When it comes to smoking I’m the worst kind of smoker: the ex-smoker. I’ve not smoked for almost 15 years and can honestly say I no longer miss it.
When I stopped, smoking was still very much accepted here in Quebec, often referred to as Canada’s smoking section. I worked for a large community organization for several years in an office that was chock-a-block with smokers. Even the few non-smokers had ashtrays on their desks to accommodate their colleagues.
At that time restaurants and bars merely paid lip service to the notion of a no smoking section by having a table or two set aside. The fact that they were often surrounded by smokers rendered them useless as a means of protecting those trying to avoid smoke.
Things have changed drastically since that time. Smoking in offices and workplaces is forbidden. Smokers must stand a specified distance – nine metres – from buildings to allow those exiting to do so without walking through a cloud of smoke. Smoking in restaurants and bars is also a thing of the past.
But a recent tweak to the law even has me, an ex-smoker, a bit baffled. As of late last month smoking is no longer allowed on restaurant and bar terrasses (yep, we use the French spelling and pronunciation). Outside. I am fond of sitting on a terrasse for a beer or bite, assuming the sun is not directly beating down on me in which case I’m better off enjoying my meal in the air conditioning. If the folks at the table next to me on the terrasse are smoking I honestly don’t have a problem; we are outside after all. In fact many terrasses are located so close to the street that car exhaust is probably more dangerous than cigarette smoke.
Montrealers love their European-style restaurant terrasses, located on the sidewalk a few steps from the establishment. Owners pay a pretty penny to the city for a permit and to cover the cost of lost revenue from parking meters that are unusable because of the terrasse. This year there have been several terrasse battles between the city and restaurant owners. Now many terrasses are empty as smokers opt not to use them if they can’t smoke.
It seemed to me that we had arrived at a balance; no smoking whatsoever inside, but smoking on terrasses. I guess I was wrong. Of course if what we are driving at is a totally non-smoking society, the government should just ban the sale of tobacco products. But given the huge tax windfall garnered from these sales I don’t see that happening anytime soon.