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Published: Sunday, 6/4/2006

A good bet in Windsor

Odds are casino customers in Windsor, Ont., will win big health benefits when new, comprehensive smoking bans on indoor public places are enforced.

Same goes for Quebec, where the adjustment will be greater but not insurmountable. That province has the highest percentage of smokers in Canada with 23 percent lighting up. But it was 34 percent in 1998 before the government banned smoking in the workplace.

So there's hope that an even wider ban in public places will encourage even more smokers to kick the habit. When it becomes a real chore to find a permissible place to puff away, why bother?

And the societal trend toward smoke-free environments is pervasive. There's no turning back. The number of communities opting to eradicate an obvious health hazard to the public is only growing.

Canada is no different. Provinces from New Brunswick and Newfoundland to Manitoba and Saskatchewan already have total bans on smoking in public places. Nova Scotia's ban takes effect at the end of the year.

Across the river from Windsor, Michigan could become the first state in the Midwest to enact a statewide smoking ban.

Voters here in Ohio will likely consider a statewide smoking ban in November. What shape the ballot issue ultimately takes is unclear as lobbyists for bars and restaurants mobilize to weaken the prevailing version with one of their own.

But with every step backward to dilute public protection from second-hand smoke there are significant advances by health advocates to regulate or ban smoking in public locations.

Toledo was the first major Ohio city to enact a smoking ban. It was subsequently watered down by predictable opposition but the resolve to eliminate noxious smoke remains strong.

Casino Windsor draws about 80 percent of its customers from Detroit and elsewhere in the United States where smoking bans are rapidly becoming a fact of life.

Gambling operators in the Canadian border city shouldn't worry about losing American visitors because of the new smoking ban.

Once the air is clear, it's a good bet even more will come.

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