Toronto smoking ban to expand to beaches, parks, patios

As a fall wind blew by Greenwood Raceway last week, Jacob Cirilli huddled against the building for a smoke.

More Beach smokers may soon be out in the cold if a pair of new smoking bans passes at Queen’s Park and Toronto city hall.

Together, the new laws would ban smoking on swimming beaches, at parks, playgrounds and sports fields, as well as on all bar and restaurant patios, at entrances to public buildings, public squares and hospital grounds.

“As a smoker, it sucks because you can’t go to a park and light up a smoke,” Cirilli says, finishing his break.

Bar and restaurant patios already feel like a “last refuge,” he said.

“But I see where they’re coming from,” he adds. “You don’t want people to see you smoking, especially kids.”

In Toronto, smoking is already banned inside offices, bars, restaurants and vehicles with small children.

But Dr. David McKeown, the city’s medical officer of health, said in a recent report that second-hand smoke is also a threat outside.

Dr. McKeown also noted that more smokers moved outside each time the city upped its restrictions in 1999, 2001, and 2004, meaning more second-hand smoke and, as Cirilli said, more smokers who model the unhealthy habit to children.

Speaking after the parks committee voted to send the smoking ban to city council, Ward 32 Councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon said a lot of people support the ban.

“Definitely, on the other side, some people think government gets too involved,” McMahon said. “But from a health angle, smoking in parks and around playgrounds – it’s a concern especially for vulnerable people like young children and elderly people.”

McMahon also said she gets many calls about cigarette butts on the beach, and sees loads of them when she joins the Pegasus Group’s annual spring clean-up along Kingston Road. She even spoke with Beach artist Elizabeth Berry about collecting all the butts into a huge tower, just to show how quickly they pile up.

Around the corner from Woodbine Park, smokers have the choice of two patios at Murphy’s Law Irish Pub.

Manager Dwayne James says those two are a lot busier than the pub’s single non-smoking patio, which mostly seats families. Making all three patios non-smoking will probably hurt business for a little while, he said, but he expects numbers to bounce back just as they did after Toronto banned smoking inside bars and restaurants.

“People are still going to want to go out for a good time, talk to some people, watch some sports,” James said. “I think it’s probably a good thing.

“I did notice a lot of people quit smoking because of it, too,” he said.

A 2011 survey of adults living in Toronto found that 83 per cent support a smoking ban for sports fields, 77 per cent for public beaches and 74 per cent for bar and restaurant patios.

About one in five people in Toronto smoke tobacco, which remains the leading cause of preventable death and disease in Canada.

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