Wednesday, May 17, 2006


No smoking

In August of 2001, almost five years ago, the city of Ottawa banned smoking in all workplaces – not just offices, but restaurants, bars, and (gasp!) bingo halls. People said the ban would cause restaurants to go bankrupt as patrons fled across the river to Quebec; they said the hospitality industry in the city would never survive. Turns out they were wrong.

Two weeks from today, the entire province of Ontario (population 12.5M, about 1/3 of the entire population of Canada) will ban smoking in all workplaces and enclosed spaces - restaurants, bars, schools, private clubs, healthcare facilities, sports arenas, entertainment venues, work vehicles and offices including government buildings. The initiative is called Smoke Free Ontario, and I think it’s wonderful.

You will not be able to smoke in the common areas of apartment buildings and condominiums. You won’t be able to smoke in a parking garage. You won’t be able to smoke on an outdoor patio if there is any kind of shelter, including even a plastic tarp stretched overhead. And, if you run a private daycare in your home, you cannot smoke in your home – even while the kids are not there.

And as if that weren’t enough, there will be a private members bill proposed in the Ontario Legislature to ban smoking in a private vehicle when children are present.

Bravo to the government of Ontario. Bravo!

Unfortunately, I think there are going to be a lot of problems implementing this legislation. Although there will be fines and penalties, Ontario is an awfully large province with a very small amount of resources for enforcement. And I feel genuine sympathy for those who are trying hard to quit but haven’t been able to do it yet.

Even though I’ve been raised in an era of a paternalistic government and believe in collective social responsibility, I can see where some people see this legislation as a draconian infringement on personal rights and freedoms. But your right to smoke ends when you exhale your smoke into my clean air.

In the five years since Ottawa became smoke-free, it seems we’ve adjusted pretty well from an economic standpoint. And it seems like a lifetime since we’ve had to deal with drifting smoke in restaurants and wretched-smelling clothes after a night on the town. (I used to go out! I did, I did!)

I love the fact that we can go practically anywhere now and not be exposed to second-hand smoke, and I applaud any measures that discourage people from starting. Smoke 'em if you got 'em... but not around me, thanks.