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Understanding the impact of the Smoke-Free Ontario Act on hospitality establishments' outdoor environments: a survey of restaurants and bars
  1. Ryan David Kennedy1,
  2. Tara Elton-Marshall1,
  3. Seema Mutti2,
  4. Jolene Dubray3,
  5. Geoffrey T Fong1,4
  1. 1Department of Psychology, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Canada
  2. 2Department of Health Studies and Gerontology, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Canada
  3. 3Ontario Tobacco Research Unit, Toronto, Canada
  4. 4Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, Toronto, Canada
  1. Correspondence to Ryan David Kennedy, Health Psychology Laboratory, PAS 3rd Floor, Department of Psychology, University of Waterloo, 200 University Avenue West, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada N2L 3G1; rdkenned{at}


Background The Smoke-Free Ontario Act (SFOA) came into effect in May 2006 and included restrictions to outdoor hospitality areas by only permitting smoking on a patio if the area had no roof.

Objectives (1) To assess the impact of the SFOA on the prevalence of smoke-free patios in Ontario and (2) to determine the proportion of venues where structural alterations were made rather than going smoke-free in order to achieve compliance with the SFOA.

Methods A telephone survey of 403 hospitality sector operators/owners in four clustered samples of Ontario, Canada.

Results Based on completed surveys, the SFOA resulted in an increase in prevalence of smoke-free patios, from 5% (n=21) to 25% (n=99). Of the patios where smoking was permitted before the SFOA (n=382), 42% (n=161) had physical structures that would make smoking not permissible under the new act. Operators of half of these venues (n=80) made their patios smoke-free, with most indicating they had no choice given the costs or physical limitations to changing their outdoor environment. The other half (n=81) reported making physical changes, including removing roof structures to achieve compliance.

Conclusion The SFOA resulted in greater protection from outdoor secondhand smoke; however, most patios still permitted smoking. Half of the venues that complied with the SFOA by going smoke-free did so involuntarily because of structural and/or financial limitations. The majority of venue operators preferred to permit smoking on their patios, and only made their patios smoke-free when they were required to do so by law.

  • Public policy
  • environmental tobacco smoke
  • restaurants
  • air quality

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  • Funding Other Funders: Canadian Tobacco Control Research Initiative (CTCRI) Student Researcher Grant, a Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR IPPH-PHAC) Doctoral Research Award and a Senior Investigator Award from the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Ethics approval This study was conducted with the approval of the University of Waterloo.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.