Friday, December 21, 2007

The Scariest Of All Pipe Dreams

There was a great cartoon in today's Chronicle Herald. The caption stated "There's always a loophole" and the picture [sadly unavaillable] showed a car chugging along, the interior full of smoke, with a baby in their baby seat strapped on the roof. Yep, the roof.

Well, it was funny.

But it's also sad. In part, because apparently I am one of the very few that any have any problem with the Province's new ban against smoking in vehicles when children are present. Yes, I suppose I might have whined about this once or twice before. But everything I read is not just in agreement with this new legislation but actually applauds and promotes it. In hopes that the other provinces soon follow suit.

Be careful what you ask for.

The beautiful little ocean-side town of Bridgewater has drafted a by-law that would ban smoking on all streets and sidewalks. In fact, smokers would be allowed to light up only in their homes or on two provincially owned bridges spanning the La Have River and uniting the town. Personally, I can't quite fathom why the same people who think the province-wide vehicle ban is okay have problems with this one.

True, the town of Bridgewater is certainly being noticed, but for the wrong reasons, as council and its citizens haggle over the proposed smoking ban. The sight of some 100 residents puffing on cigarettes, cigars and even pipes, as they protested on the two bridges Saturday, made newspapers and newscasts across the province and beyond. And a Facebook site has also drawn more than 600 members opposed to the smoking ban.

Bridgewater councillors trying to force all their fellow citizens to butt out on the town’s streets may mean well, but they’re blowing smoke in seeking a total ban. Adopting a bylaw that can’t be fully and properly enforced is misguided at best and reckless at worst.

Oh, right. It's totally doable to fully and properly enforce a ban on smoking in vehicles when children are present (let's see, first the police will have to figure out if anyone in the vehicles around them are actually smoking and then whether there are any children in the vehicle ... from those of small stature whose heads often don't protrude over the top of the back seat to those at the upper age limit where 13 year olds can just as easily look like 18 year olds these days). As opposed to one that would ban smoking on all streets and sidewalks. Where people and their activities are more easily visible. Funny, I actually think the latter would be easier to enforce.

But none of that is really my point. Unless its that stupidity appears to reign supreme. Nope, I am still stuck on the thought that unless and until the act of smoking itself is to be prohibited under the criminal law, I just can't see how the government (at any level) can justify intruding this far into people's personal lives ... or should I say 'personal spaces'. It's one thing to have rules in government buildings, even in 'public places', but it's quite another to take that very intrusive step into a person's private vehicle. And if you can go into their vehicle, what's to stop you from going into their home? In fact, I seriously wonder what is stopping the Bridgewater council from attempting to ban smoking in private homes.

But as I said, my viewpoint is apparently very much in the minority.

Given the obvious ill health effects of second-hand smoke, to argue that a parent (who should be a role model), or anyone else, should still have the right to light up in a vehicle when young people are present – beyond being unconscionable – is to put the right to smoke above the right to not be harmed by someone else’s actions. That argument is clearly untenable in a civilized society.

Smokers must realize that though they have the right to smoke, they do not have the right – in the name of personal freedom – to pollute the air that others must breathe. In the case of society’s most vulnerable members, children, that’s even more emphatically the case.

In fact, it would seem that only those evil smokers agree with me. The difference being, of course, that I am far from arguing that smoking is not harmful per se or that there's 'nothing wrong' with smoking around children. You can see my previous thoughts on that.

I must admit that it is a rather strange place for me, personally, to be. After all, in some cyber-circles [they know who they are], it seems to be pretty much a total given that I am one of those dreaded ... [gasp] ... socialists. And yet here I am defending personal freedoms over the protection of other people's health? Well, yes and no.

First of all, I'm not promoting smoking or even the right to smoke as much as I'm promoting logic. Anything that isn't prohibited is, impliedly at least, allowed. So if the law allows me to smoke, then why aren't I allowed to smoke in, of all my places, my own privately owned property? On the other hand, if tobacco is that harmful to others (and I'm not saying that it isn't), then ban it. Outlaw it. Prohibit it. Criminalize it. Completely.

I guess I have a problem with these new laws at two levels. First, given the context that smoking is legal, the laws appear, to me at least, to be illogical. And secondly, given that same context of legality, then yes, they are too intrusive.

Make a decision. Get it right. And be consistent. Is that too much to ask?


tam said...

hey, I'm not a smoker. but I'm in complete agreement with you. Next thing you know, I won't be able to get drunk in my own house, because I'll be considered a bad influence on my children.....

MMC said...

Said at least partially in jest, I assume, and yet applying the logic ... or lack of logic ... it seems perfectly conceivable to me. Proper, in fact.