BY BETH CROUSE
As of Jan. 1, a smoking ban will see bar and restaurant patios, publicly-owned sports fields, ice rinks and playgrounds added to the list of places where smokers aren’t permitted to light up. Those who forget or ignore the ban could be fined $250.
In a Nov. 7 Toronto Star story, Associate Health Minister Dipika Damerla called the regulations a “patchwork” at best. What he means is that across Ontario each municipality sets its own rules regarding smoking, but now the government has stepped in to make smoking regulations province-wide.
The changes will also ban the sale of tobacco on college and university campuses, which won’t affect Conestoga because cigarettes are not sold here.
Jeff Mehlenbacher, a Waterloo resident, said, “I think it’s absolutely ridiculous. First we weren’t allowed to smoke inside restaurants so we moved to only smoking outside, but now we’re not even allowed to do that.
“Soon the government will be making regulations that say when we can and cannot eat,” he added.
Mehlenbacher was concerned about the government’s stance on smoking. He pointed out that as a tax-paying citizen of Ontario he should have the right to make his own decisions.
“I made the choice to start smoking, and although I do understand that not everyone wants to be around smoke, it’s ridiculous for the government to put rules on the outdoors,” he said.
Chris Hussey, a first-year journalism – print student, said, “As a non-smoker, I think banning smoking from public places is a good thing, but I also understand because it’s hard to tell other people that you can’t do this; there’s a fine line, but if you want to smoke and you’re on a patio, then it’s not hurting anyone so then why not.”
The new ban will also ensure that people who wish to smoke around playgrounds, public sports fields and similar areas such as ice rinks must be at least 20 metres away in order to keep children and athletes clear of second-hand smoke.
Restaurant patrons will not have the same luck when it comes to a 20-metre zone.
Damerla has assured the restaurant industry that the new ban will not hurt business, and by giving advance notice, patrons will have time to adjust to the changes before the spring season arrives.
By imposing bans on smoking on patios, servers and patrons will have less exposure to second-hand smoke.
According to the government, tobacco kills 13,000 Ontarians a year and costs the health-care system $2.2 billion annually.
With tougher restrictions on tobacco, Ontario has seen a drop in the number of smokers from 24.5 per cent in 2000 to 18.1 per cent today.