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Understanding the impact of the Smoke-Free Ontario Act on hospitality establishments' outdoor environments: a survey of restaurants and bars

Abstract

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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