SAINT JOHN, N.B. (CUP) — The smoke may have cleared from many New Brunswick drinking and eating establishments Oct. 1, but the heated debate over a province-wide ban on smoking in public places continues to rage on. At O’Leary’s Irish Pub on Princess Street in Uptown Saint John, the after-work crowd filled the front of the pub at 5:25 p.m.
“I love it,” said Ed Lester, a 60-year old regular of O’Leary’s, of the newly imposed ban. A non-smoker, he said he’s looking forward to his clothes not reeking of cigarette smoke.
Less than a block away at Melvin’s Bar on Canterbury Street at 5:25 p.m., jazz band Tremblay, Kindred and Leek filled the bar with smooth sounds while a small crowd socialized. Outside, on the bar’s patio deck, two patrons were less than impressed with the smoking ban. “It sucks,” said 38-year old Wayne Berube, from St. Anne. A smoker for 25 years, he doesn’t think the smoking ban will cut down on the amount he smokes. The ban may cause him to go out to bars less though, he said. “We came to this bar because we knew this deck was here,” said friend Kevin Thorne, 47, a construction supervisor. A smoker for 38 years, he said the ban would cause him to pick the bars he goes to more carefully.
“I can have a cigarette without having a beer, but I can’t have a beer without having a cigarette,” he said. Farther down Canterbury Street, at D’Amico’s restaurant at 6 p.m., Carl Trickey, 46, and Jim Crooks, 60, enjoyed a bite to eat and something to drink with friends. Both said they were glad the province finally instituted a ban on smoking in public places. “I think it’s wonderful, but it should have been five years ago,” said Trickey. A non-smoker, he said as a former bar owner he disliked working in a smoke-filled bar. “It’s long overdue,” said Crooks. They go out to D’Amico’s on Friday night, usually sitting near the front and staying for several hours to mingle with friends.
The smoking ban makes going out more pleasant and they may consider visiting bars more often, said Crooks.
At midnight Sept. 30, smokers in restaurants, bars and other public places throughout the province were told too butt out or face stiff fines. Individuals found smoking could be fined between $140 and $570, while employers and managers could deal with fines from $240 to $2,620.
In addition to banning smoking in bars and restaurants, smoking is also prohibited in outdoor bus or taxi shelters, public vehicles such as buses or taxis, and on school grounds. Later Friday evening at 8 p.m., dozens of smokers puffed outside the Iceberg Pub on Union Street. The pub has an older clientele and many of the smokers were vehemently angry about the smoking ban. “It’s not right what they’re doing,” said Betty-Anne Grant, a 42-year-old smoker. Although upset about the ban, she said it probably wouldn’t affect how much she smokes or goes out to bars.
“If I can’t smoke in the bar of my choice, where I love to do karaoke, then I’ll go home and I’ll smoke,” said Margaret Alliston, 53. She described smoking as “the biggest mistake of her life.” At Rookies Sports Bar in Market Square, most of the seats around the bar were filled and a large crowd mingled at 8:30 p.m.
“I don’t think it’s affected this bar a heck of a lot because not a lot of people smoke here anyway,” said David May, a 46-year old Friday night regular. A non-smoker, he doesn’t think he’ll go out to the bars any more than he already does, and he wasn’t sure if the ban was the right move or not.
“I don’t know if it’s right or wrong; it kind of cuts into your freedom of choice, that I have a problem with.”