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BRITISH COLUMBIA READY TO BAN PUBLIC SMOKING

British Columbia plans to ban all public smoking by the year 2000.

With a majority of the province's municipalities supporting such a ban, smoking in British Columbia will soon be "like sex, conducted in the privacy of one's home, between consenting adults" and not in public, said Elizabeth Conrad, a municipal counselor for the Queen Charlotte Islands.

Earlier this year, Health Minister Joy MacPhail vowed to enact a provincewide ban on smoking in public places if the municipalities voted in favor of tight restrictions.

At their most recent meeting, the province's Association of Municipalities voted 60 percent in favor.

A provincewide no-smoking law would put British Columbia "further ahead than any other jurisdiction in Canada," said Leslie MacGregor of the B.C.-Yukon Heart and Stroke Foundation.

While the province's health minister has been less than enthusiastic about a smoking ban, pressure from health advocates, the public and now the provincial Workers' Compensation Board are pushing Ms. MacPhail into action.

Earlier this week, the Compensation Board ruled that all businesses, bars, restaurants, prisons and other workplaces must ban or restrict smoking to specially ventilated rooms by the year 2000, or earlier.

The municipalities' proposal calls for a ban on smoking in these places to prevent the dangers of secondhand smoke.

A similar effort to ban all public smoking in Toronto was repealed after widespread public defiance.

Like her counterparts in U.S. state governments, Ms. MacPhail also has pledged to launch a lawsuit against tobacco companies to recover health-care costs for smoking-related illnesses. British Columbia is the first province to announce it will launch a lawsuit against tobacco companies.

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