Committee backs public smoking ban
Smokers could soon be banned from puffing in public parks across Niagara.
Regional council's public health and social services committee endorsed a by-law banning smoking in outdoor public places. But even if regional council backs the move, it will need a triple majority vote from Niagara's 12 municipalities to become law.
"We started with this because there is no safe level of smoke, even outdoor smoke," said medical officer of health Val Jaeger.
But the bylaw was tweaked after municipalities reacted, with exceptions added allowing smokers to light up on beaches and public trails. Smoking would also be allowed in parking lots save for a nine-metre radius around doors.
A triple majority means the by-law must find support from a majority of regional councillors plus a majority of local councils representing a majority of voters who cast ballots in the last election.
Under the bylaw, smoking in parks, playgrounds, rec centres, sports fields, bus shelters, splash pads, pools and any area within nine metres of the door to a public property would carry a $250 fine.
But St. Catharines Coun. Brian Heit voiced concerns about the Region enforcing the bylaw too heavily.
"It's going to be hard to dictate common sense to people not to smoke," he said. He was concerned Regional staff would accost people at parties or confront tourists on the street in Niagara Falls.
But Jaeger said "it is not physically possible" for Region staff to become overly aggressive with their enforcement given their numbers.
Maria Brigantino, manager of chronic disease and injury prevention, said smoking bylaws tend to be "socially enforced." That means residents will cite the bylaw when asking smokers not to light up.
For the most part smokers are understanding about it, said committee co-chair Barb Greenwood. "If you mention these instances to these people, they're very apologetic," said the Niagara Falls councillor.
Welland Coun. Dan Fortier figured attendance could increase at big events if they're known to be non-smoking affairs.
"I get offended, personally, when I have to deal with it, and I'm an ex-smoker," Fortier said.
The bylaw will come with costs of $30,000 for no smoking signs and $60,000 for educating residents and visitors.
Should smoking in parks be banned?
Yes, it harms those who use public spaces.
No, smokers have a right to smoke in public.