At the April 17th South Dundas council meeting, recreation program coordinator Ben Macpherson recommended that council “vote to implement a smoke-free by-law for all playing fields and parks in South Dundas.”
Council, following a lengthy discussion, agreed to the implementation of a smoke-free policy rather than a by-law.
Macpherson’s presentation to council included support from Melanie Fournier, health educator and promoter for the Eastern Ontario Health Unit (EOHU) who handed out “Play, Live, Be… Tobacco-Free” booklets to each council member.
The booklets described the meaning behind the movement: “everyone taking part in a sport or recreational activity does not use tobacco industry products. It means participants, parents, coaches, spectators and leaders do not smoke, snuff, dip, or chew tobacco while engaged in sport and recreation.”
According to Fournier, “smoke-free outdoor spaces have been implemented in several places in Ontario.”
“In 2011, the Township of North Dundas implemented a Tobacco-free Sports and Recreation Spaces policy where tobacco-use is prohibited within nine meters of playing or recreation fields,” Macpherson reported to council.
Fournier, in agreement with Macpherson’s report, told council that “we believe this would be a great initiative to go with the charter that was just passed.”
“The Smoke-free Ontario Act covers 100 per cent indoors,” she continued, “but it doesn’t cover outdoors. This would push the envelope for us… everywhere is smoke-free. Once people see it, often it becomes normalized.”
“Removing that negative influence will really decrease the number of future smokers.”
Keeping it simple, Macpherson pointed out that “what we’re trying to do here is reduce second hand smoke inhallation.”
He told council that “there are approximately 1,812 children under the age of 14 living in the Township of South Dundas,” which he pointed out is 17.2 per cent of the population.
“All children using the parks and recreation fields, along with the hundreds of children from visiting teams would benefit greatly from this protection,” he reported.
Re-iterating what Fournier said, Macpherson’s report stated that “the by-law would reflect the vision and goals of the recently adopted Charter for Active Living.”
“The Charter,” he continued, “is a commitment to the health and well being of the residents of the Township of South Dundas.”
“Reducing the risk of second-hand smoke inhalation as well as the exposure of children to smoking would echo the commitment of the township.”
“As a reformed smoker of 25 years,” said councillor Jim Graham, “I support it wholeheartedly. I support it 100 per cent.”
Councillor Evonne Delegarde had several questions concerning the geographic parameters involved as well as the issue of policing the by-law.
She was concerned about areas like the Iroquois campsite where some people ‘live’ in the summer.
Councillor Archie Mellan, an admitted smoker, said “I want to commend you Ben. It’s a great idea.” He did, however, have questions concerning the scope of the smoke-free zone and how it might be policed.
Mellan pointed out that “in some cases, you could be on a public road and still be within 25 meters” of a smoke-free park.
He also inquired about allowances for the “festivals and events in the parks that are adult-oriented, like Antiquefest, Harvestfest, or the Tubies.”
Macpherson assured both councillors that “we can look at how we write the policy.”
Also, he told Mellan that the “minimum is nine meters.”
Both Fournier and Macpherson assured council members that policing of the by-law wasn’t usually necessary. As Fournier pointed out, “it’s self-regulated. People are very respectful. It doesn’t require much work.”
Graham agreed saying that council should “allow a period of time for people to get used to the idea.”
After hearing everyone’s comments, mayor Steven Byvelds weighed in on the debate: “I had some reservations when Ottawa put theirs in place. I thought it was pretty high-handed.”
“I’m sensing a policy rather than a by-law,” he added.
Addressing an earlier comment about changing regulations for events without children, Byvelds said, “I really don’t want to sit beside (someone) when he’s having a cigarette. Consider the adults too.”
In opening the discussion of a by-law versus a policy, Graham pointed out that “creating a by-law infers that we have to enforce it.”
Together, and with Macpherson’s agreement, council decided to change the original recommendation from a smoke-free by-law to a smoke-free policy for all playing fields and parks in South Dundas. The vote for the policy was unanimous.
“I think it’s a good start,” said Byvelds, “I think there’s going to be some challenges.”
In terms of how this might affect council’s budget, Macpherson reported that the sole cost would be the purchasing of signs for the relevant outdoor sites, which could “come out of my budget or the Park Reserve Fund.”
He also pointed out, however, that free signs are available through the province provided council has no issue with them being bilingual.
On April 23rd, Macpherson provided the following: “Nothing has been set in stone at this point. There will eventually be a policy put in place that will set distinct guidelines for playing fields and public areas that prohibit smoking.”
“What happens now is that I write up a draft policy outlining all of the locations affected as well as the distances for signage and limits to how close smokers can stand,” explained Macpherson. “The draft will then go to council where we will work on these points and pass a policy that we are all happy with.”
“Once this is all settled then I, along with Melanie Fournier of the Eastern Ontario Health Unit, will begin to educate and create awareness of the policy within South Dundas,” he continued.
“We are hoping that the policy and signage will be in place before July and that the public will be aware of the restrictions at the same time.”