Healthy Communities try to discourage unhealthy activities.

Smoking: What we should have learned

We have made real progress in dealing with smoking as a menace to our health and well-being. It is time to finish the job.

We all know the health costs. Now that smokers have been reduced to a minority we are starting to see the other costs more readily. There is lost time on the job – I still see various types of workers, predominantly outdoor – construction, maintenance workers smoking on the job.  It wasn’t so noticeable when everyone was doing it.

Then there is distracted driving. What could be more dangerous than driving while carrying something that is on fire?

And littering. People who manage apartment and condo buildings know that smokers cost more to house.

And then there is the issue of general nuisance. When there is noise in our condo building, almost every time it is related to smoking. Who wants to hear the coughing when someone steps out on to their balcony at 6:30 am to start their day with another nail in the coffin? And if there is a disturbance on a balcony later at night it is almost always a group stepping out for a smoke. In cities, more and more of us are living in close quarters with our neighbours. And those of us who do so are realizing what a disadvantage living near smokers can be.

So, we have lots of reasons for ending this practice once and for all. What we don’t seem to have realized, is that we have the means.

What worked? Education? Might have helped a bit – always a good thing.  Warning on cigarette packs? I love them – but addicts aren’t that easily distracted.

What worked is restricting the PLACE one could light up. For many of the people I know who quit over the past few decades, not being able to smoke in certain places conveniently sealed the deal. Stopping it in the workplace was huge. If it didn’t make you quit, it sure made you cut down. Ending smoking in bars, cafes and events also really helped. Almost all the smokers I know smoke less than they did some years ago.

We need to take that next step, and the time is right. With jurisdictions wondering how they are going to handle the brave new world of legal weed, now is the time to ban smoking – of any substance - in all public places.  Streets, parks, parking lots….anywhere where people gather.

Of course it is ridiculous to allow smoking while driving, and if there are jurisdictions who haven’t already banned smoking in cars while children are present, how stupid is that? The same goes for smoking in a building where there are kids. What else would you call it but child endangerment?

The good news is that the writing is on the wall. We are going to discover that we have a legal right to not be interfered with by smoke. Some condo corporations are finding that because there are by-laws that protect my right to enjoy my home without unreasonable interference, they now are required to act when someone complains that a neighbour’s smoke is doing just that. Many cities have the same type of by-law and the courts are going to rule that smoking qualifies as interfering with my right to enjoy my home. The ironic consequence is that some die-hards are then forced to smoke-proof their apartments and smoke indoors.

The point is that those of us that want a smoke free day are going to win this battle.

But the real winners are going to be the people that are convinced to quit.

We are going to reduce the percentage of people who smoke until we reach a point where only the hard-core addicts are left puffing. We might as well get on with it.