As I may have pointed out once or twice, I am a former smoker. As such, I would have to argue that I'm a little more sensitive to cigarettes than most. Whereas the average non-smoker merely has to deal with a little unwanted smoke, I have to deal with unwanted smoke while attempting to quell the demon inside that is telling me to steal the cigarette, suck it down, and go on a nicotine bender. In spite of this, however, I try to be a nice non-smoker. I don't fake cough, I try to avoid getting into preachy discussions about the dangers of the evil weed, and I generally do my best to live and let live. With this in mind, I can't help but feel that anti-smoking laws in Canada may have jumped the shark...
The first thing is the anti-smoking warnings. Since 2000, the Canadian government has mandated that cigarette packages must sport large warnings that take up roughly 50% of the available display space. These warnings, which have to appear in both French and English, feature highly specific information about the means by which cigarettes harm health. Best of all, they come with flashy and disturbing pictures.
Canada's latest tool in its war against nicotine delivery devices is a law requiring that stores cannot openly display cigarettes. By the end of this year, all Canadian cigarette retailers must either keep their cancer sticks in drawers or hide them behind gray wall hangings that cost approximately $1,000 US. The idea is that, if children cannot see cigarettes, then they will not be inclined to begin smoking. On the other hand, speaking as someone who started smoking in his early 20's, I'd have to say that there's a slight flaw in the plan.
Another flaw is the apparent hypocrisy of Canada's anti-smoking stance. As several retailers have noted, Canada allows alcohol and pornographic magazines to be displayed within view of children. Anti-smoking activists have countered that, unlike pornography, cigarettes kill 50% of their regular users.
Ultimately, this is a good point. After all, the primary danger of pornography is chafing, which pales beside cancer. That having been said, it seems like Canada's expensive gray shields are, effectively, a fine that is being levied against smoking retailers. Perhaps Canada should consider whether its quest for health is getting in the way of its democratic ideals.
Then again, who am I to talk? My country just taxes the damn things into oblivion!
Bruce Watson is a freelance writer, blogger, and all-around cheapskate. If he was still smoking like he did in the late 1990's, it would cost him about $25 a day.
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