Back in May, Whistler Blackcomb announced that “Smoking of any kind is prohibited on Whistler Blackcomb property”. The ban, which includes tobacco, marijuana, e-cigarettes and vaporizers, was met with mixed feelings. Many were excited to see the resort promoting the health and safety of it’s staff and guests, but a small number of people felt as though the resort’s smoke-free policy was a bit heavy-handed.
Whichever side of the fence you sit on, here are 3 reasons why the ban is good for Whistler that we can all agree with:
Note: This post addresses the possible benefits from the ban of cigarettes, and the ban is only on Whistler Blackcomb property (not the whole of Whistler Village).
1. Prevention of human-caused wildfires
We’re in for one of the hottest summers on Canadian record, according to CBC Radio. For fire-fighters this likely means a summer of being stretched to the max, just fighting natural wildfires. We’re privileged to live amongst nature, but if a wildfire were to breakout on the Whistler Blackcomb mountains it would have devastating effects.
When speaking to the Globe and Mail about an outbreak of human-caused wildfires in 2014, Wildfire Management Branch spokeswoman, Navi Saini said that “something as simple as throwing a cigarette out a window can cause a wildfire in the right weather conditions“.
In 2013, 30 per cent of BC’s nearly 2,000 wildfires were caused by people, according to statistics from the Wildfire Management Branch.
As a community, we all need to do everything we can to prevent human-caused wildfires, and it’s great to see Whistler Blackcomb leading the way.
2015 Wildfire Statistics: Below is a screenshot of wildfire statistics in BC from April 2015 – March 2016. As you can see we’re only 3 months into the year’s reporting and BC has already had 779 wildfires. Most shocking to see is that BC has had 6 “human-caused” wildfires in just the last 3 days (July 1st – 3rd, 2015)
Whether you’re on Whistler Blackcomb property or not, this is a huge issue. No-one wants to be responsible for a wildfire, and with this ban in place, hopefully no-one in Whistler ever will.
2. Reducing litter
Cigarette butts are biodegradable, right? Nope. Wikipedia has biodegradable defined as “Biodegradable waste is a type of waste which can be broken down, in a matter of weeks or few months, into its base compounds by micro-organisms and other living things, regardless of what those compounds may be.”
Cigarette butts will break down, but it can take anywhere from 5 to 400 years – and it’s this common misconception (that cigarette butts will just disappear like a discarded apple core), that makes cigarette butts the most common type of litter in the world, with over with an estimated 4.5 trillion butts discarded annually.
Once flicked from a smokers fingers, and with the help of a some BC rainfall, these little un-assuming pieces of trash make their way from sidewalks and trails into our rivers, our lakes and eventually into the sea. It’s thought that cigarette butts account for 28% of all sand litter.
Hopefully promoting a smoke-free environment on the mountains will result in a drop in the number of unsightly, discarded cigarette butts on our hiking, biking and ski trails, and in our lakes.
3. Wildlife protection and stewardship
As we discussed above, butts are not biodegradable, and each butt discarded in our beautiful environment instantly becomes a danger to domestic animals and wildlife who may ingest them, or choose to line their nests or homes with them.
But Whistler wildlife doesn’t have to come into direct contact with cigarette butts to be effected. The filter contains plastic that can take centuries to break down and leach toxic chemicals including nicotine, benzene and cadmium into the local soil and water supply.
A study at San Diego State University determined that cigarette butts are toxic to marine wildlife, and that “one cigarette butt has the ability to kill fish living in a one-litre bucket of water”. In all cases of the study, about half of the fish were killed with a very low concentration of cigarette butts.
Professor of Public Health at SDSU, Richard Gersberg, made a sobering statement that “cigarette butts are toxic waste products”. In a presentation at SDSU the professor goes on to say “we encourage those who do smoke to treat the butts as hazardous waste to reduce the toxic waste contamination of our environment”.
Cigarettes in the environment is a litter issue – not a smoking issue. Please help us conserve our beautiful region by discarding of your cigarette butts in a responsible way. It’s possible, that this ban will go some-way to protecting our marine wildlife from the deadly effects of smoking.
Whether it’s cigarette butts, food wrappers or chemicals think:
“Leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but memories, kill nothing but time” and you won’t go far wrong.
Happy summer, folks!