Board of Health Approves Public Consultations on Expanded Smoking Ban
It could be the first step in further limiting the number of public areas in the city where smokers can light up.
Toronto's Board of Health has given the green light to finding out how the public feels about banning smoking on restaurant patios, outside public building entrances, public squares, bus shelters, and on sports fields and hospital grounds.
The board approved holding public consultations on the question, with a report expected back in 2013.
Health officials says changes are needed because banning smoking inside virtually every building in the city has pushed smokers outside.
"(That) helps normalize smoking," says Medical Officer of Health Dr. David McKeown. "When young people see a crowd of people enjoying themselves while smoking, it reinforce the notion that smoking is okay."
McKeown says that also makes it more difficult for smokers trying to quit to actually kick the habit.
Some restaurant owners say banning smoking from all patios would hurt their business. They say if there is a case to end smoking on patios, the province would be better suited to implementing a ban, because those close to neighbouring municipalities could be hurt.
"We know from past experience that when smoking bans are implemented that business suffers," says Marco Monaco of the Ontario Association of Restaurants, Hotels, and Motels.
He says "using legislation is a heavy-handed approach," and suggests the industry should be able to take care of the health of customers on it's own.
Some councillors and the city's medical officer of health questioned the claims that the restaurant industry would suffer, saying independent studies have proven otherwise.
Joanne Di Nardo of the Canadian Cancer Society also doesn't buy the argument that an expanded ban would hurt restaurant and bar patios.
"We've heard this before...and we've not that presented in numbers," she says. "We don't think that's the case. We think actually that Ontarians and Canadians love attending restaurants and love attending smoke-free restaurants including patios."
Toronto public health believes most people are okay with expanding the smoking ban.
The organization is pointing to a recent study that shows 15 percent of non-smoking adults in Toronto were exposed to second hand smoke almost every day in public places and says experts believe no level of second hand smoke exposure is safe.