There will be fewer places for smokers to light up come the new year. New Ontario regulations that ban smoking on all bar and restaurant patios take effect Jan. 1.
At the same time, the province is prohibiting smoking on or around playgrounds and publicly-owned sports fields. The Ontario government will also no longer allow tobacco to be sold on university and college campuses.
“These changes are to protect kids and youth from accessing tobacco products and the harmful effects of smoking, and to protect the people of Ontario from exposure to tobacco use,” said Andrew Robertson, a spokesman for Associate Health Minister Dipika Damerla. “Making smoking less visible will make it seem less socially acceptable to kids and can reduce the likelihood that they start smoking.”
The vast majority of Ontario residents support banning smoking on playgrounds and sports fields, he added. Sixty-five municipalities have already invoked bylaws to shelter kids on playgrounds from second-hand smoke, while 60 municipalities ban it on sports fields. The new Ontario-wide regulation means all children will get these protections, he said.
Under the new rules, there will be no smoking around basketball and soccer courts, ice rinks, tennis courts, splash pads and swimming pools owned by a municipality, province or a post-secondary institution.
Children’s playgrounds at motels, hotels and inns are also included in the smoking ban. Anti-tobacco activists heralded the changes as a positive step forward for people’s health.
At least one restaurant industry spokesman warned that customers will now move on to sidewalks for a puff, exposing passersby to secondhand smoke. Robertson said the current tobacco law prohibits smoking on covered bar and restaurant patios, but the new regulation extends to those that are completely open to the air.
“Evidence shows that nearly 70% of people in Ontario want completely smoke-free patios,” Robertson said. “People can still be exposed to second-hand smoke on patios, even uncovered patios, and this regulation will reduce people’s exposure to second-hand smoke, including children and youth.”
Some of the more controversial measures are still to come. Ontario intends to ban the sale of flavoured tobacco, including the popular menthol brands, within a few years.
One group has warned that adult smokers who like menthol will turn to contraband tobacco suppliers for their fix. NDP MPP France Gelinas, who has pushed hard for a ban on flavoured tobacco, said that these products are developed specifically to create a new generation of young smokers.