Smoke-free outdoor bylaw passed
GRAVENHURST - It’s going to have to be a sharper learning curve for local smokers as council has given approval to its sweeping outdoor smoke-free bylaw and snuffed an extensive public education period for a far briefer one.
Staff recommended Aug. 7 a period lasting until Jan. 1, 2014 be used for a public awareness and educational campaign about the limitations being placed on municipal property before fines would be levied for infractions.
Although the bylaw itself will have to come back to council late in 2012 for final approval, the education period was trimmed back to last until the end of this year, with fines now levied after the first day of 2013.
“I’m a little disappointed that we’re not going to pass this through as soon as possible,” Coun. Sandy Cairns said in regard to the lengthy campaign proposal, suggesting the briefer period. “I know education is a good thing, but I don’t think we need to wait until 2014.”
Several members of council agreed, while manager of public works and operations Geoff Carleton explained the recommendation had been made for 2014 because of the scope of the proposed bylaw reaching into outdoor spaces.
“Some of the primary concerns were about education; we’re not just asking people to not smoke indoors, this is outdoors as well,” he said. “We thought that was fair (to wait until 2014) to the citizens, visitors and everyone else to inform them of that because it is a dramatic change. That was the idea.”
Although laws already prevent smoking inside public facilities or commercial operations, the town’s bylaw would ban tobacco use of any kind on any town-owned property, including the beaches, parking lots, parks, sports fields, trails, Muskoka Wharf and during events. Town sidewalks would remain available, however, during events on the main street; no smoking would be permitted within the event perimeter.
Coun. Lola Bratty also expressed concern that while the local health unit and several organizations were consulted in crafting the bylaw, event organizers or renters of town facilities were not included.
“That worries me; we rely on those people who come in and organize events and I think they need time to give their input,” she said. Coun. Joe Donoghue agreed that because of the scope of the bylaw, more time “would be essential to doing it right.”
“Especially because it’s such a seasonally driven area,” he added. “This list (of ban locations) is quite extensive.”
“The wave of the future is non-smoking; we can either set the trend or wait two years and follow it,” countered Coun. Heidi Lorenz.
“I think most people will be appreciative of it, even smokers.”
Town clerk Candace Thwaites said that in terms of event organizers who use town-owned property, it would be possible for them to apply for a designated smoking area, which would be considered on an individual basis through the recreation department.
The public education process will begin right away; however, the final draft of the bylaw won’t be back to council for another month or so, still providing some time for potential amendments or public comment.