By Sean Meyer/London Community News/Twitter: Newswriter22
Councillors have supported a proposal to restrict smoking within nine metres of playgrounds and recreation amenities, but an actual bylaw remains several weeks away.
During the council meeting on Tuesday (Oct. 9), councillors overwhelmingly supported the Community Services Committee recommendations to restrict smoking in municipal parks, as well as a nine-metre (30 feet) distance from the entrance to municipally owned buildings.
In discussing what he called the committee’s “balanced approach” Ward 7 Councillor Matt Brown repeatedly reminded his fellow councillors, “the bylaw isn’t being passed tonight.” However, several members spoke out on the issue — some supporting the recommendation while others called for an outright ban.
Ward 11 Councillor Denise Brown, a non-smoker she declared, said the city needs to take smoking “away from playgrounds and recreational centres.” However, she said staff needs to look at exemptions for places like the Budweiser Gardens, London Convention Centre and Centennial Hall.
Ward 2 Councillor Bill Armstrong agreed with his colleague, also using the word balanced while stating the nine-metre proposal is “moving in the right direction.”
Ward 12 Councillor Harold Usher, himself a cancer survivor, spoke passionately in support of why London should be instituting a total ban on smoking in municipally owned public spaces. Saying he believe the committee “missed the boat completely on what the intent of this motion was,” Usher said he was clear what the end result of any bylaw should be.
“For me, at the end of this motion, was simply to not smoke around children so you don’t influence them to smoke. That is why we focused on the parks,” Usher said. “There are lots of activities that happen in the parks and there are lots of kids who go to festivals in the parks. These children see adults smoking and adopt it at an early age. We are trying to influence kids to not smoke, to influence people in general not to smoke.”
Usher said he expects that the provincial government will eventually extend its smoking regulations to include public places and parks — something he added many communities already have already adopted.
Ward 4 Councillor Stephen Orser, an admitted smoker — which he also apologized for — supported Usher’s position in calling for a more comprehensive ban. The councillor said such a move would represent “the greater good,” particularly as smoke drifts further than nine metres.
“I do believe that smoking should be banned from all parks, recreation areas where kids play,” Orser said. “There is no balanced approach to a little kid who inhales smoke at 10 feet. Smoking is most certainly killing us in health costs. The market is dying off, people are dying off, and we should have a smoke-free future for our kids.”
Ward 3 Councillor Joe Swan called on staff to consider what Mayor Joe Fontana called “a sunshine clause” that would see the nine-metre rules pave the way for an eventual total ban in public spaces.
Swan said such a move would “send a clear signal” that smoking in public places “is not an acceptable practice in our society,” due to its negative impacts on community health.
“Your balanced approach is really sending a message to those who do smoke that this is a practice we are going to phase out in public spaces, in public parks,” Swan said. “In 12 to 24 months, you will smoke no more in public spaces.”
Staff said the sunshine clause will be considered as it looks to bring forward a bylaw for councillors to vote on in the near future.
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