Toronto City Council passed a bylaw prohibiting smokers from lighting up within nine meters of public buildings, parks, playgrounds, sports fields and beaches in mid-November. This latest regulation leaves some smokers wondering if smoking should even be legal if the government keeps on adding more restrictions preventing them from smoking.
The bylaw, passed on November 14, enforces a $300 fine upon anyone who smokes within the nine-meter range of public areas. Initially, the idea to expand the smoking ban to public beaches, parks and restaurant patios was proposed by Toronto’s medical officer of health, Dr. David McKeown, in late September.
“Images of people smoking in public places normalize smoking in the minds of children and youth,” McKeown told the Toronto Star. “In particular, coaches, parents, and others involved in recreational activities often serve as youth role models. These role models are often an important influence on a child’s decision to smoke.”
Ward 23 Councilor John Filion supports and shares McKeown’s belief that the smoking bans are beneficial to prevent smoking and also for limiting the health risks of second-hand smoke.
“The main concern is the health concern primarily for other people but even for the people who are smoking,” Filion said. “The more we can reduce the rates of people smoking, the better.”
Although the main concern is public health, smokers still have the right to smoke, no matter how many bylaws are passed, but where they can light up is the big question, especially since the latest bylaw was passed.
“Well, you can smoke in your backyard, you can smoke on your balcony if you live in a condo,” said Filion, “but you shouldn’t be smoking where it affects other people’s health.”
Ryan McFarlane, a Toronto resident, has been smoking for 40 years. Even though he admits that smoking is a hazard to his health and the health of others, he still thinks the bylaw is “stupid” and “ridiculous.”
“Why don’t they just make it illegal and be done with it,” said McFarlane. “They’ve done everything but make it illegal. What other substance can you think of when they’re telling you where or where you can’t smoke? It’s just another Orwellian way of dealing with people who are basically abiding the law but they’re just making it more inconvenient for you.”
McFarlane has been trying to quit smoking for sometime but, like Donna Dunum, another long-time smoker, he lacks the willpower to do so. However, unlike McFarlane, Dunum does not think the bylaw is ridiculous. Instead, it makes her feel ashamed.
“I support the bylaw. I think it’s going to be difficult for me to abide by it but I would like to,” said Dunum. “Hopefully, there won’t be a smoking bylaw anymore in the future because people just won’t smoke. Now maybe hitting me in the pocket book and shaming me in getting a fine for smoking will work.”
The City’s next stage regarding smoking is the cigarette butts thrown on the streets. The Toronto Solid Waste Management released a report on October 29 stating that anyone who is caught disposing their cigarette improperly can be fined up to $365. However, instead of stamping fines to solve the problem of smoking, Dunum thinks the government should look at the root of the problem, the smokers themselves.
“I hope the government will have a program for me like they do for drunk driving,” said Dunum. “When someone is caught for a DUI (driving under the influence), they get a ticket and they’re sent to AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) to help them with their drinking problem. They should have something like that available for smokers too, because drunk driving affects others on the road like smoking affects others who ingest the smoke on the streets.”