ERCA to proceed with drafting policy to ban smoking at conservation areas

 

image001By Ron Giofu

 

Banning smoking at ERCA’s conservation areas is one step closer after the board voted to proceed to have a policy drafted on the issue.

While smoking would still be permitted in such areas as campgrounds and parking lots, it would be outlawed in public areas of the parks starting as soon as 2014 should the policy be eventually passed.

The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit will be consulted as ERCA drafts the policy.

ERCA administration originally recommended phasing in a smoking ban starting in 2015 but the board moved the target date up one year.

“To me, this is very easy,” said Kingsville Deputy Mayor Tamara Stomp. “It makes no sense to me that you would be out jogging in a conservation area on one of the trails and you’ve got to stop, pull out a pack of cigarettes and light one up.”

Costs to enforce the policy were a concern to some but Stomp believed there would be a budgetary impact due to less garbage on roads and in forested areas within conservation areas.

ERCA administration envisions that enforcement of the policy, should one be eventually adopted, be “self-enforced” and Essex Councillor Sherry Bondy compared it to “poop and scoop” bylaws municipalities have.

“Nine times out of ten, people are going to pick up the poop,” said Bondy.

Bondy also wanted the policy to look at a smoking ban starting in 2014.

“I don’t know why we’re waiting,” she said.

Windsor Councillor Jo-Anne Gignac supported drafting a policy but did voice concerns over enforcement. She said she doesn’t enjoy being around smoking but “it is an addiction.” Gignac wanted to see “very specific costs” contained in a report when it comes back before the ERCA board.

LaSalle Councillor Ray Renaud also said smoking was “an addiction,” adding that he smoked for 50 years. He was concerned about “shutting out” a segment of the population if such a ban were to be passed and believed it was a matter for the Ontario government to look at and not organizations such as ERCA. If Ontario were to take cigarettes “out of production,” ERCA wouldn’t have to make decisions whether or not to ban them at conservation areas.

“They won’t do it because of the money. We know that,” said Renaud.

Amherstburg Councillor John Sutton believed it was important for ERCA to act on the issue, stating the province has not shown the political will to act further on the matter.

While ERCA would be one of the first conservation areas to enact such a ban, he suspected others are looking for someone else to be the first “out of fear” rather than take this course of action.

“I think it’s the right move and I think it’s the right time,” said Sutton. “It behooves us as guardians of the environment and protectors of the environment to do this post-haste.”

As it pertains specifically to Holiday Beach Conservation Area, the proposed ban would see smoking banned in the bulk of the park with campgrounds spared. Director of conservation services Kevin Money said campers rent those spaces and they can consume alcohol and smoke at their spots as if it were their own homes.

Judy Lund of the Canadian Cancer Society said her organization supports such a ban.

“We’re thankful ERCA is considering adopting such a policy at this time,” she told the board.

Lund said that roughly 22 percent of people in Windsor-Essex County smoke and the area also carries a high rate of lung cancer.

“Smoking is the number one preventable cause of death in Canada,” said Lund.

Children and youth need reduced exposure to smoking. Smoking also has a negative impact on heath care costs, she believed.

“The Ontario healthcare budget is skyrocketing and smoking is a key factor in this increase,” said Lund.

Heart and Stroke Foundation volunteers Melissa Macksoud and Anthony Andary also spoke in favour of the potential smoking ban. Macksoud said even though people are outside, they can still be impacted by second-hand smoke.

“It still can affect you in the same way as being in a confined area,” said Macksoud.

Macksoud said they want to “denormalize” smoking and have that lead to a reduction in smoking amongst youth as well. Other reasons the Heart and Stroke Foundation wants to see a ban is because they see it as a way to protect the environment, reduce litter and reduce fire risk.

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