Hampstead wants to ban smoking in public, even on streets and sidewalks

The Montreal suburb of Hampstead plans to ban smoking in all public outdoor spaces, in what would be the most restrictive anti-tobacco legislation in Canada.

Montreal suburb's sweeping plans prompted by planned pot legalization

The proposed bylaw in the Montreal suburb of Hampstead would ban smoking in all outdoor public spaces, including on streets and sidewalks. (Pawel Dwulit/Canadian Press)

The town of Hampstead, in Montreal's west end, plans to ban smoking in all public outdoor spaces, and if adopted, the bylaw would be the most restrictive anti-tobacco legislation in Canada.

Hampstead Mayor Bill Steinberg told CBC the proposed ban would prohibit people from smoking almost anywhere outdoors.

"Parks, the streets, the sidewalks — everywhere except private property. You could still smoke on your own lawn in your backyard," Steinberg said.  

He said the bylaw would also not prohibit smoking in cars.

Other Canadian cities have restrictions on smoking in parks, on restaurant patios or near buildings, but Hampstead would be the first community in the country to include public streets and sidewalks, according to the Canadian Cancer Society.

Fines for offenders would range from $100 to $600.

Ban prompted by pot legalization

The bylaw covers all tobacco products that can be smoked, including marijuana. It doesn't cover e-cigarettes.

Steinberg said federal plans to legalize marijuana this summer prompted the town to act.
Hampstead Mayor Bill Steinberg said the proposed bylaw banning smoking in all public places was prompted by the federal bill to legalize marijuana. (Bill Steinberg)

"Pot was what got us thinking about this right now, but it's really for all types of second-hand smoke."

Ontario is planning a sweeping ban on smoking recreational marijuana in all outdoor public spaces, but it won't apply to tobacco products.

Restrictive bylaw draws mixed reaction

Although the bylaw has yet to be adopted, many Hampstead residents said it was on their minds.

"I think it's a good idea," said Marge Cracower. 

"With the new pot laws that are going to be enacted, people can smoke anywhere they want and you've got a lot of young families with young children living here, and just to be smoking pot on the street anywhere is not such a good idea."

Riley Gallagher, who has lived in Hampstead for about seven months, called it "ridiculous." He lives in a rental apartment and has a no-smoking clause in his lease.

"If the sidewalk's no longer an option, then I'm not really sure where I'm supposed to smoke in that case. I can't stand in the middle of the street," he said. 

Anti-smoking group says ban may go too far

François Damphousse, Quebec director of the Non-Smokers' Rights Association, said it makes sense to ban smoking in parks where children play or on restaurant patios where people face prolonged exposure to second-hand smoke.

However, Damphousse said he isn't sure a ban as sweeping as the one proposed by Hampstead is necessary.

"I'd like to see the evidence of the health impact of second-hand smoke when someone is smoking 100 metres from me on the street," Damphousse said. 

"I haven't heard any evidence that that would be a health problem or a health issue."

Steinberg said he expects the bylaw to pass unanimously at the next council meeting.

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About the Author

Steve Rukavina

Steve Rukavina is a journalist with CBC Montreal.

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