Home / Canada / Montreal suburb’s plan to ban public smoking could do more harm than good, advocate says

Montreal suburb’s plan to ban public smoking could do more harm than good, advocate says

MONTREAL—A Montreal suburb’s plan to ban all smoking in public places is drawing mixed reactions, with one anti-tobacco advocate saying it will do more harm than good when it comes to second-hand smoke.
Hampstead city council adopted a draft bylaw this week that would prohibit tobacco or marijuana smoking on municipal property, including sidewalks and streets.
If the bylaw is enacted, Hampstead would become the first municipality in the country to ban smoking in the street, according to the Canadian Cancer Society.
The bylaw, which could come into effect following a second vote in April, does not prohibit electronic cigarettes or smoking in cars.
Mayor William Steinberg says the law would protect people’s health and send a strong anti-smoking message.
He said the city was prompted to act by upcoming legislation to legalize recreational marijuana, which is worrisome to some of the town’s 7,000 residents.
“Both tobacco and pot, we don’t want it happening in public,” Steinberg told The Canadian Press. “One of the reasons is second-hand smoke, which is harmful, especially for the elderly, for people with lung diseases and for young people.
“The second reason is example … Young kids are still taking it (smoking) up. And when it comes to the legalization of pot, we definitely have concerns about more young people smoking pot.
“So we don’t want to have people setting a bad example. We don’t want groups of teenagers or young adults going around smoking joints in our parks or on streets and sidewalks.”
But Steinberg denies the bylaw is too draconian for the upscale residential town, which has no stores or office buildings.
“If somebody wants to smoke a cigarette, they can smoke it on their property,” he told The Canadian Press.
“If somebody is working in one of our municipal buildings, for public works, you can walk a block and you’re out of Hampstead and you can smoke to your heart’s content.”
But a spokesman for a non-smokers’ rights group believes the regulation will do more harm than good.
Francois Damphousse says the law will force more people to smoke indoors, which is much more damaging to the health of those around them.
“We have been working for decades to try to control smoking indoors, and we want people to go smoke outdoors, and now they can’t even go smoke outdoors,” he said in an interview.
He said most complaints about second-hand smoke come from tenants or landlords who are bothered by smoking in their buildings, and he expects the number of those complaints to only increase if other cities follow Hampstead’s lead.
Michael Bryant of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association believes the bylaw discriminates against low-income people, who are more likely to be smokers and less likely to own private residences.
“The social science is clear that while smoking has gone down for the well-off, it continues to be somewhat medicinal for the poor,” he said in a phone interview.
“The effect is going to be that economically disadvantaged people are being pushed out of that community.”
On the outskirts of Hampstead, several residents told The Canadian Press they felt the regulation would go too far.
“People should be allowed to smoke on the streets, for goodness sake,” said Jennifer Sugar, a smoker who lights up on her balcony.
“Second-hand smoke is going to drift away in a second, it’s not going to bother anybody.”
But David Naicker, an Ontario resident visiting Montreal, said he is in favour of the idea — even though he smokes.
“I’m a smoker, I’m guilty as charged, but why not?” he said as he paused for a cigarette break near the Hampstead border.
“Society has to change, and it does kill you.”
Rob Cunningham, a senior policy analyst with the Canadian Cancer Society, says other cities will inevitably follow Hampstead’s lead, especially as they grapple with how to handle the legalization of marijuana.
He said the upcoming legislation is a “prompt” for cities to address the issue, especially as citizens are increasingly demanding smoke-free environments.
Personally, he’s in favour of Hampstead’s ban, pointing out that people will still be allowed to smoke on private property.
“Every restriction is a motivation for people to quit,” he said.

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