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The tobacco cops: How they'll make you butt out

Sault Ste. Marie is going to need a new enforcement officer to ensure compliance with the 100% Smoke Free motion expected to pass City Council tomorrow.

Sault Ste. Marie is going to need a new enforcement officer to ensure compliance with the 100% Smoke Free motion expected to pass City Council tomorrow.

"We anticipate the need for an intensive effort for the first six to twelve months of implementation," says the 13-organization 100% Smoke Free coalition in an inch-thick report to councillors.

"We will use existing operational resources and hire an additional enforcement officer for enforcement."

"Public health staff appointed by the Medical Officer of Health as bylaw enforcement officers will be trained in the application of the bylaw. One enforcement officer will receive enhanced training, as he/she will be principally charged with enforcement of the bylaw."

'Snitch' hotline

"A co-ordinator will be designated from existing health department staff to oversee the enforcement strategy and assist with recording of complaints/warnings/charges in a database and will respond to complaints received on the bylaw hotline and do routine patrols of establishments to ensure compliance."

As mentioned in the above quote, the implementation plan calls for a 'snitch' line that will allow members of the public to phone in reports about non-compliant events and businesses.

As reported last Thursday, the proposed implementation date of the smoking ban has been moved back one year, to June 4, 2004, when the City's existing smoking bylaw expires.

Their plan to make you butt out

Here, gleaned from the documents submitted to City Council, is the enforcement game plan:

- the lead agency in planning, implementing, enforcing and monitoring the smoking ban will be the Algoma Health Unit, in partnership with the City (Legal Services and Police) and the Canadian Cancer Society, the Lung Association and the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario

- a public awareness campaign will be launched, aimed at making the public and business community knowledgeable about the new bylaw and its implementation date. The emphasis will be on the positive health objectives of the smoking ban. A special hotline will be established to allow the public to 'snitch' on non-compliant events and businesses

- as soon as the 100% Smoke Free bylaw is approved by City Council, education packages will be mailed to all affected businesses. Among other things, this material will outline the penalities for non-compliance by patrons, owners, managers and staff. A bylaw enforcement officer will then visit each affected business to "give any possible assistance"

- enforcement efforts will be co-ordinated with Police Services. Bylaw enforcement officers will record all interactions with business in a database that will be used for court evidence if necessary

- starting on the day of implementation (June 4, 2004), enforcement officers will conduct routine inspections of businesses and issue courtesy warnings to patrons and written warnings to non-compliant owners or staff. Every visit to problem businesses will be documented. The warning phase will last for one month.

- One month after the warning period, bylaw enforcement officers will start to issue tickets that offer recipients to plead guilty with no need to attend court.

- The implementation plan proposes: "Enforcement will not initially be directed at owners. Only when there is a clear indication that the owner(s) are not taking steps to control smoking by patrons within their establishments will enforcement be directed at proprietors."

$255 fines expected for first offenders

Fines for first-time offenders, both patrons and proprietors, are expected to be around $205, plus a $50 victim surcharge.

For subsequent offences, the maximum fine for a bylaw offence is $5,000.

Quit smoking programs

Smoking cessation programs are considered a critical part of the plan for implementing the Sault's smoking ban.

"It is expected that the demand for quit-smoking resources will increase after the bylaw is in place," the 100% Smoke Free report says.

The Algoma Health Unit, the Canadian Cancer Society and the Algoma Lung Association, as well as other community partners, will continue to offer cessation programs including individual counselling, group sessions, health professional training, self-help material and telephone counselling.

The 100% Smoke Free Coalition has applied for funding to advertise these programs.

Smoke Free addresses Greenbelt concerns

To read the 100% Smoke Free coalition's take on issues raised by Greenbelt Bingo, please click here.

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David Helwig

About the Author: David Helwig

David Helwig's journalism career spans seven decades beginning in the 1960s. His work has been recognized with national and international awards.
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