BRACEBRIDGE - The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit is moving to shut down a designated smoking zone at Bracebridge and Muskoka Lakes Secondary School.
A report by Bracebridge culture and recreation director Leo Broere released on Wednesday, Sept. 12 says the health unit has decided the smoking zone — located at the rear of the school — violates the Smoke-Free Ontario Act and the Ontario Education Act. Council approved the smoking area last September at the request of the Trillium Lakelands District School Board.
“The TLDSB has been informed that, should the designated smoking section continue to be utilized, charges would likely be laid against the TLDSB and its staff,” said Broere. “As a result, smokers are being directed to relocate to the public sidewalk in front of the school at Clearbrook Trail.”
When the idea of a smoking zone was floated last year, town staff described it as a practical approach to dealing with smokers who were not allowed to light up on school grounds. Students were driven out to the sidewalk in front of the neighbouring sportsplex if they wanted to light up, where they could not be monitored by school staff.
Town staff said the result was that smokers littered the ground there with cigarette butts and created an “unwelcome environment” for sportsplex patrons.
Smokers who flowed onto the roadway and parking lot were also reported to be traffic hazards, and students who left school grounds to smoke were often late returning to class.
By contrast, Broere said the designated smoking zone proved much more effective.
“The smokers were contained to that small parcel of land, as was any litter and mess,” he said. “School board staff felt that the users were safe from roadside traffic and that the smoking area was working effectively.”
Though smokers had their own space, principal Dave Golden had said the school would continue running programs encouraging students to quit smoking altogether.
With the health unit clampdown, Broere said school and sportsplex staff are doing their best to control litter and waste.
“Sportsplex staff continue to be diligent in patrolling and maintaining the parking lots and green spaces around our building,” he said. “Staff will continue to monitor the situation and update members of council as necessary.”