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(Published in the Chilliwack Times week of Nov. 13, 2006)

Standing up to the Anti-Smoking bullies

  By John Martin

As city councilors and provincial governments trip over each other in a rush to enact tougher and more restrictive anti-smoking by-laws, it was a pleasure to see White Rock council buck the trend and reject a recommendation to ban smoking on outdoor patios.

What started out decades ago as an overdue move to prohibit smoking on commercial air travel has now reached the point of absurdity.  Reasonable restrictions on smoking in public places have turned into a literal purging of those indulging in a product that is completely legal.

Not content to force smokers to butt out in restaurants, bars and all other indoor venues, the anti-smoking zealots regrouped to extend the prohibition to include parks, bus stops, and anywhere near municipal buildings.  Now theyíre going after outdoor patios at pubs and restaurants.

Can private, residential patios and balconies be far behind?  Is there any reason to believe they will ever declare victory and go away?

Iím certainly not advocating smoking.  Iíve never had a single cigarette in my life and was much relieved when bars and diners went smoke free.  (Despite being a pro-American, unabashed conservative I do light up a fine Cuban Cohiba cigar a couple times a month but as Kinky Friedman, candidate for Texas Governor notes, ďI donít see it as supporting their economy, but as burning their crops.Ē) 

But hereís where it gets surreal.  We open up a clean, warm, supervised facility for intravenous drug addicts.  They continue to break into peopleís houses and cars on their way to and from the injection site.  Civic leaders now want to establish similar facilities throughout the Lower Mainland.  Meanwhile law-abiding, taxpaying, contributing citizens are forced to huddle outside in the wind and rain every time they need a nicotine fix.

Everyday, activists wag their fingers demanding we be tolerant, understanding and responsive to the needs of drug users, prostitutes, pan-handlers, squatters, refugee claimants openly dealing drugs, and other groups who have a significantly negative impact on neighborhoods and diminish the quality of life for everyone else.  Yet itís acceptable and fashionable to shun and ostracize smokers.

Discouraging tobacco use and providing non-smokers and employees a smoke free environment is all well and good.  But the anti-smoking movement has turned into a regulatory jihad.  By going after smokers on outdoor patios itís difficult to accept this is still about health and second hand smoke.

The anti-smoking lobby has become a bully in every sense of the word. And standing up to such a pushy, self-righteous aggressor takes a lot of guts and comes with considerable risk.

They may not know it, but White Rock council just stared down the biggest bully on the block.

 

 

John Martin is a Criminologist at the University College of the Fraser Valley and can be contacted at John.Martin@ucfv.ca

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