Public to have its say on proposed ban of smoking in city parks
London Community News
By Sean Meyer/London Community News/Twitter: Newswriter22
Although one councillor suggested the solution is healthier cigarettes, a city committee is recommending the public have its say on a complete ban of smoking in public parks beginning next year.
During the Community Services Committee meeting on Tuesday (Aug. 21) councillors looked at the options presented by staff around both smoking in municipal outdoor spaces (ie: parks), as well as at the entranceways to municipal buildings.
Bill Coxhead, director of parks and recreation, detailed the options created by staff, which were presented in an escalating manner from least restrictive to most. For smoking in municipal parks the options included the status quo, posting signs to suggest not smoking, restricting smoking to either nine or 30 metres, prohibit smoking except in designated areas or completely banning smoking entirely. At municipal buildings, the options were maintaining the status quo, which is no bylaw, to prohibiting smoking within nine metres of an entranceway.
The idea originally was for these options to be presented during a public meeting on the issue on Oct. 1. However, before debate could take place, Ward 12 Councillor Harold Usher suggested a more narrow focus should be brought to the public meeting.
“I felt at one time we would go with all of this to a public participation meeting. But now I feel we should go with something specific and let the public decide,” Usher said. “I don’t feel this is the same as the noise bylaw where there were multiple options.”
Usher suggested that option six, the total ban, be presented as the option of choice during the public meeting. It was a position Coxhead said staff would support with the intent of implementing any change by next summer.
“If you were to ask staff with respect to public outdoor spaces, what we would recommend, we believe option six, the prohibition of smoking in all parks, would achieve the result you are looking for,” Coxhead said. “Completely removing smoking from the parks is easiest to understand, easiest to enforce and the most cost effective to implement.”
When it comes to public doorways, Usher also suggested the nine-metre rule should be the option presented.
Coxhead said the Middlesex-London Health Unit would largely carry the cost of enforcement. However, the estimated cost of signage at the entrances to 200 municipal buildings is approximately $20,000.
The debate changed when Ward 9 Councillor Dale Henderson said he gets “emotional” over this issue, particularly because he calls it “social engineering” he couldn’t support.
Henderson questioned the need to create a new bylaw, asking how many other communities have similar bylaws. Coxhead pointed out the report states there are 50 Ontario municipalities who have some form of bylaws ranging from limited rules to total bans.
That didn’t dissuade Henderson who also asked why so much attention is paid to “punishing” smokers while cities spend millions to support the disabled.
“About five per cent of the city of London has some disability. We bend over backwards to make sure everything is accessible. There are 20 per cent of London that has an addiction to smoking. So let’s punish them?” Henderson said. “We spend millions on the five per cent, but we tell the 20 per cent they can stand in the middle of the street if they want a cigarette.”
Henderson said the bigger issue should be in removing harmful elements, such as gunpowder, from cigarettes.
“Why don’t we take the gunpowder out of cigarettes? There is also tar, lead and about 20 other things. That is what’s killing people,” Henderson said. “If we said we only want cigarettes in London that are pure, wouldn’t that be interesting? Now we can be leader of the pack. If you take out the 200 things that are in a cigarette, you would probably live forever.”
Henderson had no support on the committee for his suggestions or for taking the option of maintaining the status quo to the public meeting.
Ward 2 Councillor Bill Armstrong said jumping from no bylaw to a total ban of smoking in municipal parks might be difficult for some residents to accept. Armstrong said he originally felt the nine-metre rule at playgrounds and recreational facilities “was a step in the right direction,” but voted with presenting the total ban to the public meeting. He also questioned if the city was going to take this approach, why wouldn’t it look at banning smoking from all municipal properties.
Coxhead said staff efforts were focused on typical parks as the focus was on where children play or have a frequency to gather.
Committee chair and Ward 7 Councillor Matt Brown said he was supportive of the public participation process because he felt he needed to get a better understanding of what the public is looking for around this issue.
“I need to understand if this is something the public wants,” Brown said. “I have been a city councillor for 21 months and in that entire time I haven’t heard from a single resident that this is an issue.”
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