Canada's no-smoking area expands

Visitors to Quebec liken it to visiting France without all that pesky trans-Atlantic travel.

One other big difference now is evident. Today -- Wednesday, May 31 -- a no-smoking rule went into effect in what one Montreal writer calls "the unofficial smoking section of North America."

Businesses won a brief reprieve from a province-wide smoking ban when the Minister of Health pushed back the start date of the ban from Jan. 1 to May 31.

The ban on smoking is effective in all public places, including restaurants, bars, brasseries, taverns and bingo halls. Hotels can reserve up to 40% of their rooms as "smoking permitted" rooms.

Meanwhile, next door in Ontario province, a "transition" to a no-smoking society got under way today.

Bars in Ontario that let smokers light up after a provincewide ban takes effect Wednesday will get off with a warning for a first offence.

"With any law, there tends to be a transition period," Ontario Health Promotion Minister Jim Watson said of the new ban on smoking in all restaurants, bars, casinos, bingo halls and virtually every other indoor public space. "We think a reasonable approach is the phased-in approach, with the education, warnings and then fines."

Most municipalities across the province already have local anti-smoking bylaws. Watson, a former mayor of Ottawa, which five years ago implemented a strict municipal smoking ban, acknowledged there will likely be those proprietors who either aren't clear about how the law impacts their particular establishment or who openly defy it. Those who consistently break the law will pay the price, he said.

New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Saskatchewan and Manitoba have already banned smoking in public places. Nova Scotia's ban takes effect at the end of the year.

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