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Smoke-free bylaw best way to protect workers

Dear Editor:
Friday, May 31, 2002 is World No-Tobacco Day and the Healthy Communities Coalition is saying that the citizens of Northwestern Ontario have much to celebrate. In the last year a number of restaurants in our communities have chosen to go smoke-free. Both their customers and their employees now enjoy a healthier environment. The Township of Ear Falls has proven to be a leader in our area by passing a smoke-free bylaw that comes into effect on September 3,2002. It is also exciting to know that other councils in our region are in the process of developing a smoke-free bylaw including the communities of Dryden, Fort Frances, Barwick and Thunder Bay.
Supported by two decades of evidence, the scientific community now agrees that there is no safe level of exposure to second-hand smoke, and those particularly at risk include young children and workers in bars and restaurants that have no smoking restrictions. Unfortunately many workers in Northwestern Ontario are still exposed to second-hand smoke in their workplaces and we know that second-hand smoke is the #1 cause of workplace illness and death in Canada.
The smoke-free municipal bylaw remains the best way to protect them. During all the debate about smoke-free bylaws in each of our communities we all need to remember that control of second-hand smoke is really about public health. Too often employees have no other option than to work in an environment that is hazardous to their health. As well, individuals and families who go out to eat or for entertainment have no choice but to be exposed to second-hand smoke.
The debate about the smoke-free bylaw has strayed from its original purpose into misleading discussions of rights and economics. But we have to remember that the bylaw is first and foremost a public health measure to protect people from the harmful effects of tobacco smoke.
Besides, the reason why people go to restaurants is not to smoke, but to eat. Smoking restrictions in restaurants and bars aren’t simply to keep people from smoking, but rather to prevent nonsmokers from breathing in second-hand smoke. The Conference Board of Canada conducted a countrywide study of restaurants and concluded: “the experience of going smoke free was a positive one for the majority of restaurants in this study.” Smoke-free municipal bylaws that treat all businesses equally under the law simply provide a level playing field for the industry.
Why not celebrate World No Tobacco Day May 31, 2002 by supporting your own town council in their efforts to make your community healthier.
Healthy Communities Coalition of Rainy River and surrounding area