Cigarette lighters were being flicked across the province just before midnight as smokers lit up in their favourite establishments one last time.
At 12:01am Wednesday a sweeping ban took effect making smoking illegal in all enclosed public places across Ontario including offices, bars, restaurants and even roofed patios.
Some bars had special events marking the final night for puffing.
Toronto’s Drake Hotel saw servers walking around with cigar-laden platters while Kilgour’s Bar Meets Grill planned to have a trumpeter playing Taps as smokers butted out for the last time.
"The whole thing is just silly, so I'm just being silly back," said owner Peter Kilgour, adding he doesn't expect to suffer financially considering he was already operating under previous smoke-free bylaws.
At another downtown bar, Gabby’s Eatery and Taps, patrons were allowed to finish their smokes as the clock struck midnight.
"We don't have to enforce it, the only difference it makes for us is we don't put the awning out," Meaghan Warefield said of the law that would still allow smoking on outdoor patios so long as they’re not covered.
"I feel really bad for people with designated smoking rooms because of all the money they invested in it. But it's not an issue for us."
When Ontario began enacting smoking bylaws several years ago designated smoking rooms were allowed – and some establishments spent a great deal of money constructing them – but those too are now illegal.
Ontario Health Promotion Minister Jim Watson said bars and restaurants breaking the law would be given a warning for the first offence before facing fines as heavy as $5,000.
Though some bars complain that enacting the ban will cause them to lose money, a University of Waterloo project appears to suggest otherwise.
"There have been scientific studies done ... that have shown in every jurisdiction that has been studied that there is either no negative impact or a positive impact on businesses that have gone smoke-free," contends Geoffrey Fong of the school’s International Tobacco Control Policy Evaluation study.
Only long-term care facilities will be exempt from the new ban, however enclosed smoking areas must meet high ventilation standards Watson says.
Ontario has the second-lowest provincial percentage of smokers in Canada – only 19 per cent of residents smoke.
New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Saskatchewan and Manitoba already have total bans on smoking in public places, Quebec’s anti-smoking ban took effect overnight coinciding with Ontario’s, and Nova Scotia's ban comes in by the end of the year.
Smoke Free Ontario Act
Here's what the law mandates:
* Bans smoking in enclosed public places and all enclosed workplaces, including restaurants, bars, schools, private clubs, sports arenas, work vehicles, offices and entertainment venues, including casinos, bingo halls, bowling and billiard establishments.
* Eliminates designated smoking rooms in restaurants and bars.
* Permits residential care facilities to operate controlled smoking areas which are specially designed to ensure nobody outside the room is exposed to second-hand smoke. The law stipulates who may enter the area and under what conditions, as well as requirements for engineering design, function and maintenance of the areas.
* Protects home health care workers from second-hand smoke when offering services in private residences.
* Prohibits smoking on patios that have food and beverage service if they're either partially or completely covered by a roof. (A roof includes an awning, tarp, canvas sheeting or other permanent or temporary covering capable of excluding rain or impeding airflow, or both. A stand-alone umbrella covering a single table isn't considered a roof. But if umbrellas are used to serve as a roof, an inspector may view it as such and act accordingly.)
* Toughens the rules prohibiting tobacco sales to minors.
* Prevents the promotion of tobacco products in entertainment venues.
* Prohibits smoking in motels, hotels or inns, expect in rooms designated as guest smoking rooms.
* Prohibits smoking in common areas of condominiums, apartment buildings and college and university residences. Examples of common areas include elevators, stairwells, hallways, parking garages, laundry facilities, lobbies, exercise areas and party or entertainment rooms.
* Prohibits smoking in public schools, private schools and on public or private school property.
* Bars smoking within a nine metre radius of any entrance or exit of a hospital. (A hospital may choose to provide a smoking shelter outdoors, but must ensure the structure consists of no more than two walls and a roof.)
* Immediately restricts the retail promotion of tobacco products and imposes a complete ban on the display of tobacco products by May 31, 2008.