Health Unit 'thrilled' with smoking ban
The new Smoke-Free Ontario Act Amendments may take a bit of getting used to for local municipalities.
Since Jan. 1, 2015 it is illegal to smoke on all restaurant and bar patios. The regulations include both open and covered patios.
With the onus on the owners and staff, a person found to be smoking on the patio can face fines ranging from $1,000 to $5,000.
Corporations can be fined a staggering $100,000 for a first offence.
A restaurant or bar patio is defined as an area the public can access to eat food or drink beverages, for a fee or at not cost, where food or drinks are served, sold or offered by employees, that is not a private home.
Lorne Jordan, tobacco control officer for the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit, said owners must give notice to staff and patrons that smoking is prohibited.
They must post the “no smoking” signage provided by the Health Unit at entrances, exits and washrooms; ensure there are no ashtrays or similar items in banned areas; and ensure that someone who refuses to comply with the ban does not remain in the banned area.
The exemption to the rule is uncovered patios created by a branch of the Royal Canadian Legion before Nov. 18, 2013, but Jordan said the Health Unit was never given a reason the Legion was exempt.
“To my knowledge we were never provided with a rationale for this exemption for Legions by the Ministry of Health,” he said.
“We certainly don’t understand it, as the whole point of this legislation is to prevent people from involuntary exposure to the 4,000-plus chemicals in tobacco smoke, of which about 50 are known to be carcinogenic.”
Jordan said the Health Unit is “thrilled” with the new amendments banning smoking within 20 metres of playgrounds, sports fields and on patios.
“These amendments were well supported by research and public opinion, and overdue - especially with respect to patios,” he said.
“Patios should have been banned when the Smoke-Free Ontario Act came into effect in 2006, and there is pretty much universal agreement on that.”
Testing showed exposure levels on patios to be the same as indoors.
Jordan said he applauds the provincial government for being a leader in tobacco control.
“They’ve set the bar in many ways for other provinces,” he said.
“Banning tobacco in workplaces and restaurants was unheard of when I started in tobacco control in 2002, but we got there in 2006, and look at where we are now!”
Just over 80% of the public doesn’t smoke so tobacco control is becoming more strongly supported by politicians and the public.
“That is why there is an upcoming ban on menthol, as that has been a long established gateway flavour for youth to start smoking, and there are also the upcoming regulations on e-cigarettes, where they will be treated in the same manner as tobacco re: laws around sale and where they can be used.
Jordan said these are “all positive steps.”
“After all, name another 'legal' product that, if used exactly as proscribed, kills 50% of its users and burdens our health care system with billions of dollars of treatment costs.”