July 2006 Edition
Where There's Smoke

As tougher smoking laws come into effect, Canadian restaurateurs and bar owners must try to find a balance between providing a smoke-free dining and working environment, and serving their customers who choose to smoke. Here is the lowdown on lighting up across Canada.


The Rules


Smoking legislation varies throughout the country, but most of Canada is now doing business in smoke-free environments.


Ontario is home to some of Canada’s toughest anti-smoking laws. As of June 1, 2006, smoking is banned in all indoor workplaces, including restaurants and bars. Smoking on outdoor restaurant patios that have roofs or awnings is also illegal.


Quebec’s workplace smoking ban, which also covers restaurants and bars, came into effect on June 1, 2006


Northwest Territories and Nunavut have been smoke-free since 2004


In the Yukon, Whitehorse is smoke-free, but the rest of province is not.


British Columbia allows smoking rooms in restaurants and bars


Alberta’s provincial laws allow smoking in bars and restaurants where children are not permitted. Some municipalities, such as Edmonton and Banff, have local anti-smoking laws.


Saskatchewan has banned smoking in public places as of 2005


Manitoba’s ban came into effect in 2004


Nova Scotia’s current rules allow smoking rooms in bars and restaurants, and allow smoking in bars after 9:00 p.m. New rules that come into effect in December 2006 will ban smoking in bars and restaurants, including all patios where food is served.


Newfoundland and Labrador’s smoking ban includes indoor and outdoor areas of bars and restaurants.


Prince Edward Island allows separately ventilated smoking rooms in bars and restaurants, but food cannot be served in these rooms.


New Brunswick has had a smoking ban in public places since 2004


The Customers


Where are the smokers? According to the Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS), about one in five Canadians smokes. However, rates vary throughout

the provinces.

While smoking rates are decreasing all over the country, areas such as the Nunavut still report rates as high as 53%. By contrast, British Columbia has the lowest smoking rate in the country, at 18%.


CCHS provincial smoking rates for 2005:




British Columbia






Prince Edward Island




New Brunswick




Nova Scotia








Northwest Territories






The Research


The hospitality industry has long feared that banning smoking in bars and restaurants might have a detrimental effect on business, particularly for bars. Legislators and non-smoking activists have disagreed. Both sides have done studies, with mixed results. Industry-led studies and surveys of bar and restaurant owners tend to support the hospitality point of view, while government and non-smoker studies tend to conclude that smoking bans are not bad for business.

One of the largest investigations on smoking bans conducted by the federal government looked at research on the impact of bans in Canada, the United States and Australia. Of 115 studies, ranging from bar-owner surveys to official tax data, only 38 indicated a negative impact on the hospitality industry. The other 77 found no negative impact. Of the studies that did find that smoking bans were bad for business, most were based on surveys of customers or operators, not on sales data or tax revenue.


Making the change


In areas that have recently become non-smoking, such as covered patios in Ontario, help your customers remember and become accustomed to new rules by getting rid of ashtrays and signs designating former smoking areas. Have a policy in effect for dealing with situations that may arise. For example, regular customers who are used to smoking in your establishment or on patios may light up out of habit, or smokers might light up in spite of the ban. Update staff on policies for coping with these situations, and how to express them

to customers.


Don’t alienate smokers


Smoking customers should be treated with courtesy and respect. Sending them outside to smoke should be as polite and comfortable as possible.

-           Plan where you would like your patrons to smoke, and make sure staff are aware of the designated area. In some jurisdictions, this can be a smoking room. In others, it will be part of a patio or deck.

-           If enough of your patrons smoke to make it worthwhile, consider how outdoor areas and patio seating can best be divided. Heaters and awnings, and even patio umbrellas placed to close together, may be illegal in smoking areas of patios, making it a challenge to provide a comfortable area for smokers in hot weather, rain or winter conditions.

-           If you don’t have a patio, but wish to provide an area where customers can go outside to smoke (or if you are located in a jurisdiction that does not allow patio smoking), think about your options, and what you can offer at entrances, exits and surrounding

areas. If you would prefer to avoid having smokers outside your main entrance, think about what else you can offer. Side entrances, delivery alleys, or even a small upstairs balcony might be a better solution.

-           A wall-mounted safety ashtray can reduce butt litter. A potted plant, outdoor art or other welcoming touches can go a long way toward making smokers feel like they are being looked after, rather than banished.


Welcome new customers


It’s not all bad news. Some studies of bar and patronage following smoking bans indicate that changing to a smoke-free environment can attract new clientele who

had stayed away from smoky establishments. A smoking ban can provide a good opportunity for local and neighbourhood promotions, such as sending out menu flyers to homes and offices in your area.


By Patricia Nicholson