Smoking Bans working in Toronto
The Canada eZine - Health


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Smoking Bans Work

By Daniel Mermelstein – February 2008.

Walking up St. George Street from College during the week, you are bound to notice the throngs of University of Toronto students hurrying to their classes. You’ll be amused by the acrobatics of some and absent-mindedness of others as they make their way through the crowds. You’ll probably also notice that many of the students are smoking.

As of January 1st 2003, the Northwestern (Ontario) Health Unit banned smoking in all public places and private businesses. In 2004 Toronto emitted a smoking ban on all bars, pool halls, bingo halls, casinos, and racetracks. On June 1st 2006, the Smoke-Free Ontario Act prohibited smoking in all workplaces and enclosed spaces open to the public, with the exception of private homes and hotel rooms. The question is, do any of these bans actually decrease the amount of smokers, or do they force smokers to just go outside for their fix?

As noted on the U of T St. George campus, due to the bans on smoking indoors, many students will light up on their way to class. Smokers who are part of the Canadian workforce can also be seen going outdoors in order to satisfy their cravings. By merely looking around on the streets of Toronto, it wouldn’t seem that the bans are having any effect. However, the restrictions do in fact force people to smoke less often, making it easier for smokers to quit.

According to Statistics Canada, “Between 2000 and 2006, the prevalence of smoking (daily and occasional) in Canada declined by almost seven percentage points from 24.4% to 17.7%”. This seems to indicate that the bans work in practice as well as in theory.

The bans also have another effect: awareness. An increase in awareness that smoking can affect non-smokers around them has encouraged Canadians to diminish, restrict, or even quit their smoking habits. These bans have increased people’s sense of personal responsibility, and research has indicated that they are a factor in people’s decision to quit smoking. Statistics Canada also reports that in the same time period home smoking bans have also risen, “even more pronounced among those in households with a child younger than 15”.

An important factor to consider that couples with the smoking bans in Canada is the weather; four seasons, most notably winter, make it easier for smokers to stop their addiction. Because smokers aren’t able to smoke indoors, during the winter months they are less likely to be willing to go outside to satisfy their habit. This is important in the decision to quit or be abstinent from smoking. Many people are unwilling to face the cold merely to have a smoke. Instead they refrain from doing so and stay inside.

Another survey of Statistics Canada showed that of smokers who reported no workplace smoking restrictions in a first interview, but in the follow-up interview two years later reported total workplace restrictions, 27% had quit. And so, it would seem that government regulations and Mother Nature working together can actually work wonders.

Smoking Bans in Practice

By Suzanne MacNevin - February 2008.

Last September Hollywood star Sean Penn ran afoul of Ontario government officials for smoking during an indoor event at a Toronto hotel for the Toronto International Film Festival.

The province's smoking ban, designed to protect workers from second-hand smoke, whether it's Sean Penn or a regular customer, will be enforced. "Sean Penn's a great actor," Ontario's minister of health promotion, Jim Watson said, but "if he was smoking and in breach of the law, he could be charged, and he should be charged."

A charge against Sean Penn or the hotel can only be laid if someone submits an official complaint.

Since 2003 consumption of cigarettes have fallen approx. 21 per cent (the Ontario Liberal government set a goal of reducing tobacco consumption by at least 20 per cent before the end of 2007).

According to a government release smoking kills 16,000 people in Ontario each year, while tobacco-related diseases cost the Ontario economy at least $1.7 billion for health care annually.

Sean Penn was never arrested because no one submitted an official complaint.

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