Volume 93, Issue 93

Fridday, March 24, 2000


Editorial Board 1999-2000

The big drag

Editorial cartoon

The big drag

Where there's smoke, there's surely a firestorm of controversy.

The British Columbia Supreme Court recently struck down a ban on smoking in Vancouver nightclubs, pubs and hotels. The ban was implemented by the Worker's Compensation Board and took effect on Jan. 1 of this year. The Supreme Court felt the public had not been properly consulted before such a measure was taken and took action.

The WCB's main concern was with those establishments which had employees who were particularly affected by smoke in bars. However, many bar owners in British Columbia were outraged by the ban. Vancouver bars lost millions of dollars in business as smokers refused to frequent them and many establishments were forced to close.

The decision by the WCB was rash and lacked the proper consideration and public debate required. Regardless of the benefit or justification of such a ban, the public must be consulted on issues which directly affect them and due process must be followed.

Since the Vancouver ban was initially proposed, cities across the country have begun to consider their own smoking bans. The Kitchener-Waterloo area currently bans smoking in bars and restaurants and effective Jan. 1, Toronto will impose sweeping bans on smoking in restaurants. The legislation in Toronto will ensure that by 2004, all of the city's bars, restaurants and nightclubs will be smoke free.

The concerns of bar owners are justified – as private businesses they need to make money. If patrons who smoke can simply drive to a nearby city for their night life and entertainment, they surely will. Case in point: a popular nightclub, Lulu's, in Kitchener – a bar which drew large crowds on a nightly basis for years – was forced to close soon after the smoking ban in Kitchener-Waterloo was enforced.

As more and more cities consider such legislation it becomes apparent there is an increasing support for smoking bans – at least within the halls of government. If government officials wish to proceed with such rules, they must be smart and not follow the WCB's lead.

Before any type of ban can be put in place properly, the public must be consulted. If need be, full referendums on this issue must be held.

Any type of ban must cover entire provinces, if not the entire country. As noted before, individual city bans only punish bar owners within those cities. If a patron must drive out of province, if not out of country to smoke, such a ban would be far more successful and fair.

There does not exist one set of rights for smokers and another set of rights for non-smokers. Under the constitution, the two groups are the same. For this reason, the power of democracy must set the rules. If the majority of the population wants a ban – enforce a ban and vice versa. Democracy may not satisfy all, but its the fairest way to settle this issue.

If proper procedures are followed this fiery debate can surely be contained, if not extinguished.

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