Butt out and keep our playgrounds smoke free

I spent my weekend babysitting my nephew, and we decided to hit the closest playground for some fun. We were having a blast running around and swinging on the swings. I happened to glance at the ground and saw a cigarette butt, and then another, and another after that. In fact, they were all over the playground, piled at the bottom of the slide and scattered all around. 

Like any curious toddler, my nephew wanted to pick them up and check them out. Had I not stopped him, I can only assume he would have put them in his mouth, or at least licked them, in no time. He began asking me all about them -what they were, where they came from and why people threw their garbage on the ground. These were just a few of the, seemingly, neverending questions. As I answered his questions, I couldn’t help but think that I shouldn’t have to. Not because I didn’t want to, but because it is against the law to smoke at a playground or even 20 metres around the playground. There shouldn’t have been any butts here in the first place. 

This ‘no smoking’ law isn’t unique to playgrounds; splash pads, wading pools and sports fields are also included as no smoking areas in the Smoke Free Ontario Act and have been since 2015. This means no smoking or holding lighted tobacco at soccer fields, baseball diamonds, tennis courts, beach volleyball courts, skating rinks, skateboard parks and swimming pools, just to name a few. Spectator areas are included as well. 

Since these restrictions became a reality in 2015 I’ve noticed a decrease in the number of people smoking in these areas – this is good news for protecting our community from second-hand smoke, but there is definitely still room for improvement. Take a look on the ground the next time you are at a playground or sports field and I bet that you could find a cigarette butt or two as evidence of this. 

Breaking this law also costs money – it can result in a fine up to $1,000 for a first offence and up to $5,000 for a second offence. 

If you have questions about the Smoke Free Ontario Act or would like to make a complaint, please contact a Tobacco Enforcement Officer at tobacco.enforcement@wdgpublichealth.ca or by phone at 1-800-265-7293 ext 4664.

Tori Walters
Public Health Inspector