TORONTO — A 48-year-old truck driver from London, Ont., has been fined for smoking at work — the cab of his rig.
Ontario Provincial Police pulled over a truck on Highway 401 near Windsor on Wednesday when the driver was seen smoking.
Police handed out a $305 ticket because smoking is prohibited at all workplaces in the province under the Smoke-Free Ontario Act.
“In the act it actually specifies what a workplace is,” said Const. Shawna Coulter of the provincial police’s Essex detachment.
“It says the inside of any place, building, structure or vehicle that is part of the employee’s workplace, which if you’re driving a truck for long periods of time — that becomes your workplace.”
Transportation Minister Jim Bradley said he hasn’t heard of such a case before. While he couldn’t comment directly on an individual case, he said he would be watching closely if the man decides to fight the ticket in court.
“It would be interesting to see how this develops,” said Bradley.
“That’s interesting. It’s a new one to me.”
The provincial police did not comment on whether the unnamed man planned to fight the ticket and can’t say for sure if it’s the first such charge, but as far as Coulter knows it may be.
“We don’t track specific charges, but I don’t know that it’s been utilized in the past,” she said.
That’s the way the law is supposed to work, said Health Promotion Minister Margarett Best.
“It’s about health, and I’m not looking at this from the perspective of whether it’s a milestone or not,” Best said of the charge.
“I’m looking at it from the perspective of being concerned about the health of Ontarians.”
Labour Minister Peter Fonseca also said the charge and fine were appropriate given the circumstances and the province’s stated goal to reduce smoking as much as possible.
“Work vehicles were deemed workplaces in that act, so that is a place of work,” said Fonseca.
The Smoke-Free Ontario Act adopted in 2006 prohibits smoking in enclosed workplaces and public areas, such as bars and restaurants.
Neil MacKenzie, the manager of tobacco programs for the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit, said even a farmer’s enclosed tractor would be considered a work environment.
“Whether or not you have the sunroof open or windows down … it’s an enclosed workplace and you’re prohibited from smoking in that vehicle,” he told Windsor radio station CKLW.
MacKenzie added, however, that no one would march into a field and fine a farmer for smoking in an enclosed tractor.
“Before we take any radical action on it, we’d confirm with the Ministry of Health whether there’s precedent,” he said.
“We’d make sure the farmer understood requirements and give the opportunity for full compliance.”
In June 2008, the Ontario law was extended to ban smoking in vehicles containing children under 16.
Last February, a 29-year-old woman from the Sarnia, Ont., area was charged under the ban after she was allegedly found smoking with five young children in the vehicle. Officers said they found both the driver and a 19-year-old female passenger smoking cigarettes.
Several provinces, meanwhile, plan to join forces against tobacco companies to recover health-care costs related to smoking.
Quebec confirmed earlier this month it was joining Ontario, British Columbia and New Brunswick in filing a multibillion-dollar lawsuit against tobacco manufacturers.
Ontario’s $50-billion lawsuit against three tobacco companies is aimed at recovering the cost of treating smoke-related illnesses dating back as far as 1955.
The provinces began to consider legal action after a 2005 Supreme Court of Canada ruling that upheld British Columbia’s right to seek compensation against tobacco companies.