Ban all public puffing, anti-smokers demand
Anti-tobacco advocates, worried that bar and restaurant industry lobbyists have the ear of government, said yesterday anything short of a total ban on public smoking will compromise the health of Nova Scotians.
Smoke-Free Nova Scotia, a coalition of health organizations, released a position paper urging the Hamm government to ban indoor public smoking everywhere from offices to coffee shops.
â€œThere is no safe level of exposure to environmental tobacco smoke,â€ said Smoke-Free president Dr. Robert Strang.
Strang, a provincial medical officer of health, said second-hand smoke kills 200 Nova Scotians a year, contributes to an array of ailments â€” from heart disease and lung cancer to low birth weight babies â€” and costs the health system $20 million a year.
A ban would encourage smokers to quit, he said, and discourage young people from lighting up.
â€œIf we donâ€™t have legislation that makes all public and work places smoke free, we are abdicating our responsibility to our children to make their world a safer and healthier one than the one we have today,â€ he said.
Premier John Hamm and Health Minister Jamie Muir have committed to introducing legislation in the spring to address public puffing, but just how far theyâ€™re willing to go remains unclear.
â€œI didnâ€™t say we will not go as far as an outright ban,â€ Muir said yesterday. â€œWe will bring in legislation. You will see the final form in legislation.â€
Smoke-Free is worried the restaurant and bar lobby could try to convince the Health Department that increased ventilation would dissipate second-hand smoke. It invited Kim Strong, president of Maritime Testing Ltd. to attend yesterdayâ€™s news conference to bolster its position that such measures would be inadequate.
â€œItâ€™s a physical impossibility and it just canâ€™t be done,â€ Strong said.
Luc Erjavec of the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association said his group is trying to convince the province to consider its businesses when drafting the new law. Improved ventilation is one of the compromises he said should be considered.
Restaurants and bars want to accommodate their patrons, a good many of whom still enjoy unwinding with a cigarette, he said.
â€œIf you could increase your business tomorrow by going non-smoking, everybody would have done it 20 years ago,â€ he said.