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Public health unit unveils plan for outdoor smoking ban

by Patrick Raftis

MAPLETON - Council members here were the first in Wellington County to get a look at a smoke-free outdoor environment envisioned by local public health officials.

On Feb. 11, Mapleton council heard a presentation from Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health (WDGPH) on the recently-completed Smoke Free Outdoor Spaces Survey.

The survey includes a recommendation to ban smoking in outdoor public spaces across the region, with bylaws implemented in Wellington on a county-wide basis.

Public health recommends the bylaw consist of a complete smoking ban in 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,” public health officials state in a report on the survey.

“A complete ban is more effective, easier to communicate and easier to enforce.”

Rita Sethi, WDGPH director of community health and wellness, told council residents shouldn’t be exposed to second-hand smoke even in an outdoor environment.

“We know that there’s no amount of tobacco smoke that’s considered safe,” Sethi stated.

She explained 93 Ontario municipalities now have smoke-free outdoor spaces bylaws, compared to less than 50 just two years ago.

“So were moving along here,” she said, adding Orangeville passed such as bylaw in 2012 and “have been very successful in their implementation.”

Between May 31 and Aug. 20, 2013 public health administered a survey to Wellington, Dufferin and Guelph residents. Just over 2,000 surveys were collected.

A total of 45 per cent (902) came from Guelph residents, with 24% (481) from Wellington County and 22% (435) from Dufferin County.

The survey revealed 95% of residents believe exposure to second-hand smoke can cause serious health problems and 76% believe banning smoking in outdoor spaces can help to protect people from second-hand smoke.

In addition, support for some form of outdoor smoking restriction in Wellington County was very high, with 97% of respondents supporting at least one of the smoke-free policy options suggested in the survey.

Overall, the health unit feels results show a high level of support for smoke-free outdoor spaces in Wellington County compared to Ontario.

For example, 76% of Wellington County residents support a ban on smoking on restaurant patios and 63% support a smoking ban on bar patios, compared to 57% of Ontarians.

In the general population of Ontario support for smoke-free parks is 55% whereas in Wellington County it is 68%.

The WDGPH report notes support for smoke-free outdoor spaces was higher among non-smokers and parents than smokers and non-parents.

Among respondents from Wellington County, support for smoke-free outdoor pools and splash pads had the highest level of support (92%), followed by support for smoke-free playgrounds (90%), smoke-free areas nine metres from doorways (83%), hospital grounds (83%), municipal property (78%), restaurant patios (76%), sports fields (75%), bus stops (73%), outdoor ice rinks (69%), parks (68%), outdoor special events (66%), other outdoor recreational areas (65%) and bar patios (63%).

The survey notes outdoor smoking bylaws tend to be self-enforcing, when combined with proper education, signage and social pressure, so little active enforcement is typically needed.

The survey revealed that 51% of Wellington County respondents would feel comfortable self-enforcing the by-law.

“The bylaws shouldn’t be cost prohibitive,” said Sethi. “We’re looking at education and signage as being the biggest component to implementing the bylaw. What we find is a lot of them are self-enforcing. Individuals that are around those smoking in the prohibited spaces have taken it upon themselves.”

Mayor Bruce Whale noted he was glad to see the self-enforcement approach was being considered.

“We’ve had this discussion before and enforcement was always something you didn’t know how to properly deal with,” he said.

Whale asked if there was any move to create common signage across the health unit area.

“You are the first ones in Wellington that we’re presenting to,” Sethi responded. “As public health, we can put that on the table to sort of unite Wellington and save the cost of printing, etc.”

CAO Patty Sinnamon explained that last fall, Mapleton designated local parks as non-smoking and put up signage. The designation, however, was implemented through a resolution of council and not a bylaw.

“So we’re already half way down the road. It’s just taking the next giant step … ,” said Whale. “We’ll be following the reactions as you move around the county and hopefully we can work together to create this type of environment.”

Sethi noted that Bill 131, introduced in the provincial legislature last November, would prohibit smoking on playgrounds, sport fields and patios.

However, she explained that where a local bylaw exists, the more restrictive legislation would prevail.

The local survey also showed support for smoking restrictions in places that are not proposed by Bill 131, such as municipal property including arenas, recreation centres and pools.

Sethi also pointed out provincial legislation can take a long time to pass and may not pass at all.

Council passed a resolution to receive the report from the delegation, but issued no further direction to staff.

“We already have the signs up, I guess we just wait and see if there’s any complaints,” said councillor Neil Driscoll.

February 28, 2014


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March 2 2014 | 13:12
I don't have an issue where someone takes actual facts and figures to present a valid argument for or against something. However I do take exception with anyone that manipulates false data to justify their existence. Case in point, this article suggests that 95% are in favor of a smoking ban in outdoor venues. There were 2000 surveys sent out. The population of Guelph is 114,940, Dufferin County 56,881 and Wellington County 86,672 for a total of 258,493. So if 2000 people were given the survey this means that 0.77% of the population was surveyed. This is less than 1%. I do not think that 1% is even close to an overwhelming majority as the Health Unit implies. Perhaps a more democratic and accurate process would be to include the issue as a referendum in the next municipal election and let the voters decide. Furthermore I do not buy any of this smoke and mirrors argument about one cigarette being able to provide any measurable level of anything in any outdoor environment. Perhaps if you are concerned about healthy clean air, then ban vehicles form all areas near any outdoor venues.
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