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LETTER: Accessibility is a human right

Letters to the Editor
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It is time to build a world where everyone can go everywhere. — Rick Hansen

Now more than ever, businesses are prioritizing the importance of protecting the health and safety of employees, customers and the community. Make your business accessible and welcoming to all. The P.E.I. Smoke-free Places Act prohibits smoking and vaping in workplaces and public places with no identified outdoor designated smoking area, and signage is required. Remove cigarette butt containers where smoking is prohibited. Protect staff and customers from second-hand smoke drifting inside at entrances and drive-thru windows, waiting in lineups, parking areas, onto restaurant patios and outdoor events. Canadian courts have ruled employers and service providers must enforce smoking policies for compliance, and cannot rely on complaints.

Second-hand smoke is a top preventable cause of chronic disease and premature death among non-smokers (85 per cent of Islanders). Smoking, vaping and exposure to second-hand smoke are risk factors for more severe COVID-19 symptoms, and also impact health conditions like heart disease, respiratory illnesses and weakened immune system. Those at high-risk to virus exposure and survivors of COVID-19 with lung damage need to avoid exposure to second-hand smoke.

Accessibility is a human right. Employers and service providers must ensure that workplaces and services are fully accessible by eliminating barriers for people with disabilities, that are not always visible or apparent. Second-hand smoke is a barrier for safe access for many vulnerable Islanders. The P.E.I. Human Rights Act prohibits discrimination against Islanders and visitors with a disability (including a previous or existing medical condition affected by second-hand smoke) trying to access services and facilities available to the public, and renting a campsite or apartment. This act is deemed to prevail over all other laws of this province and such laws shall be read as being subject to the act.

There is no right to smoke and harm the health of others in Canadian law. Children have the right to be raised in a smoke-free environment. Easier access to smoking cessation programs benefit smokers trying to quit. Smoke-free public places protect health and reduce the risk of fire from tossed cigarette butts.


Pam Hall,
Stratford

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