Smoke-free bars, restaurants proposed
The City of Ottawa is taking on cigarette smoking's final frontier with a proposed bylaw that guarantees smoke-free air in restaurants, bingo and pool halls by 2002 and bars by 2005.
Ottawa Council's community services and operations committee on Wednesday will debate the next stage in the city's incremental banning of smoking in public places.
"I think it's in for a rough ride," said Ottawa Coun. Richard Cannings, who supports a smoking ban in restaurants. "If ever there was a dividing line between left and right on this council, this is it."
The amendments would prohibit smoking in restaurants, bowling alleys, pool halls and bingo parlours by Jan. 1, 2002, except in fully enclosed, separately ventilated rooms of a specified size.
Nepean and Kanata have just gone even further, even faster, banning smoking in bars and restaurants by May 31, 2001, except in designated rooms.
Currently in Ottawa, restaurants can designate smoking areas as large as 30 per cent of their floor space but there is nothing to prevent the second-hand smoke from polluting the air in the entire establishment.
Not only do today's restrictions not protect restaurant patrons, they don't protect workers, say anti-smoking advocates.
"People who work in the hospitality industry, and many of them are young people, deserve to have a workplace that is not hazardous to their health," said Regional Coun. Alex Munter.
The report says second-hand smoke, every year, is responsible for killing 100 non-smokers from lung cancer and cardiovascular disease.
Ottawa-Carleton's health department is a driving force behind the changes, as the region's medical officer of health wanted the smoking ban widened by September, 2001.
The region also wanted the bylaw applied across Ottawa-Carleton, but when it discovered it couldn't do that unilaterally, it sought to have Ottawa, Nepean and Kanata do so individually.
Ottawa has been studying the matter since last June.
Coun. Munter said when the new amalgamated Ottawa takes over Jan. 1, 2001, the hope is that the new bylaw will prevail, not a weaker mixture of the existing laws.
The new regulations covering bars and taverns will likely be the most contentious and Ottawa city staff admit this has been the thorniest area.
"Of all the recommendations in this report, the proposals relating to bars have been most difficult to develop and the least satisfying to stakeholders," says the background documentation.
"For health advocates, the regulation is not strong enough and does not come fast enough; for bars, it comes too soon; for restaurants that have bars but are not bars, it is thought unfair."
At present, bars in Ottawa are treated just like restaurants but the report says adherence to the regulations is half-hearted or non-existent, with smoking virtually unregulated.
The report concludes that the best approach for bars is two-fold: By Jan. 1, 2002, no smoking in bars before 8 p.m. except in enclosed, ventilated smoking rooms that take up less than 30 per cent of the floor space; by Jan. 1, 2005, no smoking at all in bars except in those designated, vented rooms.
As for bingos, because surveys have found that so many players are smokers (between 50 and 70 per cent), the bylaw will allow up to 70 per cent of the floor area to be the smoking room, but not the card counter or snack bar.
The bylaw seeks to prohibit smoking in the common areas of apartment buildings and shelters and drop-in centres, hallways, laundry rooms and parking garages.
The bylaw, which already bans smoking in most workplaces, goes beyond these commercial establishments.
It seeks to prohibit smoking in the common areas of apartment buildings, shelters, drop-in centres, hallways, laundry rooms and parking garages.
The blueprint also asks the government of Ontario to give municipalities the power to prohibit smoking in the workplaces of the self-employed.
Mr. Munter said yesterday that the changes are an attempt to establish a level playing field across Ottawa-Carleton, so that businesses are not harmed by giving smokers the option of skipping over to the next municipality where laxer rules could be in place.
If Ottawa joins Nepean and Kanata in approving the changes, the staff report says the new restrictions will cover 80 per cent of the restaurants, 70 to 85 per cent of pool halls and 63 per cent of the bingo halls in Ottawa-Carleton.