The Club Of Junius

Hello, Bloggers. Today I broke the law.

Well, I didn’t actually mean to break it; it was more that it broke itself, and I just happened to be there.

Here’s how it happened: in the Province’s wisdom, it’s decided to make all British Columbians “safer” by banning smoking outside within about twenty feet (I think it’s actually seven meters) of a door or bus shelter.

Hey, it’s not like it’s got a girl coming over in 2010, and is madly dashing around trying to clean its apartment up! No, this is a health issue…!

Except, obviously, not really: because it’s one thing to ban smoking in crowded and poorly-ventilated bars — no one doubts that forty hours a week schlepping drinks in such an environment constitutes a health hazard for the staff in such establishments, I hope — but I’d bet a LOT of money against the proposition that people are coming down with lung cancer from standing next to smokers at bus stops. Indeed, I believe the technical term for such contentions is bullshit — and the thing is, it’s hardly even worth attacking bullshit on intellectual grounds, is it? When any fool can simply smell it.

Anyway…

Our government, like all our governments here in B.C. for the last pretty long while, has a thing about being liked, you see. Oh, not by us! They treat us like sheep, of course! But so mired in World-Class-ism are they, that they’d be mortified to have someone breeze into town from some other, bigger, flashier country and sniff at our provincial (that’s with a small “p”, by the way) pretensions. My God, can you believe these farmboys all still smoke? Ha ha, how declasse. What an unfashionable little place, come: we return to London! Erm, that is…Paris!

No…no, that doesn’t work either…

Rome!

No…

Manhattan!

No.

Maybe L.A., I guess? Or somewhere in Scandinavia?

Jesus, of all the cues we could take from Scandinavia…and this is the one we choose. Well, that’s just us all over, isn’t it?

Anyway…

So in B.C., a pack of cigarettes costs ten dollars on average, and nine dollars of that is tax money paid to the government. Also you can’t smoke in bars or restaurants or music halls, or cabarets, or private member’s clubs, or sports arenas. You can still smoke on the top decks of ferries…but now only on one side of a ferry’s top deck. I guess to limit the cancer, or something?

Nah…it’s not to limit the cancer. It’s to clean this fucking place up. Because smoking is a filthy, filthy habit, don’t you know.

The restaurants I’m okay with. The bars, not quite so much, but I understand what’s going on there. Although it’s funny, because in downtown Vancouver on a Saturday night, only being able to smoke on the street just means that there’s a hell of a lot of belligerent drunks standing around unsupervised, waiting to start something. So the smoking ban carries some extra policing costs with it, basically because this is not a civilized town. In the country, no one cares, of course: it doesn’t matter. But in Vancouver, it’s a problem…

However, like I said: I understand what’s going on, there. And I suppose I must say, for the sake of the health of the staff, it’s probably necessary to do something about it.

But banning smoking outdoors?

This is something of a break point. Because now you cannot sit and have a smoke, now you cannot enjoy a coffee or a drink, while having a smoke. Because second-hand smoke is so much more toxic than any other substance known to man, that all the car exhaust on the street (emitted by drivers chattering away on cell phones, by the way — a kind of legislated reckless driving) is as nothing to it — people are simply coming down with the cancer left and right, why they’re practically dropping dead in the middle of the street. This must be stopped.

But not by making tobacco illegal! Heavens, no.

By making the practice of smoking illegal.

Only, not really.

Hence: today, one broken law. I bought my cigarettes. I opened the pack. I lit one to have with my coffee on the walk home.

And then I noticed I was on a commercial strip, which meant I was passing doorways every ten feet or so.

Renegade!

Breaking the law with each step!

And that’s when I started to laugh. No, I will not be obeying this law. Because it’s so clearly Draconian — it’s so clearly farcical, and a horrid misuse of my elected representatives’ time and effort. It’s clearly built on the most ramshackle collection of rotten old justifications that have ever been used as a legal foundation. If the government believes that tobacco smoke is so detrimental to public health that it needs a twenty-foot bubble around it even outdoors on a windy day, then they have no excuse not to ban its importation and sale. As a smoker (who wants to quit — well, don’t we all?), I’d support such a measure. I wouldn’t be inordinately happy about it, but if the argument is there, it’s there: smoking kills. Well, okay then: let’s get rid of it.

There’s your logic.

Now, don’t waste it…!

Because as long as tobacco is legal, and as long as I’m addicted to it, and as long as the government’s my freakin’ pusher when it comes to that, I’m not going to stand for any seven-meter bullshit. I’ll take a fine, and fight it in court. Because this law’s no good, and old Junius got it right the first time: the subject who’s truly loyal to the Chief Magistrate (that would be me, by the way, the “loyal subject”) will neither advise nor submit to arbitrary measures.

And this measure’s arbitrary.

Smoking outside on a restaurant patio, or passing businesses with a coffee in my hand and a cigarette in my mouth, I am injuring not a single, solitary soul except myself. This habit runs a person about three hundred dollars a month, for the privilege of standing outside the party in the rain to get their fix, and putting a cloud on their chest X-rays. Oh, but now it’s making me a bad citizen, too? But only as long as I’m standing within twenty feet of better citizens. Right. I see.

Sorry, but the logic just won’t stretch that far. It won’t stretch seven meters. It may not even stretch one.

Ban the stuff if you must. Or leash it, if you like.

But don’t think you can ban or leash me, just because your precious Olympics are coming.

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