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June 8, 2012, 2:38 a.m. | Editorial — by Kyiv Post

Kyiv Post

The powerful tobacco industry is waging a last-minute campaign to persuade President ViktorYanukovych to veto a law that would ban indoor smoking in public places.
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Frank Fileccia June 8, 2012, 6:52 a.m.    

In the spring of 2001 I moved to Ottawa, Ontario to accept a new position. At that time it was a vibrant, exciting city with a booming hospitality industry and over 3,500 restaurants and bars.

On August 1, 2001 the city of Ottawa, prompted by a report that was submitted to the city counselors by the public health inspector, issued a ban on smoking in all public places, including bars and restaurants. It was the first one in Canada.

That report was later proved to be fraudulent. The Public Health Inspector had deleted several key items in the report before he submitted it. The report did state that 51% of the population was in favor of a smoking ban. What was not submitted was that 65% were in favor of separate, ventilated smoking areas. And in my experience, separate ventilated smoking areas are the best alternative.

As a result of this ban, the hospitality industry in Ottawa was virtually wiped out overnight. Restaurants and bars generally experienced an immediate loss of revenue between 40% and 60%. Restaurants and bars that had an outside patio experienced a 40% loss of business. Restaurants and bars that did not have an outside patio experienced a 60% loss. Many operations closed within the first year. Still others lasted several years before closing.

Beer and cigarettes seem to go together, Instead of two or three beers, now people have one and leave.

Now if there is anyone in Ukraine who can afford to loose 60% of their business permanently, not only would I like to meet you, but I would like to work for you.

Not only did the ban scare away most of the business, it also hit the operators with fines. Every time someone lights up in a restaurant or bar in the city of Ottawa, that restaurant or bar is levied a fine of $3,300. The person who lights the cigarette gets nothing. No fine, no ticket, nothing. I know of several bars and restaurants that consistently had outstanding fines of around $50,000.

One in particular had outstanding fines of $175,000. That particular bar had a seating capacity of 1,500. It was impossible to police, and there is even some doubt that the inspectors actually saw that many people smoking. The owner spoke may times in the press against city council and it was a vendetta against him. Finally, city hall sent in the fire inspectors, who cut his capacity from 1,500 people to 450 people. Putting him out of business.

On the first anniversary of the smoking ban the City of Ottawa announced that they were pleased with the results, that nobody was put out of business by the ban, and that it did not affect business at all. They also announced that any bars and restaurants that did close since the ban went into effect, closed because of bad management, and not the smoking ban.

The Ontario Liquor Control Board is the government agency that controls and sells alcohol in the province of Ontario. The same week the City made that ridiculous statement, the Ontario Liquor Control Board announced that in the previous 12 months the sale of alcohol for home consumption increased. INCREASED by $187 million dollars. That’s $187 million taken out of the pockets of every bar and restaurant owner in the city.

It is a known fact that smokers are more social. They go out more, stay out longer, and spend more money then non-smokers. This has been proven by a number of studies in North America. The city had argued that non-smokers only stay out less because they have to put up with cigarette smoke, and if we take away the cigarette smoke, they would stay out longer and spend more money. Well… Guess what??? It didn’t happen. With OR without cigarette smoke, non-smokers do not stay out longer, go out more often, or spend more money.

Now… what is the aftermath of this ill conceived law?

As I mentioned before, when I moved to Ottawa there were over 3,500 bars and restaurants. Now there are less than 1,500. All have cut most of their staff and of about 50 that opened since the ban, all have gone out of business.

Tourism has also gone down. I had many foreigners come into my establishment, only to leave after their first drink when they were told they could not smoke. And almost all of them asked where the closest alcohol store was, so they could drink and smoke in their hotel rooms.

This anti-smoking craze has since swept the country. Some laws are out and out stupid, in the city of Calgary you could smoke inside a bar, but not outside. But even that has changed to no smoking anywhere. And they all have the same results. The destruction of the hospitality industry in Canada.

In Canada, you can not smoke within 10 meters of the doors to a public building. You can not smoke within 30 meters of a hospital. As a result you always see patients, lined up across the street from any hospital, holding their IV stands, hospital gowns flapping in the wind while they have a cigarette.

And just so you know, at the present time, cigarette smoking by young adults in North America has increased from 18% to 28 % in the last 5 years. So really, these laws are not doing any good in discouraging young people from smoking.

If cigarettes are such a major issue, then why has no government outlawed tobacco completely?

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Joe Benzing June 8, 2012, 8:28 a.m.    

Smoking is disgusting and I truely hope Victor does the right thing and signs on the dotted line. I have now been a non smoker for 4 years and proud of it!

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