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Anti outdoor smoking bylaw presented to council

by Kris Svela

KENILWORTH - A proposed outdoor smoking ban for Wellington County would be stricter than a similar law being considered by the provincial government, Wellington North Council was told.

“Citizens in Wellington County are much more interested in having a more restrictive bylaw in place then the province is,” Rita Sethi, director of community health and wellness with Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health (WDGPH) about the findings in a recently-completed Smoke Free Outdoor Spaces Survey.

Sethi, attended the March 24 council meeting to talk about the survey and about a county-wide outdoor smoking ban being advocated by the health unit based on the survey findings. Public health recommends the bylaw consist of a complete smoking ban in designated outdoor locations rather than a partial ban.

“A complete ban is more effective, easier to communicate and easier to enforce,” she said. “We know that there’s no amount of tobacco smoke that’s considered safe.”

She explained 93 Ontario municipalities now have smoke-free outdoor spaces bylaws, compared to less than 50 just two years ago. Orangeville brought in its own bylaw in 2012.

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.

Results from Orangeville show only two tickets have been handed out by enforcement officers in that community since the bylaw was brought in two years ago.

“It’s predominantly self enforced in Orangeville health unit worker Laura Campbell who also attended the presentation to council.

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.

Mayor Ray Tout said he believes anti-smoking education has reduced the number of smokers especially among young people. “I feel smoking is on a huge decline,” Tout said.

Council will consider the report.

With files from Patrick Raftis

March 28, 2014


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