Monday, December 24, 2007

Nova Scotia: Up in Smoke


When I was in high school, the amusements of the lunch hour included the sight of the teachers roaring around the back alleys in their Vauxhalls and Austins, trying to catch students smoking near the school. Imagine! Grown men and women wasting their time on such foolishness! Hypocritical, too, because the school's staff room contained an absolute fog of tobacco smoke.

We couldn't have imagined seeing RCMP cruisers skidding through the streets chasing smokers. But who could have imagined the events of this silly season in Nova Scotia?

Who could have imagined that the Bridgewater council would over-ride the objections of the mayor and direct its legal eagles to draft a bylaw banning the vile weed in any public place in the town streets, parks, sidewalks, you name it?
We haven't seen such a demented anti-smoking initiative since a now-forgotten Nova Scotia health minister proposed banning candy cigarettes. That idea propelled my friend Lloyd Bourinot into song:

Smoke, smoke, smoke that cigarette!
Smoke, smoke, smoke that cigarette!
While we haul our dope ashore
The cops are at the corner store,
Protecting us from candy cigarettes!

Bridgewater's sappy initiative was preceded by a silly by-law in Wolfville, which the silly legislature hastened to extend to the whole silly province. Starting next month, it will be illegal in Nova Scotia to smoke in your own car when there's someone under 19 aboard.

Okay, it's not a great idea to smoke with children in the car although my father did it with me, and I did it with my own children, in that not-so-distant era when smoking was normal adult behaviour. But to pass a law against it? Holy smokes, w
e can't stop the children themselves from lighting up, despite heroic efforts. Now, presumably, a 17-year-old smoker can be arrested for driving his car in Nova Scotia on the grounds that he's damaging himself, though he might thumb his nose at the cops if he were walking. Still oh, happy day! he wouldn't get away with smoking while sauntering in Bridgewater.

If we can't smoke in our bars, our cars, our streets, how far are we from the day when we'll be forbidden to smoke in our own houses if there are children present or invalids, or other potential victims? Will we see the Mounties creeping through suburban gardens in the freezing nights, peeping through the curtains to catch parents sneaking a fag? Gotcha, Papa! Cuff 'im, boys.

I quit smoking six years ago, but I was tempted to go down to Bridgewater and light up with the protesters on the LaHave bridges, which belong to the province and will be the only legal places to smoke in Bridgewater if this antic by-law passes. I don't want to smoke again, but I'd far rather be a smoker than a passive ally of the tobacco totalitarians. These zealots give a bad name to good health.

Honourable members and councillors, listen. Tobacco is a vicious addiction worse than heroin, according to people who have experienced both. Anyone who could easily quit has already quit by now. And tobacco use is legal. If we haven't stopped people from smoking marijuana or crack on the streets, how will we going to stop them from smoking tobacco?

And if our police are sufficiently at loose ends to go haring off after smokers, then why can't we can't keep the Halifax Commons safe?
Why do people think we need the Guardian Angels here? Why do we still have 36 unsolved local murders on the books?

What's really disgusting about this type of prissy, moralistic legislation is that it's politically cheap and easy -- like the recent pronouncements of the Surgeon-General of the United States, attacking chubby old Santa Claus as a bad role model for obese North American children. Fatso should watch his diet and get more exercise.

Wow. That shows the same kind of courage it takes to pick on some 85-year-old South Shore grandmother who can't quit smoking and doesn't want to. But what about Nova Scotia Power, whose smoke constitutes the sixth-largest source of air pollution in Canada?

Honourable members and councillors, tackle those guys. Tackle Irving, Bowater, McCain, whose mills and diesel trucks pump out more pollutants than all the smokers in Canada. Nettle the drivers in your town by passing an anti-idling bylaw. Design a workable system of public transport. Pass a motion calling on the Harperites to stop embarrassing our country on climate change. Commit your town, your business, your province to meet the Kyoto targets even if the feds won't.

These are all things you could actually do, but you'd need genuine courage. Go do them and when you've proven that you're more than sanctimonious busybodies, then come back and talk to me about tobacco.

-- 30 --

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