As municipal representatives gathered in Regina for the annual convention of the Saskatchewan Association of Urban Municipalities (SUMA), health groups were calling on elected officials to support policies that will improve public health and reduce the risk of chronic disease.
The Lung Association of Saskatchewan, Heart and Stroke Foundation and Canadian Cancer Society were urging delegates and other elected officials to take action by implementing outdoor smoke-free bylaws, including patios, parks, and other public spaces. “We will be meeting with as many delegates as possible to talk about the important role they play in making their communities healthier,” says Jennifer Miller, Vice-President of Health Promotion for the Lung Association of Saskatchewan. “Healthier, vibrant communities are more productive and attract more business and tourists.”
Health groups were also sharing the results of a recent public opinion poll that found widespread support for bylaws that restrict smoking in outdoor places including:
• 70 per cent support ban on smoking on all outdoor patios at restaurants and bars;
• 91 per cent support banning smoking on children’s playgrounds;
• 81 per cent support banning smoking on all sports fields (e.g. soccer pitches, baseball diamonds, etc);
• 87 per cent support ban on smoking in any fixed seating or bleachers;
• 77 per cent support smoking ban on municipal property used for public gatherings (e.g. festivals, concerts, exhibition grounds, etc).
Of the 442 municipalities who attended the SUMA convention, only Saskatoon, back in 2004, has banned smoking on outdoor patios of restaurants and bars. As a result, a landmark report comparing cancer risk profiles found that Saskatoon has the lowest rate of second-hand smoke exposure of the 26 cities studied. Regina ranked 16. “Smoke-free places protect the health of the community, while supporting smokers who want to quit. This is why we are challenging officials to take a more active role in the fight against cancer by supporting legislation that prevents cancer,” says Donna Pasiechnik, Manager Tobacco Control with the Canadian Cancer Society in Saskatchewan.
A decade ago, because of the leadership of municipalities such as Moose Jaw, Yorkton and Saskatoon (the first communities to adopt smoke-free bylaws) the provincial government adopted similar legislation. “Today, public opinion is again telling policymakers to act. Most Saskatchewan people support more smoke-free public places”, says Keisha Sharp, Health Promotion Specialist for the Heart and Stroke Foundation. “This is an issue where public opinion and public health say the same thing – it’s time.”
Health groups believe that working with government and legislators to bring about healthy public policies is a vital part of the fight against chronic disease.