Pull-back on smoking law raises concern

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Chatham-Kent will only miss out on a few changes to its smoking laws now that the new provincial government has paused the new Smoke Free Ontario Act, but there is still cause for concern, an official with the Chatham-Kent Public Health Unit has said.

Although the Chatham-Kent Board of Health was not set to meet again until September, a special meeting was called Monday to hear how the municipality will be affected following the Progressive Conservative government’s decision earlier this month.

Carina Caryn, program manager of chronic disease and injury prevention, said Chatham-Kent already had a “comprehensive bylaw” which covered many of the rules set to be implemented in the new act.

However, it does not cover the plan to put a nine-metre smoking radius around outdoor restaurant patios or rules around how e-cigarettes can be displayed or advertised in stores, she said.

“Currently, really the only kinds of rules around e-cigarettes are you can’t sell them to anyone under 19, but for tobacco you would know that they have to be behind a wall when you walk into stores so they’re not visible,” said Caryn.

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The new act, which was scheduled to take effect July 1, was going to combine the older Smoke Free Ontario Act with the Electronic Cigarettes Act. Both remain in force, so the health unit will maintain the status quo, said Caryn.

“I think there is cause for concern,” she said. “There is a way to really create some consistency across the province so people can understand, no matter what jurisdiction you’re in, this is what you can and cannot do.”

Caryn also said the additional regulations on e-cigarettes could have been beneficial to the health of young people in the province.

“We know that youth who use e-cigarettes are more likely to then use tobacco and we really want to prevent youth from initiating both e-cigarette and tobacco use,” she said. “Obviously, we all know the health impact of that.”

April Rietdyk, general manager of community human services, said she will discuss possible options for putting the rules around e-cigarettes into a bylaw with the municipality’s legal department.

She said she will come back to the Board of Health at the September meeting with more information.

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