THE NEW OUTLAWS
They sit around a table jammed into a corner at a downtown Toronto bar, five genial, wisecracking young people with big glass es of beer and the long night ahead. They do not look like lawbreakers, although four of the five clearly are-they are smoking
cigarettes. For this is the second month in the beleaguered life of a city bylaw, backed by fines of up to $5,000, to stamp out smoking in bars and restaurants. It could well be the harshest urban antismoking measure on the continent, maybe in the whole world. But it is plainly not working. While the law has been applauded by antismoking groups, elsewhere it has slammed into a wall of opposition and widespread civil disobedience. Thousands of angry Toronto bar and restaurant owners claim it is costing them money and will put some of them out of business. Nonsmokers complain that police have been less than aggressive in enforcing Bylaw No. 1996-0485—and that in some cases it has made the air even more foul. The tourist industry
Now, the smokers, complaining loudly but a touch guilt-ridden, are on the ropes. North American cities, having for the most part cleared the air in hospitals, public transit and office buildings, have laid siege to the smokers’ Alamo—bars and restaurants. In Canada, Vancouver became the first big city to try
to root offenders out of the places where people eat and drink. The city declared restaurants smoke-free last May 31, but gave the bar owners three years to follow suit. The food and beverage industry, charging that the law gave bars an unfair advantage over restaurants, promptly responded by taking the city to court, effectively neutralizing the law until the judge rules. ‘We’re kind of hamstrung,” admitted the Vancouver Health Board’s Nick Losito.
Then on March 3, Toronto weighed in with its draconian bylaw, ordering all bars and restaurants to be smoke-free unless they provide a fully enclosed, separately ventilated smoking area—a facility costing anywhere from $15,000 to $60,000 to build. Nonsmokers celebrated, but their elation may have been premature. While major
wonders how the smoking tales told back home by this year’s out-of-town convention delegates will affect future bookings. Meanwhile, legions of defiant diners and drinkers, refusing to be told how to behave, continue to light up—like the four at the downtown bar. “It’s quite simple,” says one them, Jarod McFawn. ‘When I drink, I have to have a cigarette.” Adds a friend, Charlton Bruce: “There’s no real threat—so I smoke.”
That defiance, reminiscent of the drinker’s antagonism towards Prohibition, has become commonplace not only in Toronto but among the nearly seven million Canadians wedded to the weed. The opportunities to light up indoors—in Canada, the United States, Western Europe and beyond—are rapidly diminishing. Lobbied aggressively by the public health sector and nonsmokers’ rights organizations, legislators from Brazil to Bulgaria and Beijing are tightening the screws, with varying degrees of success, on tobacco use, labelling, advertising and marketing.
And in numerous courtrooms, mostly in the United States, governments and private citizens are demanding that the $170-billion-a-year tobacco industry be punished and held accountable for smoking-related deaths, illnesses and health-care costs. Those cases may become easier to win following the blockbuster admission last month by the Liggett Group Inc., the Durham, N.C.based cigarette maker, that smoking is both addictive and cancercausing. Liggett, maker of the Chesterfield, Lark and L&M brands, also agreed to put specific warning labels on its packages—as Canadian companies have been compelled to do since 1989—and to pay millions of dollars in compensation for healthcare costs to 22 states. Last week, Liggett frirther embarrassed the industry by releasing previously confidential documents about marketing strategies and the effects of nicotine (page 50).
downtown hotels, such as the venerable Royal York, family-oriented chains (McDonald’s and Mandarin) and busy tourist locations (the CN Tower) have invoked the ban (or already had one of their own), hundreds of bistros and eating places have not. To fulfil their obligation to the law, proprietors only have to tell patrons that smoking is illegal. And with only two dozen socalled smoke police fully devoted to the task, the city does not have the manpower to monitor 4,500 food-service establishments.
To University of Toronto social philosopher
Frank Cunningham, the scale of the smokers’ revolt is no mystery. “What’s going on here is that people simply don’t buy this law,” he says. “There is a limit on how far you can force people to do something they don’t want to do.” But to a lot of bar and restaurant owners, the issue is less personal than economic. “I got a customer who spends $12,000 a year on Guinness and he smokes 20 cigarettes a night,” says one North Toronto pub owner. ‘You think I’m not going to give him an ashtray?” At Le Papillon restaurant, owner Paul Bigue says business is down about 20 per cent even though he serves smokers. “A lot of places are hanging on by their fingernails,” he says. Peter Costa, the owner of Pronto, a midtown high-end restaurant, says he has difficulty keeping the smokers and nonsmokers happy on busy weekends. “For many restaurants in this town,” he says, “it’s either break the law or go bankrupt.”
Ironically, the bylaw is making things worse for some nonsmokers. There are no longer specified nonsmoking areas, as there were before March 3, so lawbreakers prepared to risk getting a ticket are free to puff virtually everywhere. “It’s ridiculous, just ridiculous,” says
Defiant smokers tell government to butt out
Debbie Leithwood, a bartender at Gardoonies bistro across from Maple Leaf Gardens. “Nobody wins.” A customer on a nearby stool is equally indignant. “Pretty soon,” he says, voice slurred, “they’ll have a bylaw against breaking wind.” At nearby P.M. Toronto, a man at the bar is sarcastic. “It’s all this politically correct stuff,” he says, “it’s the thing of the Nineties, man.” The ordinance has had a negligible impact on Danny Smadenka’s bistro and sports bar on west-end Bloor Street. The boundary between the suburban city of York (smoking) and Toronto (non-
smoking) slices through Danny’s place. But Smadenka, who has made the Toronto part of his premises the nonsmoking area, dislikes the law on principle—“I don’t like to be told what to do,” he says.
But some others, including the rich and famous, willingly toe the line. Actor Demi Moore, told of the new law, declined to celebrate with her customary cigar at the glitzy opening in early March of Toronto’s Planet Hollywood, the restaurant chain of which she is part owner with Arnold Schwarzenegger and others. When the entrepreneurial celebrities got to Vancouver, it was a different story. At the glittering first night of the West Coast’s Planet Hollywood later in March, Schwarzenegger moved among the invitation-only crowd puffing on a cigar. Two people complained to the city after watching the event on TV, but the health board’s Losito said Schwarzenegger would not be charged. “It’s gotten a little bit silly,” said Losito. “There are zealots at both ends of the spectrum.”
Tobacco’s friends and enemies have been skirmishing ever since Spanish and Portuguese sailors returning from the New World
introduced smoking to Europe nearly 500 years ago. (Murad IV, a bloodthirsty 17th-century sultan of the Ottoman Empire and one in history’s long line of tobacco-haters, tried to stamp it out by beheading the people who sold it.) But when Western health agencies, most notably the Canadian Medical Association and the U.S. Surgeon General’s office, concluded in the early 1960s that cigarettes were linked to lung cancer and other ailments, the conflict heated up considerably.
In 1986, it escalated into open warfare when the Surgeon General declared secondhand smoke to be “a cause of disease, including lung cancer, in healthy nonsmokers.” And while virtually everyone (aside from most of the cigarette manufacturers) now concedes that smokers are endangering their own health, experts disagree about how and to what extent tobacco smoke actually does harm nonsmokers. To Dr. Mary Jane Ashley of the University of Toronto department of preventive medicine, “there is absolutely no debate any more that environmental tobacco smoke is responsible for a percentage of lung cancer cases among nonsmok-
ers.” Some researchers, in fact, estimate that secondhand smoke is related to the deaths of as many as 3,500 nonsmoking Canadians every year. On the other hand, a 1994 report by the Congressional Research Service of the U.S. Library of Congress concluded that “the link between passive smoking and disease is uncertain.
To the extent that evidence does exist, it has been associated with effects within families and largely to spouses of smokers.”
Politicians, however, say they have all the proof they need to quarantine smokers. And in Toronto, that clearly worries the people who speak for the city’s $735-million-a-year food and beverage industry. Douglas Needham, president of the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association, predicts the new law could cut members’ revenues by as much as 30 per cent. Paul Oliver,
Needham’s provincial counterpart, expects layoffs among the 70,000 employees of the city’s food-service industry if customers flock to the suburbs where they can still legally smoke with their drinks and meals. “The politicians have done something that’s really, really hurting,”
Oliver says. Whether those actions will affect tourism and the convention business remains to be seen. “What I’m fearful of,” says Tourism Toronto’s Gino Giancola, “is that convention groups might get a lot of negative feedback from their delegates, so when Toronto is proposed for a future convention that may play against us.”
Despite the threat to jobs and businesses, several big cities apparently believe that putting the squeeze on a smelly habit has priority. Opposition to smoking has long been apparent in British Columbia, which may explain why it has the fewest smokers of any province—25 per cent of those 15 and over, compared with Quebec, at the high end, with 38 per cent. As far back as the mid-1980s, the owners of some restaurants were severely restricting smoking. And now, the community of White Rock, south of Vancouver, may be defining the future: its new ban on smoking in bars and restaurants even extends to outdoor patios.
Across the country, cities have different plans and passions for dealing with smoking. In Edmonton, for example, smoking is prohibited in the workplace—unless all the staff is in favor of it. But in Calgary, the employer can permit smoking provided he has a written policy saying so and the employees are aware of it. In both cities, restaurants, bars and lounges must set aside space for nonsmokers. Those patterns are repeated, with minor variations, eastward across the nation. In
Regina, people who light up in places such as beauty parlors, health spas and doctors’ offices risk fines up to $2,000, a maximum settled on by many cities. In Winnipeg, where bars are unregulated and restaurants seating more than 30 must have a nonsmoking section, a group calling itself the Council for a Smoke-Free Manitoba says it will ask the city this summer to follow Vancouver and Toronto and evict the smokers. But bar owners like Patrick Munroe object. If one purpose of smoke-free laws is to protect workers’ health, he says, “then why not bingo halls and casinos?”
In Quebec, where nearly two-fifths of the population over 15 is hooked, Health Minister Jean Rochon has promised to protect the health of nonsmokers and young people, although he has not said precisely how. But Hull, for years stodgy Ottawa’s flamboyant after-hours neighbor across the Ottawa River, has not waited for Rochon: in February it followed Ottawa’s example and banned smoking in shopping centres and other commercial public areas and told restaurant and bar owners
Vancouver's restaurants challenged the law in court
to reserve half their seats for nonsmokers. Griped restaurateur Yvan Rose: “It’s getting to be the same as Ontario—puritanical.”
Yet Hull’s action pales by comparison with what may be in store for Halifax. Regional councillor Bob Harvey wants the port city and its suburbs to embrace a total ban in all public places—including restaurants and bars. The council will debate the issue, likely this month. As far as Harvey is concerned, there is nothing to debate. “Smoking is in the same category as drinking and driving,” he says. “It has become socially unacceptable.” Next door in New Brunswick, Saint John has legislated 25 per cent of the floor area in offices, clubs, restaurants and other public places to belong to nonsmokers. Health Minister Russ King also promises tougher enforcement of the law forbidding the sale of tobacco to minors. Says King: “It’ll probably take a few examples to show society we’re serious.” Worried about smoking among children, Ottawa surveyed nearly 25,000 10to 19-year-olds in 1994. According to partial results available so far, 27 per cent of 15to 19-year-olds were smokers, up from 21 per cent in 1990. And 16 per cent aged 14 and 15 also admitted to being smokers. Last month, after winning approval in the House of Commons
of his bill restricting the tobacco industry’s use of sponsorship to promote its products, Health Minister David Dingwall announced a nationwide stop-smoking contest for youth. A quarter of a million Canadians start smoking each year, said Dingwall, and 85 per cent of them are under 16. In 1996, total tobacco sales rose more than three per cent over the previous year.
Concern for young people figures prominently in the push for tighter tobacco laws in the United States, as well. Although all 50 states have banned the sale of cigarettes to minors, teenage smoking
IS SMOKING LEGAL? At home and around the world, the law is closing in on smokers. The chart shows some places where smoking is still permitted, in many cases only in designated areas. restaurants bars work shops hospitals cabs airports St. John’s Halifax Saint John Montreal -A Ottawa Toronto Winnipeg Calgary Vancouver New York Los Angeles Rio de Janeiro London Paris Berlin Rome Hong Kong Tokyo Sydney
rates have been rising for several years. Now, Washington plans to follow Ottawa’s example by restricting industry sponsorship of cultural and sporting events usually aimed at the young. In fact, the overall campaign against the butt in the United States closely parallels Canada’s. Most large U.S. cities— for example, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Philadelphia—either prohibit or curtail smoking in the workplace, public transit and eating places. And California law requires hotels to reserve one-third of their rooms for nonsmokers. “Smoking is the forbidden fruit,” sighs retired Los Angeles County tax assessor Ken Kuntz, a lifetime smoker.
In Europe, antismoking forces face an uphill battle. The air in London’s pubs remains tinged with blue, and nonsmoking sections in restaurants are hard to find. Smoking is still allowed in movie theatres—the Coronet in the Notting Hill Gate neighborhood, for instance, has only six rows for abstainers. And hairdressers puff while they trim. Italy forbids smoking on public transport but little else, and France bans it in hospitals.
In many parts of Asia, smoking is virtually
a national pastime—80 per cent of Cambodian men indulge. But China’s 300 million smokers—outnumbering the entire population of the United States—are beginning to face restrictions. As of next month, they will be forbidden to light up on all forms of public transportation. In Afghanistan, as the ultra-orthodox Islamic Taleban movement cracks down against impure acts and Western ways, tobacco is one of its targets. Taleban fighters caught smoking, said a radio report in early February, “were expelled from the ranks of the armed forces.” Several authorities say that no matter how desirable a smoke-free
world might be, it will probably not come to pass. ‘You’re not going to ban smoking, I’m sorry,” says Stephen Tiffany, who blends psychology and pharmacology in the study of addictive drugs at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind. “Well, you can ban it but it’s not going to work.” A June, 1995, report by American Demographics, an Ithaca, N.Y.-based marketing magazine, may explain why. Nearly 90 per cent of ex-smokers and 80 per cent of those who had never smoked, the report said, would oppose a total ban on smoking.
Until Liggett’s bombshell admission, the tobacco industry—with Canadian sales of $10 billion a year—has steadfastly denied that smoking is addictive, kills people or causes cancer. Last December, when the Commons was debating the sports sponsorship bill, Rob Parker, president of the Canadian Tobacco Manufacturers’ Council, accused the federal Liberals of capitulating to “antismoking zealots.” Perhaps, says the University of Toronto’s Cunningham, it is time for the government to redefine its mission. It should, he says, “be going after the tobacco industry and, except for wrist-slapping, it’s not doing that. So the targets have been the smokers, the bars and the restaurants.” For the food-service industry and its customers across the country, having somebody else as the target would be a welcome relief.
in Los Angeles