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Ontario to ban smoking on patios, playgrounds, sports fields

A customer smokes a cigarette on a patio at a bar in Toronto. Starting in the New Year, that will be against the law in Ontario.

Steve Payne/NYT

It will soon be illegal to smoke on patios, playgrounds and public sports fields in Ontario.

The provincial government said Friday it is enacting regulatory changes to make good on previously announced tobacco control measures. The changes take effect on Jan. 1.

The government will also ban cigarette sales on university and college campuses.

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The Ontario Restaurant, Hotel and Motel Association warned that banning smoking on all bar and restaurant patios will deal a significant blow to many businesses.

"This industry needs some support. This industry has been struggling now for many years. The last recession was not very kind to this industry," said Tony Elenis, president and CEO. "This should have been kept only in public spaces, which we believe in, but not into the restaurant patios."

Mr. Elenis also argued that customers who wish to smoke will be forced to light up in nearby parking lots and on sidewalks, which could risk the health of passing children.

For its part, the Canadian Cancer Society applauded the measures, calling them "courageous".

"We think this is a great step towards protecting the health of Ontarians," said Rowena Pinto, vice-president of public affairs and strategic initiatives at the organization's Ontario division.

The provincial government first announced the measures a year ago, but its bill died because of the recent election. Instead of reintroducing proposed legislation, the province decided to enact some of the changes through regulation, said spokesman David Jensen.

However, the new regulations do not include a ban on all sales of candy- and fruit-flavoured tobacco products, which was part of last year's announcement. Such a move would require new legislation. Mr. Jensen said the province "intends to propose further changes" in the coming months.

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Ms. Pinto said she hopes the government will soon move to ban flavoured tobacco products, noting they specifically target children.

"It is a very important piece of legislation that needs to be reintroduced and implemented and the Canadian Cancer Society continues to advocate for this to happen," she said.

The government new regulations mean that all the province's bars and restaurants will be forbidden from allowing smoking on patios, which some Ontario municipalities have already done.

By banning smoking on patios, Ontario joins Alberta, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, and the Yukon, according to the Canadian Cancer Society.

The ban on smoking on sports fields and surfaces extends to spectator areas and affects facilities owned by municipalities, the province or post-secondary institutions, meaning that smoking will be allowed in privately owned areas.

(Editor's note: An earlier Canadian Press version of this story incorrectly stated the smoking ban on restaurant and bar patios and children's playgrounds would come through legislation. The smoking ban changes by regulation, not legislation.)

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