French-Speaking Quebec and English Speaking Ontario Go Smokefree
New Canadian laws take effect on Wednesday
TORONTO and QUEBEC -- Ashtrays will be put away and lighters flourished less often in Quebec and Ontario after this week as the two provinces catch up -- and surpass -- the rest of Canada in enacting smokefree workplace legislation.
Beginning on Wednesday, it will be illegal in the two provinces to smoke in bars, restaurants, private clubs, schools, universities, bingo halls, casinos and virtually any other public place. Designated smoking rooms, which some other provinces still allow, will be phased out.
Ontario Health Promotion Minister Jim Watson characterized his initiative as among the "most comprehensive tobacco-control strategies in North America." He said it is necessary because smoking-caused illnesses claim 16,000 lives a year in Ontario. "I know that as a result of this legislation we will, in fact, save lives," Mr. Watson said yesterday.
Quebec Health Minister Philippe Couillard said his law will mark a change in attitude. About 13,000 people a year die from tobacco-caused diseases in the province. "Quebec is still the smoking lounge of North America," he said. "We are the province in Canada where the rate of tobacco use is still the highest and where laws barring the sale of tobacco to minors are the least enforced. Quebec is the place in Canada where there is the highest rate of death due to lung cancer. There is a direct link between the two."
About 22 per cent of Quebeckers and 20 per cent of Ontarians smoke, but their ranks have been thinning for the past decade. In 1994, 38 per cent of Quebeckers used tobacco.
McGill University historian Jarrett Rudy said the laws are a departure from the hands-off approach that governments took for decades, but that legislators are reading the public mood accurately. "This is just catching up to public opinion," said Prof. Rudy, whose book on tobacco consumption in Montreal was published this month.
One example of this came yesterday when a group of Quebec teenagers gave Mr. Couillard a petition supporting the legislation in both provinces. And on Wednesday, high-school students from the two provinces will mark the new laws by joining forces on a bridge linking Ottawa and Gatineau.
Both laws provide for stiff fines.
To send a letter in support of smokefree air where you live, go to www.smokefree.net/alerts.php