Petawawa drafting no smoking bylaw 0
PETAWAWA - The town will proceed with a sweeping bylaw prohibiting smoking on municipally-owned property.
Staff will now draft a comprehensive bylaw that will outright ban lighting up in all town parks and playgrounds, Petawawa Point, the Civic Centre complex, including the public library, arena and Kin Hut, town hall, both fire stations and Norman Behnke Hall.
The successful passage of a motion by Councillor Treena Lemay ends a three-year debate over how much a municipally-elected body could legislate the unhealthy behaviours of its citizens, while protecting others from the harmful effects of second-hand smoke.
"Limiting the outdoor areas where smoking is allowed respects the rights of non-smokers not to be exposed to second-hand smoke, while at the same time recognizes the needs of those who smoke," said Coun. Lemay. "By enacting a bylaw to control where smoking is permitted, the town will help protect the majority of the community from second-hand smoke and reduce the impact on the environment created by the remnants of the smoking."
The prohibition had been considered over the course of two councils going back to July, 2010 when the finance and management committee attempted to initiate a bylaw prohibited smoking with 10 metres of any municipal vehicle or pedestrian access or exit points of any municipal building or structure.
However, last September council agreed to take the matter to the public launching a survey to gauge support for any control on smokers stepping onto town-owned property. The online and paper survey was distributed this past spring. A total of 250 surveys were collection, including 219 online responses. Staff informed council that 63 per cent of respondents would support a policy that restricts smoking on municipal property, while 37 per cent would not support such a bylaw. Almost 75 per cent of respondents felt that if a policy were in place, enforcement would be important.
Not all councillors endorsed the results of the survey, however. Stating his criticism in no way reflected his views on smoking in a public place, Councillor Frank Cirella pointed out the responses were not a representative sample of the town's population adding only 1.6 per cent of residents bothered to fill out the survey. "The survey is essentially meaningless to this council in the real world," said Coun. Cirella. "No corporation would ever create policy on such flimsy research."
He added one third of respondents did not even answer what type of policy did they prefer or what town-owned properties would be subject to the prohibition. Furthermore, he noted there was no data from similar sized municipalities or comparative results.
Coun. Lemay responded with statistics of her own to back the merits of the bylaw. She said 50 Ontario municipalities have enacted a bylaw regulating smoking in outdoor public spaces and that 80 per cent of Canadian adults do not smoke. She added 84 per cent of Petawawa residents who completed a recent provincial survey said second-hand smoke was a threat to them or their family.
"Over the years, the number of people who light up is steadily going down - partly due to education, partly due to legislation. There are just fewer and fewer places where smoking is allowed," she said. "In communities that have imposed smoking restrictions there have been no negative impacts reported on the use of facilities and a vast majority think the bylaws are good for their resident's health."
While agreeing with the spirit of the bylaw, some councillors expressed doubt that it could be enforced effectively. Councillor Theresa Sabourin suggested narrowing the scope of the ban to the Civic Centre, the location cited often by residents who complain about second-hand smoke.
"If we are going to have a bylaw then we have to have the capacity to enforce that bylaw with our present staffing complement," said Coun. Sabourin. "I would like us to take small steps that can be achieved over time."
Deputy Mayor Tom Mohns said not everyone will be happy with the bylaw, however, it should have common goals that have common sense.
"This will all boil down to whether we can police this issue," he said. "We can make all the bylaws we want but if we don't have some way that we can control it then it's are not worth the paper it's written on."
However, Coun. Lemay remarked that the hesitation or reluctance to pass laws to limit known dangers because we cannot catch all offenders doesn't hold water. Smoke-free outdoor spaces legislation is self-enforcing and won't cost much to enforce.
"It will take a few months before people get used to having to move away from others to smoke outside, but it will happen," she said. "With a bylaw in place, members of the public will more confidently ask smokers to butt out because they feel they have the power of the law behind them. We know that, in the beginning, this bylaw will not be easy for some people. However, just as with regulations governing smoking inside, smokers will no doubt get used to this in time."
The bylaw institutes designated smoking areas at the Civic Centre, Petawawa Point and Centennial Park. It will not cover municipally-owned streets or sidewalks. Councillor James Carmody said such a bylaw is well within council's responsibilities.
"One of the goals of all levels of government is to protect the individual citizen from harm done to them by another citizen. To that end, I believe we as the legislative body that governs Petawawa have a duty to protect citizens from the second hand smoke of others," he said.
However, the councillor agreed the powers of the bylaw must be contained to municipal property where the regulations can be enforced.
"The rights of every group of people in society must be protected including those of smokers. To legislate lawful activities out of existence by a bylaw when they do not harm anyone but themselves is wrong," he said. "An outdoor smoking prohibition bylaw is simply another step to strip citizens to think, choose and act."
Sean Chase is a Daily Observer multimedia journalist