Smoking now banned on Montreal terrasses

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Starting today, Quebecers are no longer allowed to smoke on bar or restaurant patios. The Quebec government’s stricter anti-smoking measures went into effect at midnight.

The measures are part of Bill 44, which aims to crack down on the harm caused by second-hand smoke. The bill passed unanimously in the National Assembly last November.

Here’s what you need to know about Quebec’s beefed up anti-smoking measures:

1. Smoking banned on terrasses…and elsewhere

The new rules now in effect mean that smoking is banned:

  • On commercial patios, including bars and restaurants.
  • In cars when someone under the age of 16 is present.
  • In the common areas of residential buildings of two to five housing units.
  • Near playgrounds, campgrounds and sports fields.
  • And, as always, near daycares, preschools, elementary schools and high schools.

2. Can I smoke an e-cigarette on a commercial terrasse?

No. The new measures also include electronic cigarettes. E-cigarette smoking is prohibited in the same locations as cigarettes.

3. How will the new smoking ban be enforced?

Quebec’s health ministry says its inspectors will visit businesses and can give fines. Provincial police can also issue tickets, and municipalities can choose to have their own police officers issue tickets as well.

It’s up to business owners to put up no-smoking signs and tell clients they can’t light up on the terrasse.

4. How much are the fines?

If caught smoking on a bar or restaurant patio, both the smoker and the business owner would be fined:

  • Individual: 1st-time offender: $250 to $750
  • Individual: repeat offender: $500 to $1,500
  • Businesses: 1st-time offender: $500 to $12,500
  • Businesses: repeat offender: $1,000 to $25,000

5. Reaction from terrasse-lovers

CBC went to some bar and restaurant patios this week to speak to patrons. Some were enjoying their final cigarettes on the terrasse. Others were looking forward to today, when the new beefed-up measures would take effect.

“The terrace is one of the main advantage for me to go to a bar. It certainly will change something for me,” said Alexandre LeBlanc in Quebec City. 

“I think that it’s a good thing for non-smokers, but maybe the terrasse could be able to separate the two because it’s fun for smokers to be able to smoke outside,” said Montrealer Andrea Miles.

“To each their own, but I think it’s a good idea [because] even if you’re outside there’s still smoke everywhere, so everyone ingests it at some point,” said Montrealer Doc Sabatini.

6. Reaction from business owners

Restaurant and bar owners in Quebec say that although they have known for months that the smoking ban on patios was coming, the government has not done a good job of informing them about all the details.

“We were sort of caught off guard because we haven’t gotten anything – we got no letters or anything. So I don’t even know exactly what it entails,” said Ziggy Eichenbaum, the owner of Ziggy’s Pub in downtown Montreal.

“Do I throw the customers out when they smoke?”

The Association of Quebec Restaurateurs (ARQ) agrees, saying that many of its members have lots of questions.

“The government just put this problem on our shoulders and restaurants have to deal with it,” said ARQ spokeswoman Dominique Tremblay.

“It’s going to be a big thing to manage for restaurant and bar owners because they will have to play police. They will have to intervene when somebody is smoking.”

Tremblay said it should be up to business owners to decide if smoking on their patio should be permitted.

“We would have preferred the status quo where the government lets bar owners decide if they will let people smoke on the terrasse or not,” she said.

“Some restaurant owners already banned the cigarettes on their terrasses because the clientele asked for it. So we would have preferred to leave it that way.”

Jonathan Gagnon-Villeneuve, co-owner of Le Sacrilège bar in Quebec City, said customers will need some time to get used to the ban.

“Especially the clients who come here smoke a lot. You know, some other places, the clients are not people who smoke. Here, it is going to be a big problem,” he said.

Eichenbaum says the timing of the ban on patio smoking is the biggest problem – especially in Montreal.

“They passed the law without even thinking about it – it’s Grand Prix in two weeks. What rocket scientist decided to do it this week, and couldn’t wait 2 weeks after Grand Prix when we get all the Europeans coming into town and all of them are smokers?” he said.

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