November 21, 2019

Mike Stromme

BY MIKE STROMME

Did the Smoke-Free Ontario Act go too far, banning smoking from bar patios?

Vice.com’s Manisha Krishnan’s Sept. 24 article titled, The Veteran Fighting B.C.’s Anti-Smoking ‘Fascists’ in Supreme Court Is a Hero, centres around a Canadian veteran’s fight against his condo board’s ban on smoking in his Langley, B.C. condo. It got me thinking about the most recent Ontario anti-smoking bylaws.

I’m not talking about changes to the restrictions placed upon drivers smoking with passengers under the age of 16 or bylaws that pertain to smoking around children’s playgrounds and publicly-owned sports complexes. Smoking around children has some irresponsible moral implications. Subjecting our youth to second-hand smoke has adverse health effects and gives children the wrong impression. The more kids see those they look up to smoke, the more likely they are to try tobacco products.

Let’s face it, no kid wants to step up to the plate for their peewee baseball team only to have the aroma of a smoldering Du Maurier follow him or her into the batter’s box. Not only was it unfair to the kids playing, it was also very distracting, especially for a sport that demands the undivided attention of players and officials.

But, what about the part of the new legislation that bans smoking from patios? In a place where adults come to socialize, smokers are treated like children. As of Jan. 1, 2015, it has been illegal for anyone to smoke on outdoor patios, whether the patio is covered or not. This bylaw, in my opinion, is a sad attempt to curb smokers from smoking while they drink.

This legislation annoys both those who support and oppose the ban. Smokers only have to move off the patio to enjoy a cigarette, which they do while they stand a few feet away from their fellow bar-goers. All this does is remove the smoker’s right to sit on the patio, it doesn’t curtail the amount of second-hand smoke those on the patio breathe in.

Further bylaws that could make smokers move farther away from an outdoor patio to smoke will only be met with resistance from bar owners. If smokers have to move farther away, what will stop those who haven’t settled their tabs from walking off? It has the potential to open a whole new can of worms when it comes to those who choose to dine (or drink) and dash.

What I’m trying to say, is second-hand smoke will loft in the air around patios whether a ban is there or not. Why isolate adults who choose to smoke? Adding gruesome warning labels to packaging doesn’t stop people from smoking. Hiding tobacco products behind grey storage compartments in convenience stores, banning big tobacco from advertising their products and forcing smokers to brave the elements in order to continue their habit hasn’t stopped people from smoking either. This anti-patio smoking ban won’t force any smoker to quit, so when it comes to smoking on patios, the government should butt out.

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