Ban public and workplace smoking: Ontario Medical Association

The Ontario Medical Association (OMA) is calling for a ban on smoking in all work and public spaces.

"The situation is urgent," says OMA President Dr. Elliot Halparin. "Up to 2,600 people in this province die every year as a direct result of second-hand smoke. These deaths are 100 per cent preventable."

In Canada, second-hand smoke exposure causes up to 7,800 deaths each year.

The call comes as the OMA releases its latest report on second-hand smoke.

The report The Duty to Protect details new medical evidence showing that spending just half an hour in a smoke-filled environment damages the lining of the coronary arteries, which can lead to heart disease. Other disease risks from exposure include lung cancer, nasal sinus cancer, bronchitis and other respiratory infections.

The report cites research done by the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the World Health Organization.

In one Japanese study, researchers observed the effects of 30 minutes of second-hand smoke exposure to coronary arteries. They used a digital ultrasound system.

They were able to see that the smoke exposure stopped certain cells from performing their function and prevented arteries from increasing their blood flow. In a 2001 Journal of the American Medical Association report, the researchers concluded: "this provides direct evidence of a harmful effect of passive smoking on the coronary circulation in non-smokers."

The report also highlights a study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology (October 2002), which provides evidence that women who never smoked have an increased risk of developing breast cancer when exposed to second-hand smoke.

    The OMA says two cities have set a "gold standard" for no-smoking bylaws: Ottawa and Waterloo.

    Ottawa enacted two separate bylaws, one that banned smoking in all workplaces, and another banning smoking in all public places. The bylaws allow no exemptions for private clubs or any other establishment, and no allowances for separately enclosed, separately ventilated smoking rooms.

    The Region of Waterloo enacted one bylaw to cover all public places, but not workplaces. The Regional Council is now planning to enact a separate bylaw for workplaces.

    The OMA is demanding three things from the provincial government:

    • Enact laws for the 100 per cent elimination of second-hand tobacco smoke in all work and public places
    • Launch a comprehensive, intensive and sustained mass media campaign about the dangers of second-hand smoke within six months, with particular focus on the need for Ontario residents not to smoke in their homes
    • Once legislation is adopted, create a special fund to hire enforcement personnel, promote the new legislation, and provide information to people about the new legislation.

    The province's health minister, Tony Clement, says he'll consider a province-wide ban on smoking in public places.

    Clement says the OMA's requests will be included in a review of his government's anti-smoking policy.