Smoking has vanished in a puff

Robert Barron: now that the air has cleared, crackdown was a good idea

As a younger man, all the bars and restaurants that I spent any time in were always full of cigarette smoke.

In those days, almost everyone I knew smoked. Fortunately for me, I tried to smoke a cigarette when I was seven years old and threw up. I never tried to smoke a cigarette again and I never really understood the desire to inhale large amounts of smoke from burning plants.

But cigarettes in those days were part of the culture. Cigarette commercials were common and one I remember clearly was the ad that suggested four out of five doctors recommended smoking Camels.

There was always a cloud of blue cigarette smoke hovering about five feet off the floor in most public places, and anyone who was at that height was forced to inhale what we now know is a toxic stew of bad chemicals.

But that wasn’t much known about at the time, and smoking was allowed pretty much everywhere anyone wanted to light up, even in hospitals.

That’s why when they started to bring in new regulations to ban smoking in public places almost two decades ago, I thought the authorities would be facing a fight they couldn’t possibly win.

I was working as a reporter in Nanaimo at the time and I recall visiting various pubs and restaurants where the owners and patrons said such a move would ruin their business and way of life.

Many beer-guzzling bar flies told me that once the new smoking laws came into effect, they would stop going out to bars and simply drink at home. I believed them and I once wrote a column suggesting that the authorities should back off on this half-baked initiative and come at it from a different angle or they would be responsible for badly damaging the province’s hospitality industry.

Almost 20 years have passed since then and I have to admit that I was wrong about the no-holds-barred approach to smoking in public. The pubs and nightclubs didn’t crumble and their smoking customers just adapted to the new realities as best they could, but most didn’t stop heading out to the bars.

Despite my skepticism at the time, I’ve personally gotten quite used to no smoking in public places and I have to wonder why I didn’t take any exception to it before. These days, I can smell someone smoking from up to 20 feet away and I find I get a little annoyed with the fumes.

I’ve come to enjoy the clean air and the fact that all of my clothes don’t stink of cigarette smoke every time I go out on the town.

My attitudes toward smoking has certainly changed over the years and that’s why I fully support plans by the City of Duncan to update its smoking bylaws and restrict the practice even further in public places.

If the amended bylaw passes, the distance smokers of any substance will be required to keep back from windows, doorways and air intakes in public buildings in the city will increase from three to six metres.

The new bylaw would also put further restrictions on just where people can smoke in parks and other public spaces.

I have no problems with that at all.

We now know that bystanders can have their health adversely impacted by inhaling second-hand smoke, so nobody should have the right to force others to suffer because of their bad habits.



robert.barron@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

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