Jun 20 2014

Local teens call for outdoor smoking ban

Published by at 7:27 am under Cigarette news

A group of activist high school students are putting the heat on county officials to ban smoking in public outdoor places.

Members of the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit’s volunteer youth group, Project HEAT, appeared at a recent board of health meeting to ask council for a bylaw prohibiting smoking in outdoor spaces such as parks, trails, playgrounds, beaches and patios.

“Smoke-free outdoor spaces will protect Norfolk residents from second-hand smoke, reduce litter and air pollution and help those who want to quit smoking,” said Anouk Bussink, a Simcoe Composite School student on HEAT.

“It would ultimately make Norfolk a better, healthier place to live.”

The teens conducted a survey of nearly 400 Norfolk residents, with 60 per cent giving their support to such a bylaw.

The majority of respondents supported a smoking ban at county-owned splash pads, outdoor pools and playgrounds, council heard.

Delhi councillor Mike Columbus wondered if a possible ban might include licensed patios.

“Would smoking be restricted at the various ethnic clubs in Delhi? I don’t think people in my ward would be happy about that,” he said. “Many have spent tens of thousands of dollars building these outdoor facilities for smokers, so that they aren’t indoors.”

There are no plans for potential bylaw proposals to come to council in the near future, but the student presentation did raise concerns for county officials over the smoking rates in Norfolk.

In 2009, 19.8 per cent of the population smoked in Haldimand and Norfolk counties. Five years later, that number has risen to 23 per cent, even as smoking rates are decreasing across Canada.

Among teen smokers, that number is even higher. A startling 24.7 per cent of Norfolk teens smoke, compared to just 9.5 per cent province-wide.

“We’re going the wrong way,” said Coun. Charlie Luke. “Despite the fact that the government provides us with money to educate people, that retailers have to hide the product so it’s not visible to children, and that we’ve seen taxes raised on cigarette products, we’re getting more smokers. What are we doing wrong?”

Project HEAT believes the first step is reducing youth and children’s exposure to smoking, which is where they hope a future bylaw could make a difference.

“I think people are less likely to smoke if they don’t see it around all the time,” said member Jasmine Muszik.

Some steps have already been taken in Norfolk to create a smoke-free community. Norfolk General Hospital recently announced it would be smoke-free by September, joining the majority of Ontario hospitals that do not permit smoking on hospital grounds.

To prepare for the changeover, NGH will work with the health unit to provide tobacco abstinence aids and smoking cessation programs to patients and hospital staff.

Tobacco continues to be the leading cause of preventable disease and death in Ontario, with approximately 13,000 tobacco-related deaths occurring across the province every year.

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