In total, 57 per cent of the respondents said they were in favour of the ban, which will be debated at Tuesday's city council meeting. However, most bar and restaurant owners who would be affected by the ban didn't participate in a survey.
The city is contemplating extending its smoking ban to all municipal property, as well as to uncovered outdoor patios, which have become a common part of many bars and restaurants in the city following the indoor smoking ban passed almost a decade ago.
But concerns about second-hand smoke affecting patrons and staff at the bars, even on the outdoor patios, led the city to consider extending the ban even further.
Ahead of the decision, the Sudbury and District Health Unit sought input from 376 local bars and restaurants in a survey conducted in October. However, almost three-quarters of those that responded don't have an outdoor patio and wouldn't be affected by the ban.
“Of the establishments contacted, a total of 131 respondents completed the survey, giving a response rate of 35 per cent,” the health unit says in a report going to city council on Tuesday. “Of the 131 establishments, 27 per cent currently operate an outdoor patio and 73 per cent do not. Of the 19 establishments that currently have outdoor patios, 53 per cent are uncovered, 25 per cent are partially covered, eight per cent are fully covered and six per cent are seasonal sidewalk patios.”
Of those who responded, 26 were concerned about the impact on their businesses if the city approved a smoke-free outdoor patios bylaw.
“For example, one patio owner suggested that 'a change in legislation will have a negative impact on my already declining revenue income. People will just move from the patio to the sidewalk outside my restaurant making a big mess,' ” the report said. “In addition to this comment, many respondents felt that the bylaw would be taking things 'too far' and that 'smokers’ rights' are being jeopardized.”
However, staff is recommending city councillors hold off on making any decisions on a patio ban. Instead, the city should wait to see if the province moves ahead with plans to amend the Smoke-Free Ontario Act to include language to “prohibit smoking of tobacco and holding of lighted tobacco on all covered and uncovered restaurant and bar patios.”
The only exception to the new rules, which would take effect Jan. 1, 2015, would be “any uncovered patio owned or occupied by a Royal Canadian Legion branch in Ontario as of Nov. 18, 2013.”
However, staff is recommending approval of a ban on smoking on all city property – with the exception of some specially designated areas in some city parking lots. The bylaw would include initiatives to help staffers quit smoking. It also wouldn't cover facilities like Pioneer Manor, which are governed by the Smoke-Free Ontario Act.
Last year in Sudbury, city council passed a bylaw banning smoking in city parks and sporting fields, and directed staff to explore extending the ban to all municipal buildings. In conjunction with the health unit, they also agreed to look at the outdoor patio ban.
In a June presentation to city council, Michael Perley, head of the Ontario Campaign for Action on Tobacco, said there’s a perception that outdoor patios don't affect anyone other than the smokers. In fact, he said, they are a workplace for bar and restaurant staff, and significant amounts of second-hand smoke drifts indoors.
“It makes what should be smoke-free indoor premises, smoking premises,” Perley said. “Brief exposure to second-hand smoke can trigger health events like heart attacks and asthma attacks.”
While smoking rates in Sudbury have fallen significantly over the last 10 years, 18 per cent of adults smoke, significantly higher than Ontario's overall rate of 12 per cent. Cities like Kingston, Thunder Bay and Ottawa have already banned smoking in outdoor patios, Perley said in June, and Toronto is expected to follow suit soon.