DESIGNATED SMOKING ROOMS
As of 2000, an increasing number of Ontario bylaws regulating smoking in public places permit separately-enclosed, separately-ventilated smoking rooms (designated smoking rooms, or DSRs). Of the major smoke-free bylaws implemented in January 2000, only Peterborough's makes specific provision for DSRs, but other bylaws that have either come into force or been passed since that date also allow for DSRs.
The following summarizes problems encountered with DSRs, based on theory and practical experience to date (October 2002):
- DSRs contradict the mandate of the public health sector to protect both workers and members of the public from second-hand smoke exposure. The best DSRs currently in use are not well-ventilated, and both smokers and non-smokers are exposed to high levels of second-hand smoke. Workers cannot avoid DSRs: work stations are often located in them.
- DSRs create an unlevel playing field among hospitality premises. Some owners can afford to build them, other cannot. Some owners have space to build them, while others have small establishments that do not permit construction of DSRs. Many proprietors cannot construct DSRs because they would destroy the aesthetic appeal and atmosphere in premises. Some landlords will not permit tenants to alter a building through construction of DSRs. The cost is prohibitive for many establishments.
- It is difficult to enforce air quality standards for DSRs. There is a vague standard in the Ontario Building Code, but no one will agree that this standard adequately protects health. The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers does not endorse ventilation standards that allow for the presence of second-hand smoke, owing to general health concerns and the fact that there is no safe level of exposure to any carcinogen.
- Some owners do not go through normal building permit channels when constructing DSRs, thereby causing significant problems with improper construction. In Peterborough, this has been a particular problem and local officials are now having to revisit certain establishments in order to have improperly constructed DSRs removed or improved. Owners can manipulate the size of a DSR through calculations concerning the percentage of seats or the percentage of floor area, in order to exceed the percentage allowed for the DSR in a bylaw.
- Ventilation units servicing DSRs can break down, and filters must be cleaned. When owners do not attend to this maintenance, complaints are received from the public.
- When DSRs become too smoky, their doors are sometimes left open. Complaints result from patrons elsewhere in the establishment.
- Last but not least, many smokers will not enter DSRs, finding them too smoky. If they are willing to enter them, friends will not accompany them. Some smokers are embarrassed to be in a 'fishbowl'.
Click here to view an excellent presentation from the York Region Health Department on the ineffectiveness of DSRs.
Click here to view a letter from a British Columbian bar employee who argues that the WCB rules surrounding DSRs in hospitality premises is problematic for the health of bar workers, and virtually impossible to enforce.