Ottawa Public Health releases recommendations for renewed smoke-free strategy designed to protect children, non-smokers from second-hand smoke while reducing smoking rates

OTTAWA, Ontario , February 1, 2012 (press release) – Today, Ottawa Public Health (OPH) released recommendations for a renewed smoke-free strategy designed to protect children and non-smokers from second-hand smoke while reducing smoking rates.

This joint initiative between OPH and By-law and Regulatory Services, in consultation with other city departments, includes increased programming for people who want to quit; new smoke-free regulations to protect residents from second-hand smoke and a public awareness and community engagement strategy designed to make Ottawa a healthier city for all.

“Tobacco use continues to be the leading cause of preventable death and disease,” said Dr. Isra Levy, Ottawa’s Medical Officer of Health. “In Ottawa, almost 1,000 smokers and non-smokers die each year due to tobacco related illness. What’s more is that almost 19 per cent of residents are exposed to second-hand smoke in areas where they work and play. The renewed strategy will result in healthier people, a cleaner city and smoke-free kids.”

The renewed strategy for a smoke-free Ottawa recommends:

Increasing cessation services and programs for all residents, including priority populations with high smoking rates;
Expanding Ottawa’s smoke-free regulations to make all municipal properties, including parks and beaches, and bar and restaurant patios smoke-free; and
Implementing public education campaigns and a community engagement strategy to decrease the number of youth who start smoking, to increase awareness of the dangers of tobacco smoke and to create more smoke-free spaces.

These initiatives do not require additional funding for enforcement or to deliver enhanced services.

Ottawa residents strongly support creating more smoke-free spaces, according to OPH’s consultations and public opinion research. If the recommendations in this report are adopted by City Council, Ottawa will join a growing number of municipalities that have made such places smoke-free.

“There is no safe level of second-hand smoke, even outdoors. Vulnerable populations such as children, seniors, pregnant women and people with heart and respiratory problems are particularly at risk of adverse health effects caused by second-hand smoke,” said Dr. Levy.

At present, almost 15 per cent of residents smoke – approximately 105,000 people. The smoking rate has levelled off since 2005 after steep declines in earlier years.

Expanding smoke-free spaces in Ottawa has received strong public support from residents over a number of years. A 2011 Ipsos Reid survey showed that 77 per cent of respondents support smoke-free parks and playgrounds; 77 per cent support smoke-free municipal properties and 73 per cent support smoke-free patios. Designated smoking areas and patio curfews are not recommended due to enforcement complexities, the health hazard of second-hand smoke and the risk of negative role modelling to children, especially in areas where they play.

OPH developed multiple opportunities for residents, business owners and community groups to provide input on expanding Ottawa’s smoke-free regulations. Over 3,000 letters were sent to business and community organizations and five public consultations were held. More than 2,000 responses were received from the general public, business owners and community partners – 1,600 of these responses came from the online consultation.

OPH will present its report to the Board of Health on February 6, 2012 at 5 p.m. in the Champlain Room at City Hall. Recommendations will be forwarded to the Community and Protective Services Committee on February 15, 2012 and City Council on February 22, 2012 for final approval. Board of Health reports can be found on ottawa.ca/health.

For more information about smoking cessation programs and tools, visit ottawa.ca/quitsmoking or call 613-580-6744 (TTY: 613-580-9656). You can also connect with OPH on Facebook and Twitter (@ottawahealth) for the latest public health information.

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