The new law boots smokers from patios, parks and sports fields and is the provincial government’s much-vaunted companion to its existing Smoke Free Ontario curtailments. For example, already in Ontario, tobacco products cannot be openly displayed or advertised and it’s against the law to smoke indoors or in vehicles carrying children.
Smoking location bans may arouse cheers from those of us sick and tired of stifling secondhand smoke choking our leisure activities from dining out to a day at the beach. Superficially banning smoking appears to be a good thing that makes for great PR. But Ontario’s new law has problems. During my presentation to Toronto Board of Health early in 2014 I pleaded with politicians to develop a strategy for the cigarette butt litter the new law will generate.
Ontario’s smoking ban constitutes a licence for smokers to litter. As well as banning smoking at entranceways the law limits the placement of ash receptacles.
In controlled environments, smokers will use ashtrays. Pushing them to the margins, as the Smoke Free Ontario law does, smokers will flick their butts on streets, sidewalks, parking lots and lawns.
Everywhere in the world the push is on to put a chokehold on tobacco product litter. As a full-time litter researcher, I chronicle the campaigns from UK, AU, USA and around the globe at www.litterpreventionprogram.com .
I do not know why Ontario refuses to look at the issue, but my point here is that as of tomorrow under the new Smoke Free Ontario legislation, guaranteed, a prolific butt litter problem in this province is about to get worse.
A new study from a Japanese Univeristy (Kyoto) took a close look at the 140+ municipal smoking bans that do exist and found, surprisingly, that health was not the driving reason for bans. Instead these moves to ban smoking were made to deter smokers from littering in those public places after indoor bans sent the smokers out of doors.
In Japan they have a culture of respecting cleanliness and tidiness. There you find enforcement of littering laws. Litter education is mandatory in Grade 4.
Ontario officials like to say that littering is a municipal official not requiring higher-level government involvement. Interesting then that municipal enforcement officers are not empowered to lay charges under the Smoke Free Ontario Act.
When I first heard this at a City of Toronto working group meeting on litter I was stunned. Under the new law municipal authorities are not the enforcers of the patio ban, the beach ban, the park ban, the ban on cigarette sales on campuses. Municipal bylaw inspectors are impotent: only provincial health officers have the power to tag offenders.
This is Ontario’s stand: You usher in a ban. To start with, you have no enforcement plans, no plan for a cigarette butt litter awareness campaign. You don’t allow ash receptacles where they are needed. In fact you tie municipal hands. And lastly, you give no funding or attention whatsoever to quelling the undesirable habit of littering, cigarettes being the most prolific on a long list of garbage-on-the-ground items. Is this not crazy?
Sixty-five per cent of smokers litter their butts, it is estimated. There are all kinds of nasty chemicals in those cigarette and cigar ends, and the e-cigarette waste is a whole other noxious stream in the making. Research provides strong environmental arguments for taking action.
If smokers can’t quit smoking at least they can quit littering.
No self-respecting province should be without a strategy for dealing with cigarette butts, which now can be recycled if captured not strewn.
The introduction of new Smoke Free Ontario clampdowns is an ideal time to get our butts moving on a litter prevention strategy.
Sometimes a kid’s first introduction to smoking comes with the discovery of a littered cigarette butt.