Smokers required to butt-out in Toronto parks

While watching his brother make a snowman recently Canaan Alexander of Toronto enjoyed one of his last cigarettes in Thompson Memorial Park.

As of Jan. 28, a no-smoking ban has been implemented in all areas under the jurisdiction of Toronto Parks and Recreation.

“The ban on smoking in parks is only something that will show up on paper,” Alexander said. “Although I won’t, many people will continue to smoke at their own will.”

City council came to the decision with a 31-6 vote to prohibit smoking in all outdoor playgrounds, splash pads and other park facilities, such as the Toronto Zoo, where children would be exposed to secondhand smoke outdoors.

Toronto Public Health has accepted as proof that exposure to secondhand smoke, even in open areas, is harmful. City councillor, Janet Davis (Ward 31 Beaches-East York) said the intention of the ban is to ensure public spaces become smoke-free zones.

“There has been an interest over the years in extending anti-smoking bylaws in an incremental way,” she said. “It has been raised by many park users who are concerned about their children’s exposure to secondhand smoke in playgrounds. Parents have been the catalysts along with public health, park forces and recreation.”

Enforcing the ban won’t be as difficult as one would imagine. Paula Fletcher, city councillor (Ward 30) said self and peer regulation will help with the compliance rate. Fletcher expects many people will accept the bylaw and abide by smoking signs voluntarily as they would traffic signs.

“The bylaw will be enforced the same way parking traffic signs are obeyed. When someone sees a traffic sign, like no left hand turns, they obey it. We are relying on the honesty of people in the city and those around them,” Fletcher said.

“This is how most bylaws in Toronto are enforced, 95 per cent of people obey the law. The other five per cent will eventually learn to abide to it as well.”

According to Davis, people in the city voluntarily accept and obey the law. For the small percentages that need enforcing, bylaw officers will provide notices and will eventually hit them with a fine.

The city is still debating on the amount for the fine, but has asked that it be set at $305. The signs to enforce the no-smoking law in parks will cost taxpayers around $16,000. Both Davis and Fletcher agree it is a small price to pay for the health of the city’s children.