Help Wanted

Employer: Government of Quebec
Job Category: 13C – SNITCH
Pay Rate: Commensurate with experience

The Quebec Ministry of Health seeks undercover surveillance operatives to report smokers to the government without their awareness or consent. Successful candidates will work in plainclothes, under cover of darkness, and without drawing attention to their status as government agents. Prior experience working for government agencies in the former Soviet Bloc an asset. Impermeability to the seething hatred of over 1.8 million of their fellow citizens essential.

For application details, see below.

Undercover smoke detectors coming to a bar near you

Published: Thursday, May 18, 2006

Everything’s a matter of perspective, especially when it comes to cigarettes.

Having joined the world’s growing number of ex-smokers, I can tell you after 30 years of lighting up that politeness has generally cleared the air more effectively than finger-wagging or pretending you’re breaking into a fit of bronchitis when someone nearby merely puts their pack of cigarettes on the table.

But there’s always been a difference between observing a social contract and engaging in social engineering – and it’s a difference of perspective.

For example, a decision by the provincial government to hire undercover surveillance agents to identify bars not complying with Quebec’s anti-smoking laws could be perceived by some as a necessary step toward creating a healthier society.

By some, but not everyone.

“It’s intimidation!” bar owner Peter Sergakis says. “We presented a motion against this (anti-smoking) law eight months ago. The government did everything to stop us from going to court and they lost both times.

“And they’re continuing to intimidate us until the court decides.”

Sergakis heads a 600-member association of bar and club owners who have launched an as yet unheard court challenge of the law, based in part on the fact the government is trying to make an offence of the consumption of a product that is not only legal, but provides tax revenue to the state.

It’s a bitter debate that got nastier yesterday when news broke that the province was hiring agents to help its 40 or so full-time inspectors mete out justice to bars that don’t respect the law, which kicks in May 31.

Given that those 40 inspectors were expected to ride herd on more than 2,000 bars and restaurants, it’s no surprise they needed all the help they could get. But something about the way that help was to be obtained seemed to get under your skin as irritatingly as the scent of a smouldering, unfiltered Gaulois.

The agents would not have the power to write tickets. Rather, they would carry out their missions in plainclothes, looking every bit as much a bar customer as you or me, presuming, of course, that you and I don’t smoke. Once they had determined the location of a smoking hotbed, so to speak, they’d pass that info along to the real inspectors and the legislative boom would be lowered.

In a way it’s a pity about the plainclothes part of this scheme. It would be interesting to see what kind of uniform the provincial government could design for someone who makes his or her living surreptitiously busting smokers. Maybe something in the way of a nicotine-yellow jumpsuit. Lots of pockets, perhaps, and a shoulder flash that depicted a cigarette broken in two over a map of Quebec or, depending on your perspective, a rat wearing a gas mask.

© The Gazette (Montreal) 2006

5 Comments so far

  1. descendo (unregistered) on May 19th, 2006 @ 9:54 am

    The owner of a local bar where I hang out prompted me to “carry around an unlit cigarette” in the bar after May 31st just to catch the attention of an eventual “mole” if one does show up, I think that’s a great idea. One big complaint behind this ban is the overwhelming cost of health care due to cigarette-induced diseases — if they’ve been recruting moles for a while and they claim that they can cover most of the territory with agents in the months to come, why not put all those ressources in Health Care instead? Look around the web, there are plenty of smokers/non-smokers who actually believe this initiative is for their benefit, it is such a powerful campaign. What it is in reality (aside from, as I’ve kept saying for months now, “quebec being very aroused by the subject”) is that they expect the ban to cause a decrease in cigarette sales, the “mole operation” is another way to get that money back. Your taxes at work.

  2. Christian (unregistered) on May 19th, 2006 @ 4:57 pm

    I am a non-smoker, never had a smoke in my life and never will! But this law is ridiculous, the owner of a bar/restaurant should be able to do whatever he wants in his restaurants, and if clients are not happy about the smoking they just have to go elsewhere, this is going to far. Nice job ad by the way

  3. Thomas (unregistered) on May 19th, 2006 @ 9:40 pm

    Waah… whaah.

    The whining will eventually stop.

    Personally, I am very happy that inside smoking in public places will come to a good end. I am sick and tired of wearing nice clothes when going out, to return home reeking like an ashtray.

    And don’t get me started with restaurants with smoking sections. 100 dollars for a meal, only to sniff nasty smoke.

    I remember people in New York a couple of years ago went through a period of whining when a similar law was passed. Eventually everyone quited down, and learned to go outside the building to get the fix.

  4. descendo (unregistered) on May 20th, 2006 @ 4:33 am

    man, the law isn’t the problem here, the campaign is overkill, any non-smoker should agree to that… or is health not at an issue here?

  5. Strange (unregistered) on May 24th, 2006 @ 11:31 am

    I just wish I could get that job. I don’t give a s$%# how you call it.

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