Smoking ban clears Region hurdle

File photo of Standard reporter Jeff Bolichowski.

By Jeff Bolichowski, The Standard

A ban on smoking in public in Niagara has leapt its first of many hurdles.

Regional council gave its overwhelming support Thursday to the bylaw, which bans smoking in parks and other public places.

But the bylaw has a long way to go before becoming law. It must survive a triple majority vote and must be passed now by a majority of local councils representing a majority of voters in Niagara.

“Parents want the ability to refer to a bylaw or point to a sign to ask someone (smoking) to move where children are active,” said Maria Brigantino, manager of chronic disease and injury prevention for the Region.

“This is a good next step for Niagara to continue to protect children and vulnerable people from the dangers of tobacco smoke.”

The bylaw, which will run up costs of $30,000 for signage and $60,000 for education, passed with heavy support, with only Niagara Falls Coun. Selina Volpatti and St. Catharines Coun. Andy Petrowski voting against it.

That came after Volpatti tried and failed to gut the bylaw, first by removing the main clause enforcing it. After that was shot down by Regional staff, she attempted to remove a section enforcing the bylaw whether a sign is posted or not, but no councillors backed her up.

“How is a visitor to know they’re not supposed to smoke in an area where we have no signs of any kind posted, but you’re still guilty if you smoke there?” she said.

Medical officer of health Val Jaeger said the Region only employs four or five tobacco enforcement officers and said it’s impossible for them to approach people and enforce the bylaw directly.

And she said signs are not posted banning littering or spitting on the sidewalk.

“These are things that, over time, become part of social behaviour,” Jaeger said. “That is our hope.”

Volpatti chafed at the answer.

“The fact is, it’s there,” she said. “It can be used against anyone we want to target. It’s not right and it’s not fair.”

The bylaw still allows smoking on highways, roads, beaches, trails and public housing units. Parking lots and sidewalks are also fair game, but not within nine metres of an entrance or exit from a public building.

The nine-metre radius was not enough for Welland Coun. Dan Fortier.

“I’m a little concerned about that. I think it needs to be more restrictive,” Fortier said.


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