County Nixes County-Wide Smoking Bylaw

A sign put up at the Leamington Soccer Complex as a result of Leamington's smoke-free outdoor space bylaw. Photo taken May 27, 2014. (Photo by Ricardo Veneza)

It’s not that Essex County Council opposes a uniform approach to banning smoking from parks, playgrounds and sports fields; it’s that it doesn’t think it has the jurisdiction to do so.

Council threw cold water on a bid by the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit to implement a county-wide ban. It says there’s widespread confusion because four out of seven municipalities in Essex County have anti-smoking bylaws, but three others rely on provincial legislation.

Essex Deputy Mayor Richard Meloche says that doesn’t mean the county doesn’t have a role to play. “Municipal leaders can continuously badger the province to put something in that’s a little stronger,” he says. “When we’re at AMO (Association of Municipalities of Ontario) we should be mentioning these to the Minister of Health.”

Others, like Essex Mayor Ron McDermott, think the health unit has already bitten off more than it can chew with enforcing bylaws in different municipalities. He doubts four enforcement officers will be enough. “You say you will have someone at all of these facilities. I find that hard to believe.”

The manager of chronic disease and injury prevention at the health unit, Kristy McBeth, says it’s impossible to enforce bylaws at all facilities at all times. She says that’s why the health unit relies on complaints from the public. “There are people probably speeding in their vehicles all across the region. There is not necessarily a police officer that’s at every corner.”

There are 136 separate municipal anti-smoking bylaws across Ontario.