Greater Sudbury will have some of the toughest anti-smoking rules in the province later this year, when a bylaw to tighten the city’s anti-tobacco rules is ready for approval.
Meeting Tuesday, city councillors easily approved a resolution directing staff to prepare a bylaw banning smoking on city property, and signalled its intention to ban smoking on outdoor restaurant and bar patios if the province doesn't follow through with its own legislation to do the same across Ontario.*
Under the new rules approved this week, facilities such as Pioneer Manor are exempt – it’s covered by provincial legislation -- and certain areas in municipal parking lots will be designated for smokers. Also, the city can’t ban smoking in cars, sidewalks or on roadways.
But places such as libraries, arenas, citizen service centres and city hall would be covered by the ban.
In response to a question, Francine Brunet-Fechnera, a nurse with the health unit, agreed some people won’t be happy with the new rules.
“There’s always some resistance to change -- it’s part of human nature,” Brunet-Fechnera said.
But the health benefits are worth the challenges, which include enforcing the ban over several more areas. Ward 9 Coun. Doug Craig asked where smokers at city rinks could smoke.
“Where will these people go?” Craig asked.
He was told smoking is still legal on sidewalks, although the status of outdoor patios that sit on sidewalks was less certain and would be covered in the language when the bylaw is ready later this year.
Ward 1 Coun. Joe Cimino was concerned about enforcement, in particular, how it would be done and who will be in charge of it. Violators will face warnings and fines for breaking the new rules. Since bylaw enforcement is usually complaint-driven, Cimino wondered how staff would be able to respond to complaints.
But Ward 7 Coun. Dave Kilgour said similar concerns were raised a decade ago when the smoking ban was extended to bars. But “peer pressure” proved to be extremely effective, he said.
“Someone will likely mention it, or you will get a dirty look,” Kilgour said. “If there are problems, you deal with them as they come up.”
“Most people are pretty good to comply,” said Ward 10 Coun. Frances Caldarelli. “The more areas we can make smoke-free, the better.”
Greater Sudbury Mayor Marianne Matichuk says it would be key to engage affected staff in implementing new rules, to keep them informed, and of the options available to them to help them quit.
“It’s important for staff to be part of the process,” Matichuk said.
The tougher rules follow approval in June 2013 of a bylaw banning smoking in city parks and sporting fields. Following that process, councillors directed staff to explore extending the ban to all municipal buildings. In conjunction with the health unit, they also agreed to look at the outdoor patio ban.
In a June presentation to city council, Michael Perley, head of the Ontario Campaign for Action on Tobacco, said there’s a perception that outdoor patios don't affect anyone other than the smokers. In fact, he said, they are a workplace for bar and restaurant staff, and significant amounts of second-hand smoke drifts indoors.
“It makes what should be smoke-free indoor premises, smoking premises,” Perley said. “Brief exposure to second-hand smoke can trigger health events like heart attacks and asthma attacks.”
While smoking rates in Sudbury have fallen significantly over the last 10 years, 18 per cent of adults smoke, significantly higher than Ontario's overall rate of 12 per cent. Cities like Kingston, Thunder Bay and Ottawa have already banned smoking in outdoor patios, Perley said in June, and Toronto is expected to follow suit soon.
*An earlier version of this story said the city had approved plans to ban smoking on patios, as it had appeared to have done during the meeting. But a news release Wednesday said the patio ban had not yet been approved. "If the amendment does not pass at the Provincial level, it is anticipated the Sudbury & District Health Unit will come before Council with a recommendation for the same. If Council approves the recommendation, a bylaw will follow," the release said.