Beginning in 2015, the most recent amendment to the government’s Smoke-Free Ontario Act will extend the ban to include bar and restaurant patios. Other places where smokers will no longer be allowed to light up include children’s playgrounds, publicly owned sports fields and swimming pools.
Restaurant and bar owners took a hit after the 2006 ban, which prohibited smoking in all enclosed workplaces and public places, came into effect. Almost all businesses lost customers and it took some time for smokers to adapt to the new restrictions. At that time, the only upside I recall was that my clothes didn’t smell like smoke after a night out.
But there have been significant changes as a result of the last ban. A 2014 University of Waterloo report indicates that there has been a solid decline in the number of Ontario smokers over the last decade (2002–2012), from 21 percent to 16 percent. The rate fell more sharply among teens than any other group. As the number of smokers decreases, so will the healthcare costs of smoking-related illnesses.
In the LGBT community, however, smoking rates are nearly twice as high as those of the general population. The 2007 Toronto Rainbow Tobacco Survey reported smoking rates of 36 percent among Toronto’s LGBT community versus 17 percent among Toronto adults.
A regular at the Church-Wellesley Village’s Churchmouse and Firkin who enjoys smoking on the patio takes a dim view of the upcoming ban: “I understand it, but if you’re rational about it, pick any of these automobiles going by — they put many more pollutants into the atmosphere than any smoker does.”
Drew Kovosi, a manager at Churchmouse, has a different take. “We’ll adapt,” he says, adding that there’s a practical upside. “For us as a business, it will be less of a headache because people want to be seated away from smokers anyway.”
O’Grady’s manager Jayme Swanton agrees that her business will adapt to the outdoor patio ban, like it did to the earlier, indoor one. “Obviously, there will be a hit at first, but it’s not going to stop people from coming out and enjoying themselves.” One problem she foresees is cigarette-strewn sidewalks. “They’re going to be a mess.”
Another concern down the road is Pride. Swanton worries about managing in-out privileges for smokers while dealing with capacity issues. “It’s going to be chaos.”
Further down Church Street, Yuri, who works security for Crews and Tangos, has a different opinion. “It’s going to hit us hard,” he says. “We get 400 to 500 people a weekend, and about 65 percent of them smoke.” Crews & Tangos is one of the few establishments with a decent-sized patio — and its own patio bar. “People don’t want to leave the building. They’re having fun.”
Kovosi adds, wistfully, that he will miss the determination of smokers. “They are always the first ones on the patio in the spring and the last to leave in the fall.”