An assessment of the Essex Region Conservation Authority’s smoke-free outdoor spaces initiative at three of its most popular sites says it’s been effective but there are some compliance issues that need dealing with, according to ERCA officials.
Kevin Money, ERCA’s director of conservation services, said the study conducted by the Ontario Tobacco Research Unit and Windsor-Essex County Health Unit suggests “the implementation of ERCA’s smoke free outdoor spaces policy has been effective at limiting smoking and protecting the public from second-hand smoke exposure.”
Money said both smokers and non-smokers were surveyed, staff was interviewed and a cigarette butt litter analysis was conducted. Of the 23 smokers and 86 non-smokers who participated, the report said 61 per cent indicated they would not be affected by the policy and 36 per cent said they would be more likely to visit a conservation area. Three per cent said they would be less likely to visit.
A small area at Holiday Beach near ongoing building construction was the only one found to have butt litter issues.
“The cigarette butt count that we did within that evaluation tells us that we don’t have full compliance,” Money said. “What (the lack of complaints) tells us is that we don’t have a chronic problem and that we’re well on our way to having smoke free spaces within our conservation areas.”
Money said ERCA was in April the first conservation authority in Ontario to launch a smoke-free outdoor spaces initiative. Phase 1 included the John R. Park Homestead, Hillman Marsh and Holiday Beach Conservation Area — the authority’s largest properties.
Phase 2 will be implemented this spring and will include the remainder of ERCA’s 19 conservation areas.
Smoking is restricted to designated areas – mainly parking lots.
“One of the biggest things that we heard from the health unit was that we don’t want our youth to be seeing people smoking because that de-normalizes the act of smoking,” Money said. “So by not letting kids see that, it’s a method of letting kids know it’s not an activity that’s good for you.”