Must Halifax Council humiliate and punish nicotine addicts?

In May of 1989, I spent several days in a Rockport, Maine, hospital watching my mother die of emphysema. It’s an agonizing way to go, like drowning in ultra slow motion.

Flora Best Donham was a strong-willed woman who worked as a homemaker, university fundraiser, peace activist, art gallery manager, and union organizer. She had grit and a seemingly infinite capacity for work.

Flora Donham, ca. 1971

But she was no match for nicotine. Try as she might—and she tried again and again—she could not beat her addiction to tobacco. So I hate smoking, and I hate the murderous bastards who run tobacco companies.

But I have no time for Halifax Council’s sanctimonious efforts to humiliate and torture nicotine addicts.

Council didn’t set out to ban cigarette smoking in all public spaces. Initially, it was bent on a plan almost as stupid: to perpetuate the stigma against marijuana in the face of federal legalization. (Our righteous councillors seem not to have noticed that the ill-effects of marijuana are dwarfed by the multifarious evils of its criminalization.)

Ah, but someone must have pointed out the illogic of banning cannabis smoke from streets and sidewalks whilst allowing far deadlier tobacco smoke to waft freely.

“No problem,” said council’s young urban hipsters, ever eager to micromanage the personal lives of their constituents. “We’ll ban smoking of everything, everywhere.”

And so they did, until Sam Austin had second thoughts and won council support for a staff report on alternatives. That report is now in. It says damn the torpedoes, full ban ahead. Council will make a final decision Tuesday.

Frank Zappa & cigarette, undated

We already humiliate cigarette-smoking office and factory workers by requiring them to duck outside to light up, come rain, snow, heat, or hail. I’m okay with that. It relieves co-workers of having to put up with second-hand smoke indoors, and it encourages some smokers to quit altogether. But forcing them to wander down the street in search of a smoking area to be designated by city staff, that’s a humiliation too far.

Unintended consequences include staff resentment, loss of productivity, wasted time, and just plain cruelty.

Intended consequences include the opportunity for councillors to bray about their moral superiority. Tony Mancini and Lisa Blackburn say there’s no place for smoking in the healthy communities council pontificates about. Shawn Cleary, who likes to tell residents of my neighbourhood where they must turn left and right, is fully on board with the proposed diktat.

Speaking of unintended consequences, I wonder how many children will develop asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, cancer, or cardio-vascular disease when council forces their parents’ second-hand smoke back into the confined indoor spaces of their homes, where it really does have potential to cause disease.

No matter. Council will have demonstrated its moral superiority. And that’s what counts.

As for Flora Donham, she would have cheerfully shoved a carton up their hoity-toity backsides.