Smog hangs over Montreal on a January day. ((CBC))

Montreal is poised to pass one of the strictest laws in the country regarding wood stoves midway through a winter marked by record high levels of winter smog.

The City of Montreal wants to ban citizens from installing a wood stove in new and existing residential homes. Stoves that burn wood pellets will still be permitted.

Winter smog is becoming a major public health problem for Montreal, said Alan DeSousa, the city's executive committee member in charge of sustainable development.

So far this winter, the smog has been so bad that Environment Canada has issued 25 smog warnings, the most of any year on record. Public health authorities say chimney smoke makes up half of the air pollution during the winter in Montreal.

"The health of Montrealers is our priority," said DeSousa in a statement Wednesday.

"With more than 50,000 stoves on our territory, the city is taking action by adopting a law that will contribute to the reduction of the number of premature deaths … [caused by] the quality of air that we breathe."

The Montreal public health department estimates burning a wood stove for nine hours is the equivalent of driving a midsize car for a year, or about 18,000 kilometres of driving.

Proposed law contains exceptions.

While traditional wood stoves will be banned from being installed in new and existing homes, the stoves will be allowed for restaurants and other businesses that do food preparation requiring a wood oven.

The law does not require citizens to remove existing wood stoves, as is the case in the town of Hampstead, Que.,  which has given residents seven years to convert their stoves to gas or remove them entirely.

'With more than 50,000 stoves on our territory, the city is taking action.' — Alan DeSousa, city councillor

However, DeSousa is encouraging residents to reconsider their choice of material they burn.

"I invite Montrealers to think about replacing their combustible wood stoves with devices that are less harmful to their health, that of their family and their neighbours," said DeSousa.

The City of Montreal is also calling on the provincial and federal governments to assist with tax rebates to help citizens cover the cost of replacing or converting old wood stoves.

The proposed law will make a first appearance before city council on Feb. 23.

The city will then hold public hearings on the issue.

The popularity of wood stoves spiked on the island of Montreal after the 1998 ice storm, which left some areas of the province without power for days.