Setting the restrictions

(File Photo)

Smokers in Waterloo Region may soon have a problem when it comes to taking a quick puff outdoors.

Representatives from the Region of Waterloo recently met to discuss the possibility of banning smoking in selected outdoor areas. The discussion addressed the dangers and health concerns of lighting up in public areas such as parks or schools.

“There has been no decision made on this yet,” said Sean Strickland, regional councillor for the city of Waterloo and chair of the community services committee. “We are waiting for further information by Public Health staff, by which point the Community Services Committee would review it to see if they are going to take it to another level or not.”

The possibility of enforcing the law is still in its early stages. Jonathan Mall, manager of tobacco and cancer prevention with the Region of Waterloo Public Health, is investigating the matter.

His team wants to provide information to the municipalities interested in the possible bylaw.

“Several municipalities have expressed interest in exploring restricting smoking at designated outdoor spaces,” Mall said. “Public Health has been asked by these municipalities to provide information of the issue from a health perspective.”

“Some municipalities have indicated that they have received complaints from the community about second-hand smoke in areas that children currently can be exposed,” he added.

According to Mall, other communities throughout the province have already implemented laws against smoking outdoors. He assured that smoking would not be restricted entirely, though.

Mall explained that those considering making outdoor spaces “smoke-free” are only looking at properties that are municipally owned, such as parks and playgrounds.
The bigger question then is, “where do the smokers go?”

“I am not entirely sure where smokers would smoke,” Strickland said. “But I think a logical progression with these kind of bylaws would be to further eliminate it so smokers can smoke in their own home, vehicle or private space.”
Mall believes that there are health benefits associated with eliminating smoking in public outdoor spaces.

Tobacco use is the number one cause of preventable disease and death in Ontario, killing more than 13,000 Ontarians every year.

“I think the two objectives of the public policy in this realm is to reduce people’s exposure to second-hand smoke and to make it harder for smokers to smoke. Both these objectives, if achieved, would improve public health,” Strickland added.

Seeing or smelling smoke can also pose challenges to smokers who have quit, according to Mall.

He added that support for banning smoking in has seen support in other areas.

“We have seen with other communities that public support for smoke-free public places is often higher after a bylaw has been in place for a while, he said. “In addition, those communities that have already implemented a by-law have found that there have been relatively few charges laid.”

Waterloo Public Health is still in the process of gathering information with regard to the issue, hoping to resolve it soon in order for the municipalities to make a final decision.

Strickland concluded, “Whatever we decide, any actions are the right decision and would be carried on in a thoughtful and balanced way.”

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