Expanding outdoor smoke-free spaces continues to spark debate across Ontario: Lessons from Ottawa.
Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death and disease in Ontario.  As we recognize National Non-Smoking Week, the Canadian Cancer Society and Ottawa Public Health, reminds municipalities how they can better protect the health of citizens by extending outdoor smoke-free spaces across the province.

Smoking-related health stats by the numbers:

  • Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death for both men and women in Canada, taking the lives of more Canadians than breast, prostate and colorectal cancers combined.
  • Approximately 30 per cent of cancer deaths and 85 per cent of lung cancer deaths are caused by tobacco.
  • Every year, approximately 13,000 Ontarians die because of tobacco use.
  • Each year, tobacco use costs Ontario $4.4 billion in lost productivity.
Currently, more than 100 of Ontario’s 444 municipalities have some form of outdoor smoke-free bylaws in place to protect the health of their citizens. Municipalities looking to expand outdoor smoke-free bylaws to include patios, parks, and other public spaces can learn from others that have already done so, such as the City of Ottawa.
In 2001, Ottawa introduced the first smoke-free indoor regulations in its newly amalgamated municipalities. In 2012, Ottawa modernized its regulatory approach to tobacco free public spaces as part of a comprehensive program to further reduce tobacco exposure in the city. Smoke-free spaces were expanded through bylaw amendments to include 1,200 parks, all (more than 1,000) city properties, four beaches, two public markets and 600 restaurant and bar patios.

A systematic process of public engagement and consultation over the course of eight months led to the successful acceptance of a municipal bylaw.  The implementation plan, which was accomplished within existing budgets by reallocation of resources, focused on education and awareness followed by progressive enforcement.   
Strategies used to engage stakeholders included public and business consultation meetings, an on-line survey for the general public and information sessions with partners. Results of a public opinion survey conducted showed public support for smoke-free patios and beaches increased from 50% to 73%, and 55% to 68%, respectively, between 2005 and 2010.

Research indicates that smoking bans increase the motivation of smokers to quit or cutback. Additional studies show that nearly all smokers start using tobacco before the age of 18, therefore the expanded ban would help model positive behaviour for children.

What worked?
  • Public awareness campaign consisting of media, information packages mailed to stakeholders, education visits and training to restaurant and bar patio owners.
  • Strong internal partnerships with affected departments such as Parks and Recreation, Bylaw and Public Works.
  • Training for City staff positions – summer students and full time staff working in Parks and Recreation, information sessions with City employees and unions, packages and signs for all City facility managers and festival organizers.
  • Signage in visible places - metal works best outdoors.
  • Consultation with business owners on implementation – they want clear rules on how to implement regulations.
  • Initial enforcement consisted of a public awareness phase, a 3-month warning phase followed by the issuing of $305 fines. Enforcement is complaint driven – this information helps identify hot spots where By-law officers frequent.
  • Since April 2012, and as of January 2014, the City has received 435 complaints, issued 300 warnings and laid 48 charges with a 95% conviction rate.
  • Five student by-law officers proactively patrol parks and beaches during summer months and all bylaw officers (40 officers) ensure compliance and respond to complaints.
  • We’ve learned enforcement is not as resource intensive as the first year but municipalities need to be vigilant, plan messages at key periods during the year, monitor hot spots, respond to complaints and replenish signage.

Ottawa: Smoke-Free Kids, Cleaner City, Healthy People.

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January 23, 2014
WatchFile - Guest Column

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