Finally, A Smart Regulation


By:  Rachel Marsden


Last week, in an overwhelming 71-6 vote, Queen’s Park passed the Smoke Free Ontario Act.  This means that starting in June 2006, smoking in our province will be limited to private homes and the great outdoors.  It’s about time.


I’m generally in favour of limited government, except in cases like smoking, where it’s necessary to prevent people engaging in sheer stupidity from taking out innocent bystanders in what effectively amounts to a slow-mo murder-suicide.


There are a lot of things in daily life that are annoying:  people who block the left side of an escalator, who reek like BO as though they just finished an 18-hour shift at an Indonesian Nike factory, who yak on their cell phones in movie theatres or yell at the silver screen like they’re some kind of cross between Bobby Knight and Stephen Spielberg.  As frustrating as these things may be, and as much as some people may wish there were laws against them, they don’t wreak havoc on anyone’s health.


Last year, a private member’s bill put forward in Parliament by Pat Martin of the federal NDP sought to limit trans fat in food sold in Canada.  Similarly, the Washington Post reported that Felix Ortiz (D-Brooklyn) of the New York State legislature wanted to tax junk food and “also modern icons of sedentary living--movie tickets, video games and DVD rentals.”  Look, if people want to do crack, snort cocaine or stick their head under the cheeseburger faucet, it shouldn’t be the government’s—or anyone else’s—business.


Smoking is different because it’s more than annoying.  It’s the equivalent of forcing people around you to mainline your heroin or scarf down your Big Mac.


A pro-smoking website ( funded by the Canadian Tobacco Manufacturers’ Council, attempts to leverage support for its cause by floating the idea that the smoking ban will infringe on the rights of war veterans in legions.


It would be a real shame for our veterans to survive enemy fire, Agent Orange, and all the hazards of Canadian military underfunding that, for example, sees them serving in the desert while decked out in jungle camouflage—only to end up being taken out by the second-hand smoke of their fellow legionnaires.


The website suggests that the ban will affect businesses, but a study published by New York City in March 2004, a year after the implementation of a comparable ban, found that business in restaurants and bars had actually jumped by 9%.  A similar study conducted in 2002 by the Center for Disease Control and the Texas Department of Health for El Paso, Texas, found no significant effect either way.


Let’s face it:  No sane person is going to bail on a night out at the bar with friends in favour of staying home alone to burn through a few packs of cancer sticks.  You don’t need a study to tell you that—only half a brain.


The only real negative effect on businesses took place a few years back when, in making the mistake of pandering to the pro-smoking lobby, the government applied half-asked band-aid measures that included designated smoking rooms.


Ontario PC Party leader, John Tory, who voted in favour of the new legislation, points out that he knows someone who “runs a relatively modest restaurant in downtown Toronto, and she spent $100,000 building her smoking room…and she will not recover that cost, ever.”


Again, it shouldn’t have taken a study for the government to realize that these rooms weren’t going to work.  A trip to any airport lounge—where the smoking room door is either propped open (ironically, for “fresh air”), or constantly opening and closing—would have done the trick.


Now, the only real government idiocy remaining on the anti-smoking front involves Premier Dalton McGuinty doling out $50 million in tax money to educate children about the effects of smoking and train health care professionals how to better help people kick the habit.  Nothing but more soft-liberal, feel-good pandering to the left.


The government shouldn’t be in the business of telling doctors how to do their jobs.  And if people can’t wrap their heads around the very blunt “this will kill you--guaranteed” death warrant featured on the back of every box of cigarettes, then maybe they deserve to be recipients of the Darwin Natural Selection Award.  Otherwise, what’s next?  Dipping into the provincial treasury to lecture them on the dangers of eating dirt, diving into empty swimming pools, and jumping out of twelfth floor windows?


Aside from the wasteful spending, this is one that the government finally got right.