Nick & Nora's

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Tobacco Ban: A Youth Worker's Perspective.

As I work in in youth services, I feel I should step in and say something about the whole smoking ban issue since my profession grants me moral superiority in such situations.

Matt Todd, as anyone without an ounce of good argument on their side typically does, resorts to emotion. Specifically:

Watch him. He's a master.

Nothing I have suggested would infringe on anyone's right to own or smoke tobacco. What I was working towards is further strengthening existing laws that are intended to prevent children from purchasing tobacco and protect people from exposure to tobacco smoke.
This is important because we know that over 80% of adult smokers started as children or teenagers. So, if we are concerned about the fact that tobacco is the leading cause of premature death in Canada (nothing else comes even close), then the solution is to prevent children from becoming addicted in the first place.
The reality is that wherever smoking bans have been imposed, smoking rates dropped. That is an indisputable fact.
I know it may be hard for a healthy person to appreciate the potential impact of tobacco smoke. It might even seem silly, which I assume is why you ridicule the very idea in your post.
In the next paragraph, he throws in people with asthma and heart conditions for good measure....

What you might not fully appreciate is how harmful secondhand smoke can be to people with asthma, heart conditions, and children. As the science on the effects of tobacco grows, it becomes closer to impossible to accept that we should continue to feel guilty about inconveniencing the hapless nicotine addict.

Lets see those helpless saints again in a different order!
So, as you suggest that someone who is bothered by tobacco smoke should take it upon themselves to remove themselves from the area, I suggest to you that I value a person's right to be concerned with their health over a nicotine addict's right to get their fix wherever they so choose. Whose right to travel freely should take precedent, a person with asthma, children or a heart condition, or a nicotine addict?

Taking as a given the fact that non-smokers uncomfortable with tobacco usage are free to avoid it however they choose, we have now entered the arena of determining whose convenience and comfort is going to take legal precedent over another's.

There's an assumption behind this argument that we have a right to comfort at all times, in all situations. The problem is, you can't guarantee people basic human freedoms and also guarantee their comfort.

I am out with friends. They would like to go into Restaurant XYZ where the patrons smoke indoors. It is uncomfortable for me to tell my friends that I don't support establishments where the patrons are permitted to smoke indoors.

You know what else is uncomfortable for me? Being around Muslim women who wear the full burqa. I don't like seeing women as faceless, identityless, submissive beings. Yet I deplore legislation that tries to tell them they can't dress this way.

I'm also made uncomfortable by a lot of advertising. Skinny, sickly models with inhuman proportions create false impressions and distort the reality of what beauty is. They encourage beautiful, healthy women to feel sub par and incomplete. But you won't see me encouraging any legislation to regulate a model's weight/height.

I'm uncomfortable when misguided Christians stand on the corner and preach hell fire and the coming end of the world. Perhaps their motives are pure, I don't know, but they are presenting a distorted and disturbing picture of Christianity. But I won't be calling the police on them.
Sometimes when others exercise their rights to free speech or religion or numerous other basic freedoms, I am made uncomfortable, even angry. But I don't have a right to continual comfort. Or to not be exposed to ideas I don't agree with. Now, if someone dressed me in a burqa, forced me to lose twenty pounds and set me on a street corner with a tract in my hand, then we would have something to talk about.

I especially don't have a right to walk onto someone else's private property if they don't wish me there. But I DO have a right NOT to go onto someones property if going there makes me uncomfortable. You won't find me in any strip clubs or pornography stores. Or if I consider going there dangerous to my health (like chocolate stores.)

The only solution that guarantees the rights of all concerned is this: if you don't want to breath it, don't go there. It may make you uncomfortable to have to choose not to enter an establishment because you believe it will harm you in some way. If thats you, it may be time for you to get a backbone.

The remarkable thing about allowing everyone rights is that it forces you to stand up for what you believe in. Even if it means inconvenience or discomfort. When we make personal comfort and the security of our feelings an object of legal protection, what we are in effect asking for is legislation that will protect us from having to make uncomfortable stands.

We are asking for protection from the need to be courageous, to be principled in our individual actions and choices, and to do or say or choose the right thing regardless of it's popularity, or whether we may feel a flush of warmth in our faces when asking someone at the next table not to smoke around our children. We are also 'spared' the opportunity to develop moral courage, to act on principles, and set visible examples for our children or peers.

Now here's the funny part. Todd is not working to ban the owning or smoking of cigarettes. Just the buying of them. This is remarkably similar to Canadian law surrounding prostitution. Most citizens are unaware the buying and selling sexual services is perfectly legal in Canada. Truly! Look it up! Whats illegal is COMMUNICATING in a public place for the purpose of buying and selling sex.

Oh you can buy sex! Just don't communicate with the prostitute about it in a public place. Sure you can smoke cigarettes! You just can't buy them. Very similar logic. And we all know how well regulating prostitution in this manner has worked out.

If Todd's goal is to prevent people from being exposed to second hand smoke, then his proposed legislation doesn't even address the issue.

If his goal is to make it more difficult for minors to obtain cigarettes it also doesn't address the issue. Minors can't legally buy cigarettes anyway. Wherever they're getting them from its not from the convenience store. (And yes, I realize that some clerks may be violating this regulation. This is a case of simply enforcing a law thats already in effect, not adding a new one.) His solution is typically liberal. "What we need here is more laws! Bigger ones!"

You want some emotion? Well here it is. In 2003 I watch my grand mother (who raised me) die a horribly painful and prolonged death of emphysema caused by smoking a pack a day for fifty-four years. She began smoking at the age of sixteen. I work with a lot of kids who start smoking because their peers torment them and the rappers and gangsters who are their only role models do it as well. If you don't think this breaks my heart, you're dead wrong. But the solution here is not more legislation. Especially not legislation that infringes on peoples rights. Real answers to complex, human problems are never satisfied with quick-fix solutions. Real answers are deep, and challenging and usually take time. Like people spending more time at home and less at the office. Like standing up for your beliefs even if it means inconvenience and discomfort. Like parents modeling the choices they want their kids to make.

Please don't have children until you understand that.


Monday, November 20, 2006

N&N'S Hatemail from NDP Council Matt Todd - Or, how I learned to stop worrying and love second-hand smoke.

Here it is, folks. The wrath of Todd, unabridged, as read by Leonard Nimoy. My response is as follows. But please do note, as I'm a private sector employee with some measure of responsibility and productivity expected of me, don't expect such lengthy replies, or even necessarily any at all to these kinds of posts, as common practice. I have simply way too much on my plate to devote either the time or energy to continually hacking out essays for the benefit of local bureaucrats.

For starters and for the clarity of N&N's readers, the legislation in question....

Described here...

Since Bhutan seems to be getting by just fine without tobacco sales, White Rock Councillor Matt Todd wants to see if we can make it work here. He's proposing that White Rock become the first city in Canada to ban tobacco sales.

....does not ban the ownership or use of tobacco, per se, as per Mr. Todd's assurances. That is to say, it would only ban it's usage as a sellable commodity by store owners, an undeniable comfort.

In order to get the pipes off the shelves, the province would have to ban tobacco sales first. "It feels like the right thing to do, but how to implement I'm just not sure that it's possible," said Todd.

Now, to the meat of the matter. Namely, that I am some manner of anarchist who laughs like Bela Lugosi in the face of child seat belt laws, and must naturally endorse drunk driving in the wrong lane of city traffic, seeing as I support the rights of merchants to sell tobacco in their own stores.


Saying I support A and must therefore support B is unadulterated sophistry, and properly deserving of the malignment you would heap on me for suggesting that your wish to regulate tobacco usage makes you an unswerving advocate of martial law and jackbooted thuggery. Machinelike ideological consistency is neither politically desirous, nor practical in application. Principles inform us, but application of principle must be tempered with wisdom and sound judgment.

Rather than a linear ideological extrapolation, I have made a judgment call in accordance with my ideology that says such things need not be regulated so. Period. You have made one in accordance with your ideology that says they must be. Period. The limitless extension of the principles that inform my decision, result in a degree of civic freedom you consider dangerous to others and undesirable. The limitless extension of yours, have, with unerring consistency, ended in economic stagnation, loss of liberty, poverty, and a morally timorous civic society made helpless and trained to look to the state as the solver of society's ills. As they do now, with cries to the government to enforce their 'right' to not be exposed to smokers.

As to your comments analogizing trace amounts of outdoor second-hand smoke to a veritable firehose of benzene and abestos, I will offer the concession that despite its generally hyperbolic unpersuasiveness, it's certainly your perogative and seems to be working in those ads played in movie theaters.

However, I will express my profound sense of civic concern and suspicion at those willing to enact sweeping legislation targeting commerce, behavior, and what can and can't be done on private property, based on even the possibility of exposure to trace amounts of potential airborn toxins numbering in fractions of parts per million, comparable to say, a walk through a parking lot. Many, myself included, see this as a rather frightening precedent. And if your chief concern is indeed the children who start, you had best be prepared to get into their parents homes, though I'm all but certain that's not far off.

Even if we agree philosophically with the premise that something as dangerous as tobacco should be heavily regulated, (which I don't) are we to believe that the purpose of such legislation is to make a tangible contribution to the public welfare? Doubtless many will be more inclined to see it as a largely symbolic and politically motivated act, aimed in no small part at entrenching cultural attitudes about the role of government as the citizen's nanny.

Or likelier still, a resume-enhancing career move by a bushy-tailed young socialist who dreams himself a future rising star in the NDP, if only he can get some really cutting-edge legislation pushed through. ("And he was so young when he did it, too! Keep an eye on that Todd boy!")

And you can tell Og I said so.

Further Reading:

Where There's Smoke, You Don't Have to Be

Smoking and Property Rights

Mail from an NDP Council's Office!

With N&N in business only a few weeks, I awoke this morning to a frankly surreal email that left me feeling like Homer Simpson's Mr. X. I'm guessing I was on to something with this article...

...which ended up drawing a lengthy and none-too-pleased email reply from Matt Todd himself, who seems to have stumbled upon N&N while googling himself. (hey, who doesn't?)

I'll be posting the full contents of the letter in the next day or two when I've composed a complete reply. In the meantime, whet your appetite with these pan-fried snippets.

After disputing the merit of my points, Todd concluded with:

"While you mock my "magnificent sophistication of the leftist deductive process", after reading your post I am left wanting for something, anything that is remotely remarkable or sophisticated or even rational that challenges my arguments. If you have anything to offer the debate aside from than empty rhetoric, I'd love to hear it.

What is truly sad in your post, and your rude and disparaging caricature of me, is that you've clearly demonstrated a complete ignorance on the issue you're discussing and disregard for the very values you claim to champion. "


With all due respect, I wouldn't take it to heart, sir. Even Lincoln was widely caricatured in his own day. I run a blog that offers commentary on political principles with comic irreverence, (which is immediately obvious with a cursory glance at the content) built on the soundest of notions that the leftist as a species, cannot abide being laughed at.

On that note, I must confess I find it starkly astonishing that a tiny blip in the blogosphere would command the time and energies of regional statesmen and provoke them to outraged personal responses. I suspect outspoken conservative opposition to such policies is even more woefully underrepresented than I initially suspected, particularly since the rhetoric of pure buffoonery you describe above is hardly befitting of the attention and time of elected officials.

My writing style may be acidic, and I certainly strive to entertain with it. Believe it or not however, I maintain genuine respect for the positions of elected leadership. However, I shall speak frankly when I am vehemently opposed to policies I believe destructive, and the philosophies that inform them. A welcome service I should think, particularly since such views will certainly find no sympathetic exposure in our state-run media, and the vast majority of conglomerate news outlets.

Thank you very much for your time and attention, and considerable concern for the opinions of your constituents.


Sunday, November 19, 2006

Back-Page Classifieds (A Continuing Series)

David Suzuki, action hero.

The even sexier side of audits


Crappy customer service still optional, but likely.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

We're back! That was a scary couple hours. And just in time for this delightful headline:

Belmont to be first U.S. city to ban all smoking

Aka, "Belmont Passes Smokeasy-Creation Act."

Not a Canadian headline, but still caught my eye as similar laws were on the drawing board in my home town of White Rock BC, proposing the banning of all tobacco sales within the city limits. Property rights, shmoperty rights! The story is ably covered by our CBC welfare media here:

Tobacco sales ban eyed in BC community

Though in BC, the results would be even funnier. Forget smokeasies, bring back underground selling rings, petty organized crime, increased prices, and all the delightful trappings of prohibitionism! One must admire the purity of motive in demonizing a group exercising unpopular rights, that Councilman Matt Todd knows few will dare defend in the public square, and are thus open to all manner of abuses for the purposes of scoring political capital. Courtesy of the NDP!

From the eminent Mr Todd's website:

It is becoming better known that tobacco smoke kills over five times as many people as the sum of all car accidents, suicides, murders, and illegal drugs every year in Canada. Though historical tolerance makes us blind to it, nicotine addiction has a very serious and significant negative impact on our quality of life. Research proves smoking bans as the most effective tool for preventing exposure to smoke, and the second best for reducing smoking rates.

...And when cornered, the wild leftist resorts to it's natural battle call, "Aw, just force them already!" The magnificent sophistication of the leftist deductive process. These are our best and brightest, folks. But Todd's just playing by the well-trod rules established by his betters.

Like so much politics, the cultural success and acceptance of the regulatory jihad on tobacco depends heavily on successfully maneuvering majority public opinion into antagonism against a minority. A unique challenge, considering the minority that the smoking population constitutes, and the natural inclination of everyone else to think 'Why should I care?' Hence, the PR campaign in recent years has carefully shifted from focusing attention on smokers outright, to endless dubious statistics on the perils of second-hand smoke, and why draconian legislation is far preferable to you moving to the next table.

Side effects may include a slight case of DEATH!!! *

* if irresponsibly used several times a day for 10, 20, 30, 40, or 50 years. Results may vary.
But it's still worse than Hitler, and so are you.

It's about convincing you that your right to unlimited convenience takes precedent over the rights of a smelly and unpopular minority; which we're usually only too-eager to believe anyway. It's a marketing strategy absolutely essential in emotionally involving and accomplicing segments of the population who would ordinarily, share a justifiably profound disinterest in the activities of individual smokers. Hence, the well-marketed insistence that the mere awareness of smoke on outdoor patios is shaving years off your life. And even if it isn't, you have a legally enforceable right to not have to deal with it.

The fact that you can walk away, sit in a non-smoking area, ask someone to extinguish their cigarette, or -heaven forbid- patronize an establishment with a privately determined, family-friendly non-smoking policy, is all apparently lost on poor Todd and the regulatory cavemen. Asking citizens who dislike exposure to tobacco smoke to take even the meagerest steps to avoid it themselves is unthinkable! Unconscionable! And in general terms, unspeakably un-progressive. Todd being the Marxist dinosaur he is, the subtlety of private solutions, and the necessarily accompanying trust in the capacity of citizens to manage their own affairs baffles and irritates him to no end, like a joke in smart company that's gone over his head.


Your descendents are more than equal to the task, Og. Pity to see a beautiful town like White Rock with Mao Magoo at the helm though.


Tuesday, November 14, 2006


Looks like we've dropped off the face of the vast Googlesphere. After just a few weeks in business, Google isn't finding Nick & Nora or any of it's content. Maybe that's because we're new and small, but I have my doubts as Google still invariably manages to find a dead Tripod site I made in highschool that hasn't been touched in some forty years.

I'm guessing it's a routine error, so for the time being I'll avoid any darkly conspiratorial mutterings, and hopefully it'll be resolved in a few days. Updates will continue as normal, so in the meantime, sit tight and tell your friends. ;)

Feel free to drop me a line if you've had this problem!