Thomas Laprade: Smoke screen |

Thomas Laprade: Smoke screen

The bandwagon of local smoking bans now steamrolling across the nation from sea to sea has nothing to do with protecting people from the supposed threat of second-hand smoke. The bans are symptoms of a far more grievous threat; a cancer that has been spreading for decades. This cancer is the only real hazard involved — the cancer of unlimited government power.

The issue is not whether second-hand smoke is a real danger or a phantom menace. The issue is: if it were harmful, what would be the proper reaction? Should anti-tobacco activists satisfy themselves with educating people about the potential danger and allowing them to make their own decisions, or should they seize the power of government and force people to make the right decision? Supporters of local tobacco bans have made their choice. Rather than attempting to protect people from an unwanted intrusion on their health, the tobacco bans are the unwanted intrusion.

Loudly billed as measures that only affect public places, they have actually targeted private places: restaurants, bars, nightclubs, shops, and offices — places whose owners are free to set anti-smoking rules or whose customers are free to go elsewhere if they don’t like the smoke. Some local bans even harass smokers in places where their effect on others is obviously negligible, such as outdoor public parks.

The decision to smoke, or to avoid second-hand smoke, is a question to be answered by each individual based on his own values and his own assessment of the risks. This is the same kind of decision free people make regarding every aspect of their lives.

Yet when it comes to smoking, this freedom is under attack. It is not about health, and it never was about health.It is all about de-normalizing smoking. Passing no-smoking legislation is a big step in that direction.

Thomas Laprade

Thunder Bay, Ont.

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