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Minto to follow county lead on outdoor smoking bylaw

by Patrick Raftis

MINTO - The Town of Minto plans to let Wellington County and the local health unit take the lead in regulating outdoor smoking in public places.

The town has been considering the issue since July, when councillor Ron Elliott expressed concerns after attending a local youth ball game and witnessing smoke from the stands drifting into the dugout.

At the Oct. 15 council meeting, clerical/financial assistant Annilene McRobb advised council that on Sept. 27 Wellington Dufferin Guelph Public Health (WDGPH) released the results of a 2013 Smoke Free Outdoor Spaces survey.

Approximately 480 county residents completed the survey, with 465 supporting at least one of the smoke-free policy options in the survey.

Recommendations in the WDGPH report include development of a comprehensive smoke-free outdoor spaces bylaw throughout Wellington County.

The health unit recommends the county create a bylaw to prohibit outdoor smoking on all municipally-owned properties, including parks, playgrounds, sports fields, splash pads and bus shelters, as well as restaurant patios and within nine metres of doorways to public places and workplaces.

In the report, WDGPH calls for a complete smoking ban in the designated outdoor locations, rather than a partial ban.

“A blanket ban that does not make exceptions more closely aligns with what more than 90 other municipalities have done across the province and is considered best practice. A complete ban is more effective, easier to communicate and easier to enforce,” the health unit states.

A system or process for event organizers and private businesses to apply for, or create smoke-free events and properties is also recommended in the report.

“This could include festivals, fairs, fundraising events and sporting events,” the health unit suggests.

WDGPH recommends public education rather than enforcement is used to implement the bylaw.

“A strong public educational component has been demonstrated to be more effective in garnering public support and ensuring compliance,” the health unit points out.

Positive messaging, rather than anti-smoking messaging is the recommended approach from public health regarding a public education campaign to accompany the bylaw.

“A focus on the healthy and constructive benefits of a complete ban rather than the negative aspects of smoking is important as the issue of second hand smoke is controversial and continues to polarize as seen in the survey comments,” the report states.

The survey report also recommends appropriate signs be used to indicate smoke-free outdoor areas designated by the bylaw.

In her report to council, McRobb pointed out smoking restrictions and enforcement have not traditionally been a lower tier responsibility.

“It is recommended the town not pursue this initiative independent of the county and public health for cost and implementation reasons,” she stated.

Council accepted McRobb’s report and expressed support for the WDGPH recommendations and pursuit of a county-wide bylaw.

Noting “the wheels of politics turn slowly,” Elliott suggested Minto council monitor progress at the county level and consider implementing a local “policy” if a county-wide bylaw is not in place by next summer.

Elliott suggested signs could be put up, “and we could do that without a bylaw and let people self-police it.”

November 1, 2013


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