularity of "vaping" with electronic cigarettes instead of smoking tobacco is among the topics up for debate at next week's Union of B.C. Municipalities convention.

Harrison Hot Springs has a resolution before the annual gathering of mayors and councillors that calls on the province to regulate the use and sale of e-cigarettes and similar vaporizers.

Health officials fear e-cigs are too easy for children to get and that, while they may reduce the damage of smoking for nicotine addicts, they act as a gateway into smoking for others.

The B.C. Healthy Living Alliance argues there's inadequate research on health risks from toxins or potential nicotine poisoning from inhaling the vapours.

It wants the same restrictions on smoking and tobacco sales slapped on e-cigarettes, so they can't be sold to minors, advertised or used in public places where smoking is banned.

Their use to defy public smoking bans risks unravelling a "powerful deterrent to tobacco use" and could "lead to renormalization," says the alliance, whose members include UBCM, health authorities and other organizations.

It also recommends a ban on candy and fruit flavours that appeal to youth, enforced standards for the "e-juice" liquids and that e-cigarettes look different from traditional ones.

The battery-powered devices are also sometimes used to discreetly ingest cannabis instead of smoking marijuana.

Several other public safety issues are also before UBCM this year.

Resolutions from Vancouver and Maple Ridge call on the province to crack down on party buses, which have become notorious as rolling nightclubs for underage drinking.

The provincial government warned the industry last year to police itself or face tougher regulation after a 16-year-old youth died in Surrey after riding a party bus, but Vancouver's motion says nothing has been done.

Lower Mainland cities are also jointly calling for the province to retool its latest reform of the B.C. Ambulance Service to create a new integrated emergency response service that includes firefighters.

They say their fire department first responder costs have climbed due to the provincial decision not to send ambulances speeding to as many calls with lights and sirens – a change that's left many patients waiting much longer.

The province contends the downgrading of less urgent calls has enabled faster, priority response to the most serious emergencies.

Burnaby wants UBCM delegates to vote to oppose Kinder Morgan's proposed Trans Mountain oil pipeline twinning. The city is fighting the pipeline company's attempts to access Burnaby parkland for route design.

Another Burnaby resolution would oppose Fraser Surrey Docks' planned coal export terminal pending further independent assessment of coal dust health risks and formal public hearings.

The project was approved by Port Metro Vancouver last month and is expected to begin construction soon, despite substantial opposition.

Other issues on the agenda:

  • A call from Victoria for the province to share any gains in liquor tax it reaps through looser liquor policies to bolster liquor licence inspections, addiction treatment, policing and late night transit service.
  • A Maple Ridge call for the province to set up sobering centres for the severely intoxicated to reduce pressure on local first responders.
  • A call from New Westminster for Ottawa to accelerate the phase-out of older substandard tanker train cars and that they immediately be banned from carrying dangerous goods. The least crash resistant DOT-111 tankers – the type that exploded at Lac Megantic – have already been pulled from dangerous goods service. The federal government in April ordered the remaining ones used to haul crude oil and ethanol be phased out or upgraded within three years.

A Lower Mainland party bus as depicted on the operator's Facebook page.

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