Anti-puffing spies to police Quebec smoking ban

Quebec Health Minister Philippe Couillard has acknowledged there will be "undercover" inspectors in the province's bars and restaurants to make sure a new anti-smoking law is enforced when it comes into effect May 31.

Quebec Health Minister Philippe Couillard has acknowledged there will be "undercover" inspectors in the province's bars and restaurants to make sure a new anti-smoking law is enforced when it comes into effect May 31.

The new legislation will ban smoking in all public indoor places, including bars and restaurants.

Some critics say the province has not hired enough inspectors to ensure compliance with the new law, but Couillard says that's not true.

"The municipal police can also be used if the municipalities give them the authority," he said Wednesday. "They are under their jurisdiction. They can certainly work in collaboration with the inspectors.

"And again, on this question of the tobacco law, such a majority of citizens want to exercise the right to be in a smoke-free environment that I see a positive implementation of the law," Couillard said.

One in four Quebec adults still smoking

The province's smoking rate has been in steady decline, according to Health Canada figures.

However, Quebec still has one of the highest smoking rates in Canada, with 23 per cent of all adults lighting up at least occasionally. The rate is 26 per cent for those aged 15 to 19, and soars to 38 per cent among Quebecers aged 20 to 24.

Louis Gauvin of the Quebec coalition for tobacco control says that last group was in its young teens when the Quebec government slashed cigarette taxes about a decade ago.

That's the group whose behaviour could be modified most by the upcoming smoking ban, Gauvin told CBC News Onlinein an interview Wednesday.

"Each smoking ban that occurs in a society has a direct impact on society, and particularly on young people," he said.

Gauvin is looking forward to a Quebec where non-smokers can go to restaurants and clubs and breathe more easily.

"Many people have toldme, 'Well, I'm backing out. It's not an interesting time to me.' We know it's not good for our health."