Volume 95, Issue 77

Tuesday, February 19, 2002
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The smoky haze disappears

Editorial Cartoon

Editorial Board 2001-2002

The smoky haze disappears

Smokers beware – the City of London's long-awaited and thoroughly-flawed smoking ban has finally arrived, putting an end to the days of after-dinner cigarettes.

But it has arrived unbalanced, as restaurants will be forced to become non-smoking while bars cling to nicotine-loving customers like tar to an already blackened lung.

On campus, both The Wave and The Spoke have been forced to follow the city's new bylaw, which states all establishments receiving more than one-third of their revenue from food sales will be declared a restaurant and therefore not permitted to allow smoking.

For smokers, this presents a major change on campus.

Because both establishments have been deemed restaurants, smoking is now banned at both, which technically means undergraduate students no longer have a place on campus to sit inside and smoke. (The Grad Club, Western's only other watering hole, will continue to permit smoking because it is a private club restricted to graduate students and faculty.)

And though the air may now be clearer at The Spoke, it is also considerably easier to find an open seat. The same can be said for The Wave, which – after years of financial losses – seemed to be headed in the right direction.

If both on-campus bars become the tavern equivalents of ghost towns, as their former clientele head to off-campus bars where they can smoke freely or be with friends who choose to smoke, this bylaw could be to blame.

When the City first ventured into the territory of smoking bans, it should have made any such ban all-or-nothing to avoid making the playing field between bars and restaurants uneven.

But, aside from the tricky semantics of determining whether an establishment is a 'bar' or 'restaurant,' the City has also left another loophole in the design of the bylaw – new establishments are allowed to permit smoking for one year in order to determine from where the majority of their sales come.

The best way to implement a new bylaw is to make it immediately applicable to all new establishments so that, eventually, all bars and restaurants will be on the same page.

Entrepreneurs generally have a good sense of what type of establishment they are planning to run, so why do they need a full year to determine what will account for the majority of their sales. Even a period as short as three months could provide businesses with a clear sense of who their clientele is and where the majority of their revenue comes from.

The city's ultimate mistake with regards to this bylaw occurred long ago when they opted to introduce the ban gradually instead of making it all-or-nothing. While such an immediate ban would be an initial shock to bars and restaurants, it would surely be better than the months of bickering that have transpired since the bylaw first became a topic of discussion at London's hallowed City Hall.

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Copyright The Gazette 2002