When I first lived in Montreal in 2004-2005, I was shocked to find out you could still smoke in bars, restaurants and even in some parts of shopping malls. I remember coming home from the bar in university, and having to immediately shower to get the awful smell out of my hair.
Things have definitely changed for the better in terms of smoking regulations in Quebec: indoor smoking is almost completely prohibited in public spaces, and in terms of outdoor bans, you can no longer smoke in the vicinity of educational institutions, day cares or healthcare facilities. (The full Tobacco Act can be read here.)
I would like to see smoking restrictions extended to include playgrounds. I’m not asking for a full-on ban in public parks as is the case in Vancouver, but rather a “smoke-free zone” for children’s play structures and the surrounding areas.
My son and I were at our favourite park this morning, at the same time as the high school across the street’s lunch break. Our park visits often correspond to the school’s lunch hour. Let me be clear: this is not a rant against teenagers. As a former high school teacher, I know that the wider social issue of why students choose to congregate in a park to smoke pot and cigarettes over their lunch break is not something that will be remedied by a smoking ban. In our neighbourhood, the ease with which young people are acquiring both cigarettes and marijuana and their complete nonchalance about smoking both in a public park certainly merits being addressed.
But at least, a no-smoking zone around the playground would mean my son wouldn’t have to see young men making a bong out of a plastic water bottle, or a group of students passing around a joint. Today the air was so heavy with the smell of weed I got a headache. There was a large group of students smoking on the play structures destined for older children.
So I suppose you might wonder, why not just leave the park when this is going on?
First of all, have you ever tried to leave a playground with a toddler who has been promised time to play? Second of all, because we have a right to be there:
And no, I am definitely not just blaming high school students. The playground is littered with cigarette butts from parents who smoke while their children play, or as they push their children on the swings next to me and my son.
I am certain that I am not the only parent who is perturbed by smoking near playgrounds. Our park is busy during the day with day cares and families, and I’m sure none of them enjoy plucking cigarette butts from little ones’ hands or trying to maneuver their children so as not to be downwind from second-hand smoke.
I would like to limit my son’s exposure to second-hand smoke to… well, honestly, zero exposure. I would also like the sight of “big kids” smoking joints to not become something totally banal and commonplace for him, and I hate that our playground sand looking like a giant ashtray.
A ban on smoking on children’s playground is neither revolutionary nor uncommon:
- In Edmonton, smoking is prohibited within 10 metres of playgrounds;
- The city of Vancouver has a full ban in public parks;
- In Calgary, smoking is prohibited within 5 metres of playgrounds;
- The city of Woodstock, ON has a ban on smoking within 30 m of playgrounds;
- The city of Whitby, ON forbids smoking within 15 m of playgrounds;
- Ottawa has a complete ban on smoking in parks and playgrounds;
- The entire state of Utah has a full ban in public parks.
[update 11/7/2014] As of January 1, 2015, smoking will be banned on playgrounds province-wide in Ontario!
I would like to send a big thank-you out to all my Facebook followers who helped me collect the information on bans in other cities!
So, what can Montrealers do?
- Write to our elected officials;
- Alert our local police department to any drug use in our parks;
- Reach out to media;
- I’m working on starting a petition, stay tuned.
[update 11/7/2014] I had a really positive phone call from my local police department, telling me that my concerns have been passed on to the high school’s liaison officer, and that local police will be passing by the playground next week (not for cigarette smoking, of course, but for my concerns about marijuana). My borough councilor’s office also replied, promising to look further into the issue!
Is smoking banned in playgrounds where you live?