It’s last call for smokers in Ontario.
A province-wide ban on lighting up in public places takes effect at 12:01am Wednesday, and affects restaurants, bars, casinos, bingo halls, legion halls and most other indoor spaces.
Establishments breaking the law by allowing people to smoke will get off with a warning for a first offence.
“With any law, there tends to be a transition period,” Ontario Health Promotion Minister Jim Watson concedes.
“We think a reasonable approach is the phased-in approach, with the education, warnings and then fines.”
They’ll add up to $600 for individual offenders and as much as $10,000 if businesses ignore the ban. The complete list of potential fines is due out later in the week
But many bar owners, who will be among the hardest hit by the changes, aren’t waiting to find out how their wallets will be impacted.
John McKillop, who owns the Elsewhere Bar & Grill, worries he’ll soon be joining his business and going elsewhere.
“We’re not in business to lose money,” he maintains. “So we’re closing.”
He believes those behind the legislation didn’t think of his bottom line when they changed the rules.
“About 20 percent of the population smoke. In a bar, about 40 percent of the business comes from smokers, maybe 50 percent in some places,” he calculates. “It’s vindictiveness towards smokers.”
He’s been in business for 30 years. But now, it’s over.
Does he really need to close just because of the new law? Some of his customers think so.
“I won’t be going out as much, yeah, totally, yeah,” agrees George Lewis, a smoker and bar patron. “Especially in the wintertime.”
The act eliminates puffing in all semi-covered patios and in Designated Smoking Rooms – even though many owners spent a small fortune putting them up to cater to their smoking clients in the first place.
Under the altered rules, even a series of umbrellas sitting close together outside could be called a “roof”, and leave owners liable for a fine.
The government knows there will be fallout, but thinks the health benefits outweigh the financial effects.
“There will be some restaurants that close, but restaurants close and open because it tends to be a business that does have challenges getting off the ground,” adds Watson.
McKillop isn’t impressed by that attitude. He estimates he’d lose at least $10,000 a month if he tried to remain open after the ban kicks in.
“There’s going to be dozens and dozens of places go under,” he predicts. “I won’t be alone.”
- New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Saskatchewan and Manitoba already have similar laws in place, while Nova Scotia’s ban takes effect at the end of the year.
Smoke Free Ontario Act
- Bans smoking in enclosed public places and all enclosed workplaces, including restaurants, bars, schools, private clubs, sports arenas, work vehicles, offices and entertainment venues, including casinos, bingo halls, bowling and billiard establishments.
- Eliminates designated smoking rooms in restaurants and bars.
- Permits residential care facilities to operate controlled smoking areas which are specially designed to ensure nobody outside the room is exposed to second-hand smoke. The law stipulates who may enter the area and under what conditions, as well as requirements for engineering design, function and maintenance of the areas.
- Protects home health care workers from second-hand smoke when offering services in private residences.
- Prohibits smoking on patios that have food and beverage service if they’re either partially or completely covered by a roof. (A roof includes an awning, tarp, canvas sheeting or other permanent or temporary covering capable of excluding rain or impeding airflow, or both. A stand-alone umbrella covering a single table isn’t considered a roof. But if umbrellas are used to serve as a roof, an inspector may view it as such and act accordingly.)
- Toughens the rules prohibiting tobacco sales to minors.
- Prevents the promotion of tobacco products in entertainment venues.
- Prohibits smoking in motels, hotels or inns, expect in rooms designated as guest smoking rooms.
- Prohibits smoking in common areas of condominiums, apartment buildings and college and university residences. Examples of common areas include elevators, stairwells, hallways, parking garages, laundry facilities, lobbies, exercise areas and party or entertainment rooms.
- Prohibits smoking in public schools, private schools and on public or private school property.
- Bars smoking within a nine metre radius of any entrance or exit of a hospital. (A hospital may choose to provide a smoking shelter outdoors, but must ensure the structure consists of no more than two walls and a roof.)
- Immediately restricts the retail promotion of tobacco products and imposes a complete ban on the display of tobacco products by May 31, 2008.
Source: Ontario Ministry of Health Promotion