Newfoundland set to snuff out public smoking
ST. JOHN'S, Nfld. -- The Newfoundland government plans to introduce a new law that would make it the first province to ban smoking in restaurants, malls and other public places where children gather.
The proposed ban would go into effect Jan. 1, 2002, provincial Health Minister Roger Grimes said yesterday when he introduced several measures aimed at reducing smoking.
"We have a responsibility to protect our citizens from the health risks associated with second-hand smoke and to discourage our young people from acquiring this dangerous habit," Grimes said.
At least 45 municipalities across Canada, including Toronto, Vancouver and Ottawa, have already introduced bylaws that prohibit smoking in restaurants.
A similar law in British Columbia was struck down by the courts in March after a protracted public battle.
In the United States, California, Vermont, Maine and Utah all have statewide bans on smoking in restaurants.
Still, Newfoundland deserves credit for doing what B.C. failed to do, said Rob Cunningham, senior policy analyst with the Canadian Cancer Society in Ottawa.
"This is excellent from a health perspective," he said. "Second-hand smoke is harmful, especially to children, and there's no need for them to be exposed to the poisons and the toxins."
Predictably, the new ban has infuriated restaurant owners whose industry association has already warned of slower business and layoffs.
Yvonne Power, executive director of Hospitality Newfoundland and Labrador, said the industry needs more time to adjust to the ban, which won't apply to bars and bingo halls.
Still, the provincial government is pushing ahead with other amendments to existing anti-tobacco laws, including a clause that would ban the sale of tobacco in pharmacies.
Four other provinces - Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia - already have such a ban in place.
Meanwhile, Newfoundland's justice minister said the Liberal government would join Ontario and B.C. in seeking compensation from the tobacco industry for health costs associated with smoking-related illnesses.