As long as breathing is necessary, there will be debate over smoking. This debate will reach a new level of intensity this month, as the Niagara Region decides whether to follow the example of cities like Toronto and Kitchener, and become a smoke-free environment.The Regional Municipality of Niagara is currently proposing to change bylaw 8901-97, “regulating smoking in public places and workplaces.”
The region is proposing that, “all indoor and enclosed public places and workplaces be 100 per cent smoke-free by May 2002, with no allowances for designated smoking rooms (DSRs).”
The proposed bylaw would prevent all public places from having designated smoking areas, including restaurants, bars, casinos and a myriad of other businesses and workplaces.
Dr. Robin Williams, Niagara’s medical officer of health, feels that there is enough public support behind the proposed changes to make Niagara smoke free.
“We can tell from the number of people calling, writing and e-mailing us, that there is strong public backing for changes such as these,” says Williams.
She also mentioned that a public opinion survey, compiled earlier in the year, suggested that Niagara is ready to become smoke free.
She points to states such as California, which has a smoking policy similar to the one the region is proposing, as examples of the positive effects of having a smoke free area.
“In California, which is smoke free, the smoking population is 11 per cent, whereas here it is 29 per cent,” said Williams. “By making [Niagara] 100 per cent smoke free, it helps those people who are trying to stop, it creates a model for our culture that is smoke free, and it helps protect the health of everyone in the community.”
Brock’s campus is no stranger to the controversy of smoking. In 1999, the Alumni Students’ Centre changed its smoking policy. Isaac’s bar and grill, a long-time haven for smokers, became a non-smoking establishment during the hours of 7 a.m. – 7 p.m.
If the proposed changes go through, Isaac’s would now become non-smoking after 7 p.m., when it operates as a bar.
This doesn’t worry Rob Morosin, the bar’s manager. He doesn’t expect the ban to hurt his business in the long run.
“For the first little while it will hurt, like it did in Kitchener and Toronto, but after half a year or so, people will realize there is not much you can do, and things will be back to normal,” says Morosin.
Heather Travis, campus program
co-ordinator for Brock’s Leave the Pack Behind campaign, also felt that the proposed changes wouldn’t really hurt business.
“Common concerns raised by these business owners is that their revenue will drop,” said Travis. “Research has consistently demonstrated that initially there may be a decrease in profit, however, within a short time … businesses experience a rebound and profits increase to prior levels, if not higher.”
Travis pointed out that during orientation week, over 200 students signed postcards supporting the proposed bylaw changes.
“If this bylaw is passed, many students will be relieved to be able to work and socialize in public places without being exposed to ETS [environmental tobacco smoke].”
And both Williams and Travis pointed out that less exposure to smoke means fewer smokers.
“Research has shown that by having fewer opportunities to smoke, [it] encourages people to quit or reduce the amount that they smoke,” said Travis. “On average, people smoke less and many quit altogether.”
So what about smokers’ rights to smoke?
“There is still the opportunity to smoke outside,” said Duncan Small, president of the Brock University Students’ Union (BUSU). If the bylaw is changed, and Niagara becomes smoke free, students would still have the option to light up on campus, even if the option isn’t as pleasant.
On Monday, Sept. 24 at 6 p.m. there will be a public meeting respecting changes to bylaw 8901-97. The meeting will take place in the Regional Municipality of Niagara Council Chambers. Those who would like to voice an opinion can write to the regional clerk’s office to be assigned a time to speak. Floor time will be assigned on a first come first served basis.
According to the Regional Municipality of Niagara Public Health Department web site, a draft of the proposed bylaw will be available for the public on Sept. 10, 2001.