City councillors will choose between three options Jan. 29 when deciding how they will restrict smoking at city parks: an outright ban, allowing smoking in restricted areas, or the status quo.
The smoking issue is just one element of a comprehensive parks bylaw the city is passing, replacing separate policies inherited at amalgamation from former regional municipalities.
A draft proposal suggested banning smoking in areas where people congregate, such as bleachers and standing areas. Smokers would have to stay nine metres away from such areas.
But at a November debate on the issue at the community services committee, Ward 11 Coun. Terry Kett said restricting smoking rather than banning it makes the rules too difficult to enforce. Instead, he suggested a total smoking ban to make the rules clear cut.
“It’s just no good,” Kett said, of the proposed restrictions. “I suggest we amend the resolution to take out all the gobbledygook so it simply says no smoking on municipal (park) property. That, we can enforce.”
But Ward 2 Coun. Jacques Barbeau said trying to ban smoking in outdoor places is extremely difficult, and suggested anyone who doubted that should check the number of cigarette butts littering the outside of arenas around the city.
“You walk into any arena in our city and the fronts of those buildings are absolutely covered in cigarette butts all the time,” Barbeau said. “It’s a full-time job for our rink rats to pick them up ... How are we going to start enforcing a bylaw that says zero smoking in parks?”
“And imagine trying to ban smoking at ball fields,” he says. “We’re having a hard enough time with the drinking ban.”
So the committee directed staff to investigate what other municipalities do, and to bring all options and information back to city council in a report. Staff contacted 32 municipalities to find out what sort of policies they have in place.
“Based on the results of the survey, the majority of the municipalities surveyed permit smoking on park property, however, the vast majority of the municipalities have specific no-smoking restrictions within the park,” the staff report reads.
“The restrictions include certain metres from facilities such as playgrounds, playfields, bleachers, splash pads, etc.”
There are exceptions.
For example, North Bay prohibits smoking at outdoor sports complexes including all fields, buildings, parking lots “and all other passive recreational areas within the park boundaries.”
Barrie prohibits smoking outdoors on any property owned and occupied by the city, including parks and playgrounds, “whether or not a ‘No Smoking’ sign is posted.”
The options councillors will consider Jan. 29 are: status quo; prohibiting smoking at all parks and recreation facilities; or restricting smoking in parks to certain areas.
For example, smoking would be banned within a nine-metre radius of the edge of any playground safety surface, public seating area, athletic field bleacher, spectator area, players bench and outdoor skating area.
The nine-metre restriction would also apply to ski lift queues, within the Grace Hartman Amphitheatre area or the surrounding edge of the amphitheatre area.