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Smoking ban contemplated for Woolwich playing fields

Outdoor recreational areas in Woolwich, including sports fields and playgrounds, may be off limits to smokers if the township goes ahead with plans discussed this week. Acting on a request from Woolwich Youth Soccer, the township will launch a public process aimed at banning smoking in the vicinity of soccer fields, baseball diamonds and playgrounds. The goal is to prevent participants, often children, from exposure to second-hand smoke.

Addressing township council May 22, WYSC president John Collinson said the ban would be a logical extension of the smoking prohibition already in place at Ontario schools and their play areas. Some 18 municipalities in the province have outdoor smoking restrictions in effect, he added, pointing to the likes of Barrie, Midland, Welland and Woodstock.

Elsewhere, Ottawa last month banned smoking at all outdoor restaurant and bar patios, city-owned parks, playgrounds, beaches, sports fields and fruit and vegetable markets. Hamilton this month rolls out a smoking ban on all city-owned properties used for recreational purposes.

Karen Makela, director of recreation and facilities, oversaw a similar ban with her previous employer, the City of Elliot Lake. The process here would involve public input into such issues as where smoking would be prohibited and how much of a perimeter would be set up around play areas.

Mayor Todd Cowan said the township should brace for a backlash from smokers.

“There will obviously be a minority that disagree with the suggestion we have,” replied Collison, likening the expected reaction to the initial resistance to a ban on smoking in restaurants and bars.

While acknowledging there will be negative feedback, Coun. Julie-Anne Herteis argued most smokers would see this as the proper thing to do, especially with kids involved.

“Parents don’t need to smoke right there,” she said, noting smokers can move away from the sidelines to more appropriate spots.

If the prohibition is adopted, the township would likely use a “soft sell” approach to winning compliance from smokers. Signs with kids reminding adults that ‘we play here, please don’t smoke,’ typically prove effective, said Makela.

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