UPDATED: Toronto health authorities want smokers to butt out

It might be time for Toronto smokers to butt out.

Toronto’s Board of Health voted Monday to endorse a proposal to ban smoking in many outdoor spaces, such as parks, patios and entrances to public buildings.

Ryerson already has a ban on smoking within a nine-metre radius of all campus buildings, but the rule is not easy to enforce. Campus security is not permitted to issue a fine for the violation.

“It’s just there and there’s signs, and that’s just about it,” said Alyssa Cheung, a program co-ordinator of Ryerson’s Leave the Pack Behind chapter, a student-led anti-smoking group.

If a legal smoking ban for entrances is approved, smokers on campus might have a hard time finding a place to puff. Many building entrances overlap within a nine-metre radius, so smokers might have to go off-campus to get their fix.

University students can be particularly affected by smoking bans, as a 2011 Canadian Community Health Group Survey showed that there was a five per cent increase in smoking among 20- to 24-year-olds from 2009 to 2010.

Loren Vanderlinden, manager of healthy public policy for Toronto Public Health, said the aim of the bans is to reduce second-hand smoke exposure, but also to prevent new smokers and support people trying to quit.

“We hear from some smokers that when there’s restrictions on where they can smoke, it actually helps them in their quit attempt or to reduce the amount that they’re smoking,” she said.

If the city moves forward with the ban, it would be a step in the right direction, but university campuses should consider going smoke-free, said Pat Kelly, CEO of the Campaign to Control Cancer, a nationwide coalition of cancer organizations.

“The strength of a university’s tobacco policy is predictive as to whether or not it will increase the likelihood of a student being a smoker, or decrease it,” said Kelly.

Ryerson’s Health Promotion department and Leave the Pack Behind chapter would not comment on the city’s report or recommendations.

Torontonians can expect to see smoke-free sports fields, parks and entranceways by 2014, said Vanderlinden. The report goes go to city council in mid-November.

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