When it comes to protecting the public’s health from second hand smoke Shawn Pankow doesn’t see there being any ifs, ands, or butts. The Smiths Falls councillor has asked town staff to provide a report on strengthening the town’s no smoking policy to go beyond municipal buildings. Speaking after the committee of the whole meeting Oct. 24, councillor Pankow said he would like to see designated smoking areas established in public parks and recreation areas, while at the same time establishing distance restrictions for smoking from a door or window of any other public area including restaurants and retail stores.
“It’s simply a matter of moving our municipality forward in a very progressive manner,” Pankow said, adding the move could further attract tourists and new residents.
There was a general interest around the council table to do further research into the issue, and Mayor Dennis Staples noted any research would have to include a public meeting to gauge community reaction.
“The public will have great interest in this,” the mayor said.
A Facebook page has been established to receive feedback. It is Smoke Free Smiths Falls.
Councillor Pankow pointed to many municipalities (Edmonton, Alberta, Niagara Falls, Ontario, and Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario) who have significantly increased the non-smoking policies in their communities to include the recommendations he brought forward this week. Councillor Dawn Quinn supported further investigation, but cautioned her colleagues to balance the needs of all residents.
“Smokers have rights too, so we have to put that into consideration. We have to give them a safe place,” she said.
Wayne Brown, CAO/clerk confirmed the town has received some calls this summer from citizens asking for designated smoking areas in parks. He added that should a required setback from doors and windows be enforced council may also have to look at establishing designated smoking areas in the downtown core to accommodate restaurants. When the Smoke Free Ontario Act was first introduced many restaurants and bars were concerned about the impact that would have on their clients and bottom line. To address this, some restaurants have patios or allow their customers to step outside for a smoke. The recommendation could very well alter their ability to continue doing so.
Something requiring further investigation is the means of enforcing such a bylaw in the community. Councillor Ken Graham supported looking into the by-law amendment, but said any changes will require a graduated enforcement policy and significant education program. He later noted that some of the enforcement cost could be defrayed by peer pressure and citizen enforcement.
Councillor Lorraine Allen felt a strong public education program would do wonders for most members of the smoking public, particularly if safe smoke areas are established.
“I think often the education piece is to make people aware that there’s an alternative,” she said.
Should the town ultimately approve any of the recommendations brought forward this week it would exceed the Smoke Free Ontario Act requirements.
Prior to this act being passed by the province the Health Units asked municipalities to enact their own measures. At that time councillor Graham recalls the town opted to wait for the provincial legislation and follow it so they were in line with other communities their size.