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Smoking ban in Quebec, Canada starting at midnight...


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No more smoking in restaurants and bars starting at midnight, May 31, 2006...


Tobacco troopers alight

Cold Turkey: Quebec to kick butt in key city bars, then execute province-wide blitz


Published: Tuesday, May 30, 2006

The province has identified bars and taverns that it expects will try to resist its smoking ban, and plans to dispatch its new tobacco troopers to quash their attempts with stiff fines after the law takes effect at midnight tonight.

With polls showing 93 per cent of Quebecers in favour of joining the rest of the world in banning smoking in public places, the Health Department said yesterday it has no plans to go easy on offenders in the initial days of the ban.

In fact, the department says it will be staging a summer-long blitz of 6,000 of Quebec's 8,000 bars and taverns to enforce the law.

The first troop movements will be lightning fast.

They will target the estimated 13 per cent of establishments that Quebec already has on its watch list as of opening hours tomorrow.

"From Day 1, we are giving tickets," a Health Department official said yesterday at a technical briefing on the law.

Another official, Lise Talbot, revealed that an undercover team of inspectors has already picked its spots for tomorrow. She would not elaborate, except to say they amount to fewer than 1,000 establishments throughout the province.

They are expected to include bars that have signed on with the resistance movement - l'Union des tenanciers de bars du Quebec - headed by Montreal bar owner Peter Sergakis.

The small number of expected holdouts lies behind Quebec's decision to keep its enforcement team to a total of 75 people - many of them undercover agents who will do the spying before the real inspectors march in with ticket pads.

Patrons who violate the law face a fine of $50 plus court costs for a total of $88. Fines for bar owners start at $400 plus court costs for a total of $500 for a first violation. After that, the fines increase dramatically, up to $1,000 for repeat offences.

"The message we heard is that the owners want to apply the law," Talbot said, referring to the advance work by inspectors.

Talbot said pressure from non-smokers is another key weapon to ensure that Quebec's offensive takes hold. Close to 75 per cent of Quebecers don't smoke and are expected to stand up for their rights, she said.

Quebec also is counting on bartenders and owners to use the same kind of persuasive approach they adopt when dealing with patrons who've had too much to drink to help smokers adjust to a smoke-free environment.

But bar personnel are not expected to do the job of inspectors, Talbot said.

Another question is how the new rules will play out on bar terrasses, the smoker's last haven under the law. During the summer, for example, a non-smoker might find it difficult to have a smoke-free meal outside.

As for wintertime, bar owners may - if municipal bylaws permit - erect an outdoor shed where people can smoke but neither drink nor eat.

Officials chuckled yesterday when asked whether they think owners of bars on St. Denis St. would go to such a length, while confusion over exactly what constitutes a terrasse dominated the briefing.

For example, if a restaurant put up an outdoor big top-style tent, it wouldn't qualify as a smoking zone because it's walled in.

Even terrasses with canvas walls that are kept open are deemed illegal smoking zones. Ditto Tempo-style awnings at the entrances to buildings.

But terrasses with tables and parasols are OK for smoking.

And smokers may slip out the door for a puff, because the nine-metre no-smoking limit applies only to such public buildings as schools, hospitals, clinics, daycares and other facilities where minors are present.

The law prohibits smoking in bars, brasseries, taverns, restaurants, casinos, bingo halls, malls, bowling alleys, pool halls, video arcades and convention centres.

Businesses may maintain closed smoking rooms for employees until May 30, 2008.

Recognized cigar bars are exempt - but not for smoking cigarettes. Pipe smoking, however, remains legal in cigars bars.

People living in seniors' residences or long-term or specialized care facilities will be allowed to smoke in their rooms or designated smoking rooms.

Cigarette vending machines in bars, taverns and restaurants are no longer permitted.

The only place to buy butts from now on will be in recognized areas like corner stores. Even then, the advertising panels will be greatly reduced.

Smoking in taxis will be illegal, as will be smoking in delivery trucks.

Bars and taverns must post no-smoking signs as of midnight tonight.

It is estimated that 24 per cent of the Quebec population 15 and older smoked in 2004, a 10-point drop from 10 years before.

In Quebec, 13,000 people die from smoking-related causes per year, including 359 deaths caused by second-hand smoke.


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