Smokers cloud Surrey cancer centre

No-smoking policy difficult to enforce at B.C. Cancer Agency's Fraser Valley Centre.

David Thiele (pictured below) is tired and sick after undergoing radiation treatment for his brain tumour at the B.C. Cancer Agency’s Fraser Valley Centre in North Surrey.

And he’s nauseated by the clouds of hazy blue tobacco smoke he must walk through when leaving a treatment session.

The smokers aren’t allowed to be there.

Under both provincial and municipal laws, they must be 7.5 metres from any door, vent or window.

What’s more, under the rules of the Fraser Health Authority, smoking is not allowed anywhere on the property.

Yet every day, as many as eight people huddle around the door of the building and puff away.

On Friday afternoon, there was a steady flow of smokers.

David ThieleTwo of them were cancer centre staff.

One of them, whose name tag identified him as Ken, said he’s seen the signs but chooses to ignore them like everyone else.

“It’s not enforced,” Ken said. Asked if that makes smoking there okay, he said, “Yeah, it does.”

Cancer centre officials say they are sensitive to the problem and doubled their no-smoking signage out front. And when that didn’t work, staff put out sandwich boards near the parking lot imploring people not to smoke at the entrance.

Savik Sidhu, regional director for the Fraser Valley Centre, said they are trying to take the educational approach.

But after four years of implementing the no-smoking rule, it’s just not sinking in with some people, he said.

Melita Konn, secretary to the regional director of the centre, said some staff and volunteers have gone outside to ask people not to smoke near the door.

“It’s a pretty tough crowd that we’re dealing with,” said Konn. “They (staff and volunteers) get their heads bitten off sometimes.”

On Friday, a security guard was seen leaving the cancer centre building and walking past several smokers to remove a homeless man from the entrance.

Konn has called Surrey’s bylaw department and was flatly told they couldn’t help her.

“They did tell us they don’t have enough resources to have bylaw officers ticket the smokers at our site.”

Mayor Dianne Watts was bothered by the lack of the smokers’ sensitivity and unimpressed with the reaction the centre received from the Surrey bylaw department.

“I’m very disappointed with the enforcement not taking place, especially in and around a cancer facility,” Watts said Thursday. “We need to be taking this up with our bylaw officers, and if there’s an issue around staffing, we need to be dealing with that.”

The City of Surrey has 24 full-time bylaw officers.

Watts added the smokers should have more common sense.

“You can’t legislate intelligence and you can’t ticket your way out of a situation,” Watts said. “People should have enough compassion within themselves to get it.”

Thiele said he has nothing against smokers, he just wants to be able to access his cancer treatment without running the gauntlet of cigarette smoke.


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