Quebecers will be forced to quit smoking in public
Quebecers, renowned for their love of tobacco, will soon have to butt out in restaurants and at the workplace, the Quebec government said on Tuesday.
Quebec Deputy Health Minister Gilles Baril told the province's smokers that a law adopted last June banning tobacco in the workplace, restaurants and other ``public places'' would be applied as of December 17.
But he said fines will not be imposed on offenders for the first year of the legislation.
The law stipulates that restaurants owners in this French-speaking province of 7.3 million will be asked to create closed sections for smokers or simply impose an outright ban on tobacco.
Fines for owners and employers not complying with the law will range between C$400 to C$10,000.
Tobacco is the leading preventable cause of death, taking 45,000 Canadian lives every year. Some 10,000 of them are Quebecers, Baril said.
``It is distressing to realize that a third of Quebecers over 15 smoke,'' he said.
The minister said he was relying on the self-discipline of owners or employers to comply with the legislation and would not hire hundreds of inspectors to apply the law.
``How can this be credible or be taken seriously. Does he think the population is stupid?'' opposition Liberal member Russell Williams asked the legislature.
Baril said that like many U.S. states and the province of British Columbia, the provincial cabinet was also not ruling out suing tobacco companies over health care costs.
Quebec Finance Minister Bernard Landry said he was not excluding an increase in tobacco taxes but he refused to detail his plan.