Taking it outside

Over in The Smoking Section, which is where I usually hang out, I’ve begun a series of posts explaining my opposition to the current version of Bill 112. I am reposting the introduction to the series below; if you’re interested reading more, you are cordially invited to join me there. If not, feel free to peruse the many other interesting blogs that can be found on the Internet. Some of them are really quite good. :-)

Against Bill 112: An Introduction

Despite its title, The Smoking Section was never meant to be a blog about smoking. In fact, I have often refrained from writing about the topic for fear of being perceived as a single-issue writer, or, worse, one with an agenda. I’m not, and with luck, I never will be.

However, with a total smoking ban coming into force in just two weeks, in the city I fell in love with in large part because of its notorious joie de vivre, I feel compelled, almost duty-bound, to address the issue. Hell, what do I have to lose?

In the days to come, I will make a number of arguments against Bill 112 and similar legislation that has been implemented elsewhere. These are not intended to be pro-smoking arguments, or even ones that endeavour to convince supporters who feel strongly about the ban. They are simply an attempt to give voice to ideas that have been lost in the increasingly acrimonious debate about smoking.

In another sense, they are also a response to my friend Wade, who asked me recently–and, I believe, sincerely–why I am against the ban. I should mention that Wade is a vegan who chooses not to smoke, who does not drink alcohol or caffeine, and who, I am reasonably certain, avoids drugs as well. Really, our lifestyles couldn’t be more different, but we still like each other a lot and genuinely want to understand each other. This is the spirit that informs what I will write here, and, I hope, what you will write here as well.

By Statistics Canada’s estimate, 24.9 per cent of Quebeckers are daily, or habitual smokers, a figure that does not include the presumably larger number of non-daily, or “social” smokers. This means that there are at least 828,301 smokers in the Montreal Metropolitan area, every one of whom’s relationship to public space will be affected by the ban. Try to remember this as you read on.

35 Comments so far

  1. JELIEL3 (unregistered) on May 24th, 2006 @ 9:21 am

    There is no argument against the ban simply because a persons smoking habit impacts (harms) the health of others who do not have this habit.

    Any argument demonstrates that you wish to adapt your environment to your lifestyle when it has to be the other way around if you are to respect the others that share the community.

    If it were up to me I would criminalise the tobacco industry


  2. PAUL (unregistered) on May 24th, 2006 @ 10:06 am

    Vila, the idea that 800 000 + smokers will have their relationship to the public space affected by the ban is ludicrous, at best. Those people still represent a minority of Montrealers, and isn’t it more important that the majority’s right to enjoy the public space is unaffected?

    As a society we accept bans on the consumption of many legal substances ibn the public space: I’m not allowed to drink whiskey on the bus, I’m not allowed to eat ise cream in the library. I also have to wear a shirt and shoes when I go to McDonald’s, even though barefootedness and barechestedness (for men) are not illegal.

    You want to smoke- go ahead. I’ll even, courtesy of our public health system, kick in for your medical bills when you get cancer. You’re welcome.

    But keep it to yourself. My lungs are not “the publicc space” for you to pollute.


  3. Vila H. (unregistered) on May 24th, 2006 @ 10:35 am

    Notice that I said “the current version of Bill 112.” When I wrap up the series, I will propose a number of possible alternatives, which would take into account both your right to enjoy a smoke-free public environment and my right to enjoy a smoke-friendly one. I strongly suspect that the majority of Quebeckers (Jeliel3 excepted, of course) would be happy to accept a compromise measure, as this government study confirms. In any case, stay tuned…


  4. Strange (unregistered) on May 24th, 2006 @ 11:29 am

    Jeliel3 once again word on that! :)

    Vila, I have a question. Can you tell me what are exactly the sociological and psychological reasons of a person who starts to smoke? ***rhetorical warning***


  5. Long (unregistered) on May 24th, 2006 @ 1:54 pm

    This law is a good thing. At least, nobody is putting a price on Mother Nature’s air.


  6. chris (unregistered) on May 24th, 2006 @ 1:59 pm

    Although second-hand smoke is undoubtedly bad for your health, the assertions that it causes lung cancer and other serious medical conditons are unproven. This article sums it up nicely.

    So, the issue isn’t whether or not we sould protect the public from smokers. After all, everyone is free to choose where they go in their free time, and bar owners are free to set the rules for their establishments without the government’s help. The issue here is whether or not we sould protect smokers from their own lifestyle choices. Coulliard and the rest of the government openly admit that their goal in regards to the bill is to forcibly reduce Quebec’s smoking rate. But this isn’t really necessary, as it has already been on the decline for years because of other, non-coercive legislation. IMHO the law is an unecessary overstepping of the boundaries of government. It’s simply going to channel business away from legitimate bars and into the already large market of underground bars where people are free to act as they please.


  7. Strange (unregistered) on May 24th, 2006 @ 2:05 pm

    As someone said already… the whining is going to stop sooner or later. I don’t think that people in quebec will stop drinking bear simply because can’t smoke at the same time.
    Montreal is an outgoing city, and nothing is going to change that habbit.

    I understand that with the Canadian quality of life it’s common to have a need for a guerilla attitude once in a while, we’re a little overfed and bored.


  8. Frank (unregistered) on May 24th, 2006 @ 3:04 pm

    It is sad to see the acrimonious comments after what was intended as the start of an open and reasoned discussion.

    Although, I will probably enjoy a smoke-free environment, I find the heavy-handedness of the ban troubling. As Chris mentioned, the pendulum is already swinging in the direction of a decline in smoking. There was no need for something this drastic.


  9. Vila H. (unregistered) on May 24th, 2006 @ 3:19 pm

    Thanks, Frank. I owe you one…


  10. JELIEL3 (unregistered) on May 24th, 2006 @ 3:50 pm

    both your right to enjoy a smoke-free public environment and my right to enjoy a smoke-friendly one

    Your rights END where mine BEGIN. Meaning that your rights end when they stop me from enjoying my rights. When your rights start harming my health, you don’t get rights. You should never of had them to begin with. You can smoke at home, inside.

    But when you live in a community, you enter in a social contract where you must give up freedoms. Those restrictions are usualy the ones that hinder the other participants in the said contract.

    Your justifications are or will be prudential at best.


  11. Strange (unregistered) on May 24th, 2006 @ 5:07 pm

    Once again, totally agreed.

    Vila, so I guess you’re not answering my question?


  12. chris (unregistered) on May 24th, 2006 @ 5:12 pm

    Here’s the thing, though–bars and restaurants aren’t public property. They belong to their owners. If an owner wants to permit his patrons to smoke, nobody is forcing you to go in. If enough people who actually frequent bars and resaurants want a smoke-free enviornment, they can go to smoke-free bars and restaurants. Dictating to the owners what they can and cannot do with their property from on high is unnecessary.

    It is also important to note that second-hand smoke is a relatively minor health risk. The largest study ever done on second-hand smoke (conducted by the WHO) concluded that there is no statistically significant link between enviornmental tobacco smoke and lung cancer. Here’s a helpful link on the subject:

    http://www.straightdope.com/columns/000602.html


  13. JELIEL³ (unregistered) on May 24th, 2006 @ 6:39 pm

    Chris, are you saying that inhaling smoke is only unhealthy for the smoker? I think not. It’s still smoke, albeit less saturated with poisons than what the junky… err I mean smoker inhaled but it’s still poison and I don’t see why I should be inhaling it.

    If enough people who actually frequent bars and resaurants want a smoke-free enviornment, they can go to smoke-free bars and restaurants. Dictating to the owners what they can and cannot do with their property from on high is unnecessary.

    And why not? If we leave entrepreneurs to dictate their own rules, this will lead to a laissez-faire mentality. Before you know it, club, bars and other nightlife spots will have their doormen keep certain people out. Black people ok? Fat people? or ugly people? Poor people? Oh Wait they already do this…

    It’s all cool, cuz we can’t tell entrepreneurs what to do. Human nature is far to selfish to allow entrepreneurs to self-govern themselves.

    And if you think that leaving the choice to owners will lead to smoke-free establishments, you are delusionnal. Sure there might be a few but it won’t last. Greed will overtake or they will close because it’ll be to local.


  14. Vila H. (unregistered) on May 24th, 2006 @ 7:22 pm

    Strange: You asked me to explain the “sociological and psychological reasons of a person who starts to smoke.” Given the tenor of the discussion that has transpired here today, and the plainly rhetorical nature of the question, you’ll understand if I politely decline to respond.

    What I will say is that the question presumes that smokers are sociologically and psychologically different than non-smokers, which in turn implies that they–we–deviate from a norm. It will probably come as no surprise to you that I do not share these assumptions, and I will persist in the belief that our commonalities as human beings are a far stronger unifying force than our differences. You are free to believe otherwise.


  15. Frank (unregistered) on May 24th, 2006 @ 10:18 pm

    Let me just point out that many cafes and restaurants including a small chain called St-Hubert has already become smoke free (except when they regularly burn my fajitas). It would have been just a matter of time before a few bar owners wised-up and followed suit. And judging by the flood of people interested in smoke-free bars, the first few would make a killing. You could have your emotionally charged smoking sports bar and your emotionally charged non-smoking sports bar. And each could fume that the other still exists.


  16. JELIEL³ (unregistered) on May 24th, 2006 @ 11:42 pm

    The REAL smokers VILA, tend to begin smoking because they are risk takers with a heave devil may care attitude. This Daring nature what convinces others to do it. A lot of people jump in the lake once some else has. The smoker is that someone else.

    For great information on this phenomena read the Tipping Point by Malcom Gladwell


  17. Strange (unregistered) on May 25th, 2006 @ 11:52 am

    Vila, I wasn’t assuming anything about deviation from the norm. Everybody has his skeletons in the closet. But you can’t deny that smoking is a sort of psychological sublimation. Now it’s totally your choice of the way you deal with your “deamons” but why should I have to inhale your problems if I want to go to a particular show lets say? (I have friends that are asthmatic, and simply because they can’t stand the smoke they can’t come see certain shows at the venues that allow smoking)
    Anyway I find it completely ridiculous that somebody would even think of looking for “pro-smoking” arguments.


  18. chris (unregistered) on May 25th, 2006 @ 1:45 pm

    Jeliel, second-hand smoke is of a different chemical makeup than the smoke that comes out of the other end of the cigarette. What I’m saying is exactly what I said: enviornmental smoke is a minor health risk and has not been proven to cause lung cancer or any other major medical condition. It’s definitely unwholesome, but it’s certainly not “poison,” in fact, it doesn’t even fall under Quebec’s already exsting occupational safety regulations–in other words, it’s legal to work full time in enviornments saturated with things far more unhealthy than second-hand smoke.

    Anyway, I’m sorry to hear you lack faith in people’s ability to govern themselves and fear a “lassize-faire mentality.” Maybe you would be happier in another country that shares your philosophy, like Iran.


  19. Strange (unregistered) on May 25th, 2006 @ 2:53 pm

    As Thomas said before. The whining will eventually stop.


  20. chris (unregistered) on May 25th, 2006 @ 5:47 pm

    I don’t know about you, but that’s always my argument when reason and the facts are on my side. I cover my ears, go “la la la,” and make a rather lame attempt to characterize my apponent’s arguments as “whining.” Heh.


  21. JELIEL3 (unregistered) on May 26th, 2006 @ 10:09 am

    enviornmental smoke is a minor health risk and has not been proven to cause lung cancer or any other major medical condition. It’s definitely unwholesome, but it’s certainly not “poison,

    Correction: NO LINKS have been FOUND. It doesn’t say that there are none to be found.

    Chris, wake up and read Lord of the Flies, the answers are all in there ;-)

    No humans can’t be trusted with self-rule. The VAST majority of them if left unchecked, will let their prudential reasoning (that means ego-driven) take over. It’s the “social contract” that keeps this behavior to a minimum.


  22. chris (unregistered) on May 26th, 2006 @ 10:53 am

    If I read the portion of my statement that you quoted correctly, I said “has not been proven,” which–and again, correct me if I’m wrong–is roughly analagous to “no links have been found.” I also think it’s safe to say that if more than 500 studies have been done over 20 years which attempt to measure the links between enviornmental somke and various conditions, and these links haven’t yet been established, it is safe for us to least start doubting their existence, a little.

    In regards to your second rather shocking comment about people’s ability to govern themselves, I don’t really have a reply for you, other than to point out that allowing bar owners to decide whether or not they want to allow smoking at their bars is nothing like the total anarchy of Lord of the Flies in which property rights are the rule of law are non-existant.

    Like I said, maybe you would do better to leave Canada and move to one of the many fabulously prosperous societies around the world governed by people who think the same way you do.


  23. Frank (unregistered) on May 26th, 2006 @ 11:52 am

    I’m glad I don’t share the bleek perspective on the social conscience of my fellow humans. There are some out there who don’t have one, but not on the scale you suggest. They are probably just more visible. And those that don’t can be held it check without an overbearing and extensive set of regulations.

    Social contract is not the same as government regulations.


  24. Strange (unregistered) on May 26th, 2006 @ 1:40 pm

    Chris it’s more of a quiet refusal of conversation when noticed that I’m talking to a wall.


  25. Strange (unregistered) on May 26th, 2006 @ 4:00 pm

    “Like I said, maybe you would do better to leave Canada and move to one of the many fabulously prosperous societies around the world governed by people who think the same way you do.” ??? Isn’t Quebec a fabulously prosperous society that is governed by people who think like Jeliel (hence this bill is going through) ??? Seriously, review your facts.


  26. bob (unregistered) on May 26th, 2006 @ 6:43 pm

    Did anyone notice the incredible smog today? Personally, I blame the smokers.


  27. erwin (unregistered) on May 27th, 2006 @ 12:55 pm

    Funny, because I blame selfish car and factory owners, who pollute the air FAR more than smokers – creating problems with- WAIT FOR IT- greenhouse gases and the ozone layer…or I could blame the Canadian government for failing to address the problem of clean fuels – but smokers, I am sorry to say, cannot be blamed for this one, despite the burning desire it would seem many of you have to demonize smokers- I wonder – why is that?


  28. erwin (unregistered) on May 27th, 2006 @ 4:47 pm

    Oh and Strange- this bill is going through because Quebec pays for health care…it has very little to do with a decision by the people…last I checked there was no referendum on smoking- and you know why? because it would fail.

    quite frankly, I am not even adamantly opposed to reducing smoking in restaurants and bars..although I don’t think this bill is the way to do it. There should be a bit more moderation involved…

    But what I can’t deal with is the fact that people are willing to demonize smoking and, worse even, smokers, while we kill every living thing and ruin the environment with unaddressed pollution and deforestation in the name of the almighty dollar– not to mention the painfully evil capitalist enterprise which consisting dismisses the worldwide impact and affect driving SUVs, and demanding cheap fuel and cheap goods like wars, poverty, famine, disease of millions of people every day. I think the city should be car free.. use a bike or take public transportation…but stop polluting my air and everyone one else on the planet’s air because you are lazy and selfish.

    Now that would be a reasonable compromise…smokers quit (or take it home), and car drivers start walking.


  29. bob (unregistered) on May 28th, 2006 @ 9:57 pm

    I almost entirely agree with Erwin, but I do sometimes wish that there was a font for irony.

    Or am I simply oblivious to an ironic response to my initial irony? Because that would be, you know.

    A ban on cars downtown in exchange for a ban on smoking in public spaces. I could get behind that deal.


  30. Andrea (unregistered) on May 29th, 2006 @ 4:51 pm

    Hi — looking for someone to talk about the new smoking laws in Montreal and in Ontario for CBC Newsworld. If you are intersted please email me at cardillo16@hotmail.com. thanks- andrea


  31. JELIEL3 (unregistered) on May 30th, 2006 @ 9:09 am

    Today is the last day… enjoy it ;-)

    “To poke, perchance to taunt-
    ay, there’s the fun.”


  32. Strange (unregistered) on May 30th, 2006 @ 10:55 am

    You just had to use that last spear… ;)


  33. JELIEL³ (unregistered) on May 30th, 2006 @ 6:42 pm

    Yeah, I kinda did ;-)

    Paraphrasing Shakespeare is always fun to =)


  34. Dahlia (unregistered) on May 31st, 2006 @ 2:26 am

    If smoking wasn’t so addictive, I don’t think people would protest as much. Like if it was the same caliber as ice cream like somebody mentionned, and having the “non-smoking” logo on a door, the ban would eventually be a socially accepted norm. Most people like ice cream, but they don’t mind not eating it in the bookstore, and they don’t protest and make commercials about it. It’ll clog your arteries and all, but hey, it’s your choice, you’re free to eat ice cream, just not at FutureShop and so on.

    It’s the addiction that makes the issue so hot I find. The ban denies ppl’s nicotine intake and it makes them cranky, I should know cause I’m dating a smoker. Unfortunately I think the ban will only breed more problems eventhough theoretically it’d be a good idea but not a practical one.


  35. JELIEL3 (unregistered) on June 1st, 2006 @ 11:09 am

    Dahlia, I think ppl are gonna adjust and it’ll blow over, just like the smoking-ban in the workplace.

    Besides. Le journal de montreal ran some before and after shots of popular places and there was no change in attendance. It won’t be so drastic as people thought it would be. Just much healthier for the patrons.



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