The recent decision by County Council to endorse the proposed Smoke-Free Outdoor Spaces bylaw is a commendable decision. There is significant scientific evidence and public support to show that such a bylaw would positively affect the health of Lambton residents.
Tobacco smoke is measurable in outdoor spaces. Evidence demonstrating detectable exposure has been found by researchers at Stanford University. Their data conclude tobacco smoke concentrations near smokers can rival indoor smoke concentrations. Further, research by the University of Waterloo found that smoke can be detected even at 9 metres from a lit cigarette.
There are proven negative health effects from any tobacco smoke exposure. In 2006 the US Surgeon General concluded in their study "The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke" that there is no risk-free level of exposure to tobacco smoke. There is also evidence that even brief exposure to tobacco smoke can lead to health effects such as myocardial infarction, stroke and asthma attacks.
Perhaps most importantly, a smoke-free outdoor spaces bylaw would also encourage positive role-modeling for children and youth. I believe that the image of smoking is just as toxic as physical exposure to tobacco smoke. We know that even the most dedicated smokers would agree that they would want to discourage children and youth from taking up the habit. Children learn from what adults do.
Public opinion data tells us that Lambton residents are strongly in support of restricting smoking in outdoor spaces. In a randomized telephone poll of 817 Lambton County residents, between 76% and 79% of residents supported smoke-free bylaws for playgrounds and sports fields.
Lambton is not the first municipality working to create healthier spaces for our children to play and grow. Over 88 municipalities in Ontario have already restricted smoking in outdoor spaces. Ottawa, for example just recently adopted a bylaw restricting smoking at all outdoor areas including patios, beaches and entranceways to municipal buildings. There are many communities working to do the same.
The scientific evidence and public opinion support this bylaw. Council's endorsement demonstrates leadership and promotes a healthier Lambton County. We expect that the lower-tier municipalities will give this important matter serious consideration when asked to vote on the proposed by-law.
Dr. Chris Greensmith, M.B.ChB., M.P.A., F.R.C.P. (C)
Medical Officer of Health (A)