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Get Stuffed

Round Two

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After all the input from bars and restaurants collected during the public hearing process, however, the amendments to the sunset clause were relatively minor. All employers, including those in the hospitality, long-term care, and provincial correctional facilities must "control workers’ exposure to environmental tobacco smoke, (the sunset clause) provides reasonable options, such as designated smoking areas or other equally effective means, to protect workers," according the WCB.

Designated smoking areas include outdoor locations and separately ventilated indoor smoking rooms "that workers must not enter except in an emergency, where there is a requirement to investigate for illegal activity, or until the smoke has been effectively removed."

The date for compliance is Sept. 10, and it appears that there is little that bars and restaurants can do in the next six months other than get ready for the changes.

Provincial health officer Dr. Perry Kendall applauds the new regulation, but likes the old regulation better.

"While I welcome the overall direction of this regulation, I am concerned that this decision may not totally protect the health of all women and men who work in the hospitality industry," said Kendall. "The public health community broadly agrees that there should be no provision for designated smoking rooms indoors due to the difficulties with monitoring, enforcement and exposure to second-hand smoke that will still occur."

The Airspace Action on Smoking and Health group also applauded the move – with reservations. "Considering the evidence, what else could the WCB do?" asked Airspace president Heather Mackenzie. "Workers are being poisoned in large numbers – and killed – by this totally preventable cause. We are concerned, though, that workers have to wait six months for clean air."

While many bar and restaurants owners claimed that their ventilation systems were more than adequate to clear their establishments of second-hand smoke, a WCB study found that while filtration systems were adequate for cleaning the air of smoking particulate matter, they were unable to remove the toxic gases associated with smoke. "Ventilation, as a solution to second-hand smoke, clearly sucks," said Mackenzie.

The Clean Air Coalition of B.C., which includes the Canadian Cancer Society and the B.C. Lung Association, also voiced their support for the WCB initiative.

"The bottom line is that over 80 per cent of British Columbians don’t smoke, and more than eight out of 10 British Columbians are concerned about the health effects of second-hand smoke," said Bobbe Wood, executive director of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of B.C. and Yukon.