Get ready to butt out on terrasses

Next week, the National Assembly will hold a public meeting on the matter, but a smoking ban on terrasses already seems imminent.

You probably won’t be able to smoke on terrasses soon. Photo via Flickr

With summer winding down, consider cherishing those last cigarette puffs on your neighbourhood terrasse, because they may be your last.

The Quebec Coalition for Tobacco Control (based on their moniker, you can probably figure out what they’re into) has been working on expanding the smoking ban from indoor spaces to outdoor terrasses, and next week there will be a public meeting in the National Assembly to explore the possibility.

Or should I say eventuality? As with the original indoor smoking ban in 2006, and based on similar laws that have been approved in other provinces, it’s only a matter of time before terrasses become smoke-free. Smokers remain an easy target (and a taxable one), so don’t expect any dark horse to emerge and successfully fight for their right to light up.

At this juncture, no one’s doubting the effects of secondhand smoke, and if the coalition feels the need to bandy about an alarmist study comparing Montreal terrasses to the dirty air in the vicinity of a forest fire, more power to them. Those who wish to lament the loss of personal freedom may also speak up at any time.

What’s irksome about this proposal, that the coalition has been pushing for years, is that Quebecers haven’t been particularly vocal on the subject. Are we clamouring for smoke-free terrasses? (For the record, I’m smoking-agnostic.) The coalition has a poll saying yes, naturally, but is anyone really gearing up for this debate, or have we all just come to expect increased restrictions regarding smoking?

When the first smoking ban was enacted, even most hardcore pack-a-days, with their yellowed moustaches, begrudgingly acknowledged that confining bar employees and non-smoking patrons to a pungent, smoky room for hours on end was unfair.

But outside, on a terrasse that’s in many cases little more than a waist-high wooden enclosure with a few chairs? How’s that different from smoking on the sidewalk?

Next week, the usual suspects will come out of the woodwork: the coalition, the Canadian Cancer Society and the Association pour les droits de non-fumeurs on one end, Imperial Tobacco and bar owners on the other, and they’ll be doing their usual ceremonial song-and-dance, but smoke-free terrasses are an inevitability at this point. Anyone who truly objects can simply butt out. ■

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