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City bans smoking in public parks, effective April 1

Smoking will be banned in city parks/recreational facilities starting April 2014
Smoking will be banned in city parks/recreational facilities starting April 2014

Province considers ban on patios/parks

City council this week approved a staff recommendation to ban smoking in all city parks and recreation facilities excluding designated areas at LaSalle Park Pavilion, Discovery Landing, Paletta Mansion and Tyandaga Golf Course. The changes will take effect April 1 2014.

Enforcement would be mostly self-regulating and self-enforcing, although staff also recommended that council encourage Halton Region to pass a smoke-free parks by-law and enforce the bylaw through its Tobacco Enforcement Unit. (All members of city council sit on Halton Regional Council).

The primary reasons for the smoking ban are to protect residents from second hand smoke; reduce litter and fire risk; decrease negative role modeling for children, and support a smoke-free culture that encourages smokers to quit or cut back. You can read the full staff report here and Appendix A.

Events like Sound of Music easier if smoke-free ban, than enforcing designated smoking, say organizers.
Events like Sound of Music easier if smoke-free ban, than enforcing designated smoking, say organizers.

According to a poll in 2009 by Halton Region, 88% of Burlington residents support smoke free playgrounds and sport fields, and 81% support smoke free public beaches. Review the Region’s report on smoke free places from 2009 here.

Before recommending the ban, staff discussed the matter with sports groups and event organizers. Some sport groups thought there was a by-law already in place and many supported such a by-law. Organizers of events in parks like Spencer Smith that attract more than 5000 people said it is easier to enforce a complete smoke-free event than declaring smoking areas (event organizers have offered designated smoking areas in the past, to mixed success).

According to the Play, Live, Be Tobacco-Free website, 119 Ontario municipalities have adopted an outdoor smoke-free bylaw or policy, including Hamilton, Oakville and Toronto.

Meanwhile, the province has recently announced legislation to amend the Smoke-Free Ontario Act to restrict smoking on patios and parks. Recommended changes include:

  1. Exempt certain flavoured tobacco products from the proposed prohibition on the sale of flavoured tobacco products.
  2. Prohibit smoking on playgrounds and sport fields to protect kids from exposure to smoking.
  3. Prohibit smoking on restaurant and bar patios to protect patrons, especially kids, from exposure to second-hand smoke.
  4. Prohibit tobacco sales on specified provincial government properties and on post-secondary campuses to reduce the availability of tobacco. And clarify that it prohibited to sell tobacco at schools and Day Nurseries.
  5. Restrict smoking on outdoor grounds of hospitals and specified government properties to protect the people of Ontario from second-hand smoke and reduce smoking.

Read the announcement from Minister of Health and Long-Term Care Deb Matthews here.

My Take: I support reducing smoking in public areas as a way to improve the health of all our residents. Several moms have contacted me over the years asking for a ban on smoking in parks and playgrounds, after finding their young children picking up and trying to eat used cigarette butts. Other residents have contacted me about walking through a cloud of second hand smoke as they pass by patios in the downtown which are right next to the sidewalks, and have asked for action. I’m glad the province is setting Ontario-wide rules, to create a level playing field for all businesses. That said, there was good debate at our recent Ward 2 Citizens Advisory Committee, with members (most of whom are non-smokers) showing sympathy for smokers and not wanting to hound them out of public areas, especially if a smoker is well away from others and properly disposes of butts. The Committee did support smoking bans during sporting events or festivals where residents would be close together and thus subject to potential second-hand smoke.

I was inspired to seek public office because I believe, like so many of you, “I can do something about that” on the issues we face. As councilor, my role is to take a stand on what’s best for residents and go to bat for it. Pushback is inevitable from those who don’t have the community’s interests at heart. I will stand with you and for you, to achieve the best interests of our city, without caving to unacceptable compromise in the name of consensus.

What's your take?