December 15, 2004
Ontario measures weaker than needed.
(Ottawa) -- Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada expressed concern that the new measures introduced by the Ontario government fall short of their election promise -- and far short of the public health need.
The Smoke-Free Ontario Act, introduced today by Ontario health Minister George Smitherman, will, if passed by the Ontario legislature, ban smoking in public places, including bars and restaurants by May 31, 2006.
"The measures to protect workers and the public from second hand smoke are consistent with the 2003 election promises of the Liberal party to implement such measures within three years," said PSC's research director, Neil Collishaw. "But the law will continue to expose workers for an unnecessary and unreasonable period of time."
Since the Ontario election, several other Canadian jurisdictions have introduced, passed and implemented 100% smoking bans. "In Manitoba it took only seven months and in New Brunswick only three months between time of introduction of legislation and full implementation of a total smoking ban in public and workplaces," explained Mr. Collishaw. "Nunavut and the Northwest Territories took less than a year. They were the first, implementing their bans on workplace smoking in May of 2004."
"Thirteen months have already passed since the government promised this measure in its November 2003 Throne Speech. Yet they have scheduled a further 17 months before the law will come into force."
"The delay will cause needless harm to the thousands of Ontario workers who must continue to work in smoke-filled environments in cities which have suspended development of their own smoking restrictions in response to the governments promises to act," said Mr. Collishaw. "Thirty months is too long to wait to clean up these contaminated work-sites."
PSC urges the Ontario legislature to amend the law to advance the date of the smoking ban by at least 12 months.
The second part of the government's announcement -- to regulate the display of cigarettes - is equally cause for concern, in the view of this health agency..
"The election promise was to 'ban countertop and behind-the counter retail displays of tobacco products', but the proposed law does little more than reflect the weak provisions now found in the federal act." said Cynthia Callard, PSC executive director.
"The law will cause counter-top displays of cigarettes to disappear at some unspecified time," but the law contains no specific government commitment to ban wall-to-wall displays of cigarettes that face every Ontario child who enters a convenience store." said Ms. Callard.
"Those in the health community who had been told to expect a really effective ban on cigarette displays must be profoundly disappointed in the decision of this government to postpone indefinitely these measures," said. Ms. Callard
"It looks very much like a last-minute concession has been made to the powerful business interests that oppose constraints on tobacco marketing," suggested Ms. Callard. "The suddenly toned-down announcement, the repeated postponements and the weakened measures are a consistent pattern when governments bow to business pressure."
PSC will be renewing its call for the federal government to return to its long-awaited plans to regulate the areas of tobacco promotion which continue to be legal under Canada's partial ban on cigarette promotions.
"Six years have passed since the former Minister of Health, Mr. Allan Rock, issued a consultation paper on promotion regulations," recalled Ms. Callard. "Now is the time for Mr. Dosanjh to get tough on tobacco at the federal level and embolden his provincial colleagues to do the same."
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