News

Petition calls for smoking ban at Norfolk Fair

Jacob Robinson

By Jacob Robinson, Simcoe Reformer

Norfolk County Fair. (File photo)

Norfolk County Fair. (File photo)

SIMCOE - 

A petition to ban smoking at the Norfolk County Fair and Horse Show is gaining steam.

An online page urging fair officials to create specific smoking areas outside the grounds beginning in 2017 has garnered almost 400 signatures. The petition was started by Simcoe's Savannah LeBlanc on Aug. 22.

Established in 1840, the fair welcomes more than 100,000 people in a given year.

“It's been an ongoing issue at the fair, I think,” LeBlanc said Tuesday.

“I know it's one of those issues that's really hard to police, so I figured in doing the petition it would be a way we could gather some numbers and show it's an issue and it's not just me that has these feelings about it.”

As it currently stands, smoking is not permitted in many areas on the grounds like the midway, but the petition alleges these rules aren't always enforced.

“One thing every child and adult should get out of the fair is enjoyment without having to breathe in cigarette smoke,” reads LeBlanc's letter on the petition site.

“Let people enjoy the smell of fair food that we've eagerly awaited all year long without choking back the overpowering smell of cigarettes.”

The initiative has been met with some resistance on both Facebook and the page itself. Some feel it's their right to smoke at the event. Others may point out that tobacco has played a major part in the history of Norfolk and the fair.

Fair general manager George Araujo said the fair board won't be responding specifically to the petition, but did say employees are doing all they can to follow the rules issued by the government and Norfolk County.

“We can only state what we've been doing,” he said. “We've certainly been following all the laws set forth by the Province of Ontario. Therefore smoking is not permitted in any building, barn or enclosed space including the grandstand. We have signage, we have stickers, we have all the stuff that working with the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit has helped us with (to) make sure we're in compliance with the by-law officers on site.”

One of the petition's supporters, Courtney Kay of Waterford doesn't feel enough is being done to keep smoking from areas like the midway.

“If I do think about the Norfolk County Fair I would say that smoking is a memory that's attached to it,” she added. “There isn't a time that I can recall walking through the fair where there's not clouds of smoke or you don't walk past people that are smoking.”

Ultimately, Kay and LeBlanc would like to see the event treated much like any major gathering that takes place in cities like Toronto or Hamilton.

“If someone wants to have a smoke that's completely fine, but designated smoking areas is a way that the fair should go,” Kay said. “There's a lot of other outdoor arenas and facilities that you can go to like Blue Jays games or Canada's Wonderland for example ... if you decide to have a cigarette you have to go outside. I think it should be along the same lines.”

Norfolk County council considered making revisions to its outdoor smoking bylaw in the spring. On the table was a smoking ban on all municipal property, but council referred the bylaw to the Haldimand-Norfolk Health & Social Services Advisory Committee for further review. Any changes to Norfolk's by-law could mean the same for the fair.

“We want to make sure what we do marries well with what they're doing,” Araujo said.

“When they do pass a bylaw to that degree it would be prudent for us to consider a policy that works with theirs.”

jrobinson@postmedia.com