June 16, 2017 9:12 am
Updated: June 16, 2017 9:25 am

St. Thomas looks to beef up smoking bylaws

Several U.S. states have raised their legal smoking age to 21.

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Smoking would be prohibited in all city parks and multi-unit dwellings in St. Thomas under recommended changes to the city’s smoking bylaws.

Officials with the Elgin St. Thomas Health Unit presented the recommendations to St. Thomas city council on Monday, saying the changes are backed up by increasing public support and growing research on the topic of second-hand smoke.

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The Smoke-Free Ontario Act, introduced in 2006, currently prohibits smoking within 20 metres of a playground structure or sporting area, like a baseball diamond or field. Parks that are just green space are not covered under the act, said Ashlyn Brown of Elgin St. Thomas Public Health.

“Our recommendation is that it include all parks, doesn’t specify a distance, and also we have a recommendation to include a policy in multi-unit dwellings,” said Brown, who presented the proposal to council along with Leigh Ann Gougoulias.

Under the Smoke-Free Ontario Act, smoking is also banned in enclosed workplaces, on outdoor patios and in the common areas of multi-unit dwellings, like elevators, stairwells and hallways.

The recommended changes would see residents in multi-unit buildings also be prohibited from smoking inside their own dwellings or on their balconies.

The recommendations would also apply to marijuana.

“We know that there’s growing research around the effects of second-hand smoke, as well as the potential effects of e-cigarettes,” Brown said. “We as a health unit, as well as the city, receive complaints about non-compliance in outdoor spaces, like ball diamonds, but we also receive complaints from multi-unit dwellings about drifting second-hand smoke between units.”

“There’s research that any amount of exposure to second-hand smoke is harmful, no matter what location you are, outdoors or indoors, and any amount of it.”

Amherstburg, the Township of King, Kingsville, Coburg, and Chatham-Kent currently have no smoking policies in place that include substances beyond just tobacco and cover places ranging from beaches and outdoor events, to parks, trails and transit shelters, Brown said.

“Also related to multi-unit dwellings, there are 26 municipalities in Ontario that have a no-smoking policy for their municipal-owned housing.”

While there are currently no laws or legislation in Ontario that prohibits people from smoking in their own multi-unit dwellings, support for the idea is high, both from the public and from St. Thomas council.

A 2014 Centre for Addiction and Mental Health survey found nine out of 10 Ontario adults said they believed smoking should be prohibited in multi-unit housing. On the issue of parks, meantime, a 2009 survey done by the City of St. Thomas found 75 per cent of respondents in support of smoking restrictions in parks, the health unit said.

“We presented to city council on Monday night, and there was a positive reaction,” Brown said. “Currently, St. Thomas city staff are working on a draft bylaw and report that will go back to council probably sometime in the fall.”

— With files from Craig Needles

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