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Monday, 19 April 2010

OUTDOOR SMOKING BANS

We were asked by the Canadian Press to submit our opinion on outdoor smoking bans and more particularly in Vancouver. The following position is what we have submitted to the reporter who did use part of our take on the issue in his article that you can read here .

OUTDOOR SMOKING BANS

If anyone wanted evidence that indoor smoking bans were more about denormalizing smoking and harassing smokers than public health, the new spat of lobbying for outdoor bans provides ample evidence. Once Canadians accepted the absurd notion that no amount of indoor ventilation could sufficiently address the exaggerated risks of second-hand smoke, it was only a matter of time before the demands and claims of the anti-smoking lobbies became even more absurd.

Let’s be perfectly clear: Whiffs of second hand smoke in the open air pose zero risk to bystanders, and anyone who claims otherwise has only their own ideological zeal to support such a ridiculous notion. The only purpose of smoking bans whether indoors or outdoors is to harass smokers to the point that they will feel coerced to quit, preferably using pharmaceutical nicotine and other medications. Since the long term efficacy of such pharmaceutical products has been shown to be a dismal 1,6%,(1) you will understand why it’s good repeat business for the pharmaceutical industry (the main financial backers, along with tax dollars, of anti-smoking groups who lobby various levels of government for more coercive policies and more funds for their efforts). Ironically enough, however, both in Canada and in other countries where comprehensive smoking bans have been implemented, smoking rates have stopped declining (2). Many smokers have developed defense mechanisms that instinctively resist such coercive measures (3). Ever since the more aggressive anti-smoking campaigns and bans of the last 10 years, native and contraband cigarettes are also increasingly inundating the Canadian market and creating an underground economy, deprive government of much needed revenue and allow children to buy cigarettes on the black market. So who exactly are we protecting with overkill legislations?

Similarly, there is no reason to ban smoking in outdoor settings to save the environment. Litter can very well be taken care of by enforcing already existent anti-littering legislation, which would also have the benefit of controlling all types of litter rather than just cigarette butts.
If some 18 per cent of Vancouver's roughly 600,000 inhabitants smoke, that's about 108,000 smokers. If just 10 per cent of them decide, once a month, to drive outside of city limits to enjoy a beach or park without being harassed by the smoke police and moral busybodies, that's 10800 extra car trips a month, or 129,600 extra car trips a year in and out of the city. The added smog and bigger carbon footprint of Vancouver will have grown considerably, causing everyone to suffer. Contrary to tobacco smoke, car exhaust is a real health hazard outdoors. It also seems safe to assume that even the most authoritarian municipalities don't plan on asking people with cars where and why they are driving somewhere. So municipal leaders would be much wiser, tolerant and compassionate towards smokers, if they voted down these absurd outdoor smoking ban proposals and focused on real city problems.

So what’s left to justify outdoor bans? Nothing but useless, corporate and taxpayer-funded moral crusades! But as long as our politicians look like they’re doing something for their constituents, as long as anti-tobacco activists can justify their funding by ever increasingly absurd demands, as long as the pharmaceutical industry rakes in the profits and governments pocket our extortionist tobacco taxes, all is well in the wonderful world of anti-tobacco lobbyism.
In addition to demanding outdoor smoking bans under a variety of pretexts, anti-smoking groups have also lobbied car makers to stop making cars with ashtrays (after which they demand a ban on smoking in cars, due to the litter produced from smokers throwing butts out the window), demanded that films which depict smoking receive an “R” rating (although shootings and other violence can remain “PG”), insisted on an end to the store display of tobacco products (already accomplished in Canada), and even sought an end to branding on tobacco packages. The list of demands is endless, of course, and the fact that Vancouver’s municipal leaders appear willing to entertain these demands, rather than focusing on more pressing municipal issues and respecting all their citizens, is just depressing.

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