A reasonable solution

Victoria Times Colonist

There is, as various health officers around B.C. have correctly pointed out, no science behind the provincial government's decision last week to overrule the Workers' Compensation Board and permit some smoking in pubs, lounges and restaurants.

There's nothing scientific about the cabinet's ruling that up to 45 per cent of a pub or restaurant's space (and 65 per cent of a bingo hall) may be walled off and ventilated for smokers (although a door is not required).

With only about 25 per cent of B.C. residents smoking, 45 per cent seems high and non-smokers might find themselves waiting for a table, but the figure is a maximum, not a minimum. Local restaurateurs can adjust the size to their community's needs.

Nor is there anything scientific about the ruling that servers can only spend 20 per cent of their shifts in a smoking area.

If second-hand smoke is bad for you, then inhaling any second-hand smoke at all is undesirable. As for the provision that serving in these areas must be voluntary -- some workers may not have an option if they want to keep their jobs.

The cabinet decision wasn't based on science, but on listening to the voices of business and the quarter of the population that does smoke.

Bar and restaurant owners have been hurt because they're not allowed to serve people who want to light up with their drink or meal. Encouraging, rather than discouraging, business means finding a way for bars and restaurants to meet that desire, not pretend it doesn't exist.

Separate, ventilated areas that servers rarely go into meets that need (although the cabinet should have ruled that smoking areas must have doors).

Individual jurisdictions, such as the capital region and Greater Vancouver, will still have the option of imposing a total ban, and most in these urban areas are grateful.

But other parts of the province may want to handle smoking differently, because it's tougher in colder areas to simply tell people to go outside.

Tobacco is a legal product in B.C., and smoking is a choice -- albeit an unhealthy one -- for thousands of people. The cabinet's decision increases their choices, and helps local businesses, while offering some protection to workers and non-smokers.

It ain't science; but it is realistic.

© Copyright 2002 Victoria Times Colonist