Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Que. inspectors set to enforce smoking ban in bars - CTV News Online Report

Updated Wed. May. 31 2006 9:00 AM ET News Staff

Starting tonight, about 75 inspectors will be working like spies in Quebec bars and restaurants, to enforce a ban on smoking in public places.

The ban took effect at 12:01 a.m. this morning in Ontario and Quebec.

But while Ontario will let early offenders off with a warning, Quebec has cautioned it will crack down immediately with $400 fines for first infractions.

If workers at an establishment do anything to hinder the work of these inspectors, owners will face an extra $300 fine.

Quebec Health Minister Philippe Couillard said his inspectors are poised to inspect 6,000 bars and restaurants by the end of summer.

The Quebec law also bans smoking in bingo halls, shopping centres, pool halls, bowling alleys, convention centres, common areas in apartment buildings of six to 12 units, among others.

Smokers' lament

On Tuesday night, smokers inside bars across Ontario and Quebec lit up for the last time as the clock ticked down to midnight.

Toronto bar owner Peter Kilgour marked the occasion by having a trumpeter play Taps -- a tune sounded at military funerals and memorial services, and as an order at military camps to put out the lights.

"The whole thing is just silly, so I'm just being silly back," Kilgour, the owner of Kilgour's Bar Meets Grill, told The Canadian Press.

He added that he doesn't expect to take much of a financial hit from the ban as he was already operating under Toronto's smoke-free bylaws.

In Windsor, Ont., a city that has had no such bylaw, Windsor Pub owner John Janisse marked the occasion by giving away souvenir ashtrays to smoking patrons.

Bar owner Voula Demopoulos, who owns businesses in both Ontario and Quebec, opposes the legislation.

"We believe in human rights," Demopoulos told CTV. "We believe that smokers should not be discriminated (against).... We believe in regulating smoking, but we do not believe in prohibiting a product that the government has legalized and has left legal in our society."

Montreal waitress and non-smoker Rachel Osborne, meanwhile, said she's "very, very happy" that she will no longer be walking into a polluted environment when she goes to work.

"We just announced at 10 minutes to 12 that you had 10 minutes to smoke before the law took effect and I have never seen so many cigarettes lit simultaneously in my life," said Osborne, who works at Brutopia. "It is so smoky in here."

The Quebec law also bans smoking in bingo halls, shopping centres, pool halls, bowling alleys, convention centres, common areas in apartment buildings of six to 12 units, among others.


While Ontario's law is similar to Quebec's, there is a significant difference.

Many Ontario municipalities, including Toronto and Ottawa, have been smoke-free for years although some still allow designated smoking rooms and smoking on patios.

But the new provincial legislation outlaws designated smoking rooms, as well as patios with roofs, even if they just partially cover patrons.

Provincial officials will publish a conclusive list of potential fines later this week.

While Ontario scofflaws will receive a warning, they shouldn't expect the grace period to last very long.

Inspectors will return to any site within a few days after issuing a warning, Ontario's chief medical officer Sheela Basrur said.

"If the offence is reoccurring, then enforcement measures will be taken," she said.

Ban 'long overdue'

Paul McDonald, co-director of the Population Health Research Group at the University of Waterloo, applauded the Ontario-wide restrictions, saying the regulations are long overdue.

He said his organization looked at similar bans in place around the world, including in Ireland, where there was "massive compliance" to the laws. In fact, "over 90 per cent of bars and restaurants completely complied," he told Canada AM on Wednesday. "The amount of secondhand smoke was dramatically reduced."

McDonald said it's a myth that businesses would suffer because smokers can no longer light up.

"A massive study in New York City, of all places, found sales went up by almost nine percent. They had to hire 2,800 new people into the hospitality industry after the introduction of smoking restrictions."

He said studies have found that smoking restrictions in the workplace increased the likelihood by 20 per cent that people were able to quit, "which is a considerable amount."

Critics maintain, however, that the new laws will cost businesses millions of dollars.

"We see no reason why we should not be able to welcome our smokers in our establishments -- 85 per cent of our clientele are smokers," said Demopoulos.

"We're looking at a high clientele that from May 31st onward would not be welcome into your establishments."

Most of the Atlantic provinces have smoking bans, plus the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, the Prairie provinces and British Columbia prohibit smoking in public places. Nova Scotia's ban takes effect at the end of the year.

With a report from CTV's Jed Kahane


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