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Board Meeting Notes - March 20, 2013

Mar 26, 2013
Water pipes latest effort to lure youth into smoking Tight budgets, emerging public health needs, focus of strategic plan Healthy Kids Plan

Water pipes latest effort to lure youth into smoking

Water pipes, or hookahs, have made an appearance in a few local dining and coffee establishments. It’s illegal to offer tobacco to customers to smoke, but poorly identified herbal mixes are being used in the pipes instead. The smoke produced is harmful and should not be allowed, the health unit says.

John Niddery, the supervisor of tobacco enforcement at the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit, told the board of health that his inspectors have encountered the devices in two locations in southern Simcoe County in recent months. It’s the first they have appeared locally, but there are many establishments offering them in Toronto and York regions. Niddery said the pipes may in the long run contribute to normalization of tobacco use. As well, the long, flexible stems attached to the pipes, and their storage in food preparation locations present serious sanitation issues.

The health unit will be writing to local municipal councils urging the creation of bylaws to ban the use of water pipes in public places, and will be taking the same message to the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care with a call for province-wide legislation.

Tight budgets, emerging public health needs, focus of strategic plan

The health unit will be identifying key sectors of the community where social and economic factors are creating the greatest challenges to people’s health. That’s one of the tasks from the health unit’s five-year strategic plan that will be undertaken this year.

Medical Officer of Health Dr. Charles Gardner said health unit activities will be conducted under budgetary restraint for the foreseeable future. The plan also sets out an approach to identifying new public health priorities requiring a coordinated and comprehensive agency response. Research is currently ongoing, and priority public health issue(s) and response plans will be identified by mid-year. The health unit also remains committed to shaping green initiatives and approaches for sustainable operations, Dr. Gardner said.

Healthy Kids Plan

Food choices, targeted marketing and sedentary lifestyle: they’re combining to create an epidemic of childhood obesity setting children up for lifelong challenges to their health.

That’s the message following a year of research by the provincially appointed Healthy Kids Panel. Their report, released on March 4, was welcomed as a tool to begin reversing the trend. The report calls for a variety of strategies, including legislation banning marketing of snack foods aimed at children under 12, increased education, increasing the accessibility of physical activity opportunities and a monitoring program to measure improvements in children’s health. Medical Officer of Health Dr. Charles Gardner noted that reversing childhood obesity may take a full generation to achieve. Links to the Healthy Kids Panel report and its recommendations can be found on the health unit’s website at


Next Meeting

The next meeting of the board of health takes place April 17
at 9:15 a.m. at the Barrie office, 15 Sperling Drive.

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