Pubdate: Thu, 21 Apr 2016
Source: London Free Press (CN ON)
Page: A1
Copyright: 2016 The London Free Press
Author: Jonathan Sher
Note: With files by Dale Carruthers, Free Press reporter, and Canadian Press


Their days of looking over their shoulder for cops are numbered, but
pot smokers in Ontario will have someone else to watch out for if
London public health officials get their way.

Tobacco enforcement officers should crack down on those who smoke
marijuana in parks and near playing fields, just as they do with
cigarette smokers, says Dr. Chris Mackie, the medical officer of
health for London and Middlesex County.

Mackie wants the health board Thursday to ask Ontario to extend its
ban on public smoking in public places on those who use weed, whether
as medicine or for fun. That's further than what the province's health
ministry had proposed - it suggested extending the ban to those who
use pot for medical reasons, but not to recreational use.

It's not about seeking a back-door way to hammer pot users; Mackie
wants to protect bystanders from second-hand smoke and youth from
seeing examples of any type of smoking.

"The prohibition on the smoking or holding of lit tobacco should be
expanded to include the smoking of holding of lit marijuana," Mackie
wrote in a draft of a letter to the health ministry.

Clouds of marijuana smoke wafted through London's Victoria Park
Wednesday, as hundreds of pro-pot demonstrators descended on the
downtown park to celebrate 420, an annual event promoting cannabis
culture and advocating for the drug to be legalized.

Event organizer Eric Shepperd called Mackie's plan "too

If adopted, pot smokers - many of them looking forward to the new
federal Liberal government's promised liberalization of Canada's pot
laws - would find themselves, like ordinary smokers, banished from
many public places when they light up.

"It does go too far," said Shepperd, who conceded there are places
where marijuana smoking shouldn't be allowed.

"However, when you're in an open space with plenty of ventilation . .
. I don't see a problem."

Wednesday was the first time since 2010 that London police didn't
crack down on the pot demonstration, though cruisers circled the park
for most of the afternoon.

"Times, they are a changing," activist Mike Roy said while park-goers
puffed joints and took bong tokes nearby.

Mackie's request to the board comes as federal Health Minister Jane
Philpott used the forum of the United Nations Wednesday to announce
the Trudeau government will fulfil a campaign promise next spring by
introducing legislation to decriminalize pot.

"I am proud to stand up for our drug policy that is informed by solid
scientific evidence and uses a lens of public health to maximize
education and minimize harm," Philpott said.

Hazards from second-hand smoke are similar whether the source is
tobacco or pot, said Linda Stobo, who leads efforts by the London-area
health unit to crack down on those who sell cigarettes illegally and
to persuade smokers to quit and non-smokers not to start.

Smoking of any sort sets a poor example for impressionable youth, she

What the ministry proposed would be difficult to enforce, Mackie
wrote, since tobacco control officers couldn't prove whether someone
lit up a joint to get high or to treat an illness.

"Individuals caught smoking marijuana in a prohibited place can claim
that the consumption is for recreational, not medicinal purposes," he
wrote. "Co-operation may be difficult to obtain, especially in public
areas like playgrounds, sports fields and spectator areas and hospital

It's not only marijuana use that's on Mackie's radar: He also wants
the health board to seek more aggressive tools to combat e-cigarettes
and an outright ban on water pipes or hookahs whether or not they're
used for tobacco.

Ontario should ban e-cigarettes in theatrical productions and places
where tobacco is barred. Mackie said.

Even herbal shisha without tobacco produces carbon monoxide and other
toxins that increase the risk for cancer and heart and lung disease.

At Toronto water pipe cafes, a study found levels of carbon monoxide
and airborne nicotine that were hazardous for human health. Air
quality was poor, if not as bad, in outdoor cafes.

Toronto, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island all ban
water pipes, regardless of whether they're used for tobacco

"Water pipe smoking of shisha that does not contain tobacco (creates)
an unsafe work environment, contributes to the social acceptability of
smoking in public places and is difficult and expensive (to enforce),"
Mackie wrote.

Colorado, which legalized pot, prohibits its use where tobacco is
banned to protect public health, he wrote.

In the London area, enforcement officers have warned smokers about the
ban on smoking in public places but no $305 fines - the penalty the
ban carries - have been levied, Stobo said.

- - With files by Dale Carruthers, Free Press reporter, and Canadian
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