You know anti-smoking hysteria has gone too far when even centres of higher learning don’t have the courage or the integrity to resist jumping on the speeding bandwagon of blanket smoking-bans.
Memorial University announced this week that it plans to implement a total smoking ban on its campuses by 2013.
In the meantime, the Board of Regents announced, smoking outside building entrances will be banned as of Aug. 1. That makes sense. People should not have to wade through other people’s blown smoke to get into a building or while leaving it.
But here’s a bit of irony: like millions upon millions of smokers the world over, the anti-smoking movement just can’t stop.
Nicotine is highly addictive and so is the eagerness to tell other people how to behave.
Of course, anti-smoking policies are never forthright and honest. They don’t say, “Smoking in this area is prohibited, because the majority of us find it disgusting and offensive.”
On the contrary, smoking bans are dressed up in unassailable terms, and are described as protecting health and promoting cleanliness — of the environment and the body.
If this were true, smoking would be banned only in locations where it would affect other people, and would be allowed in locations where it would not affect anyone but the smoker(s).
Memorial University’s St. John’s campus is large enough that the administration — if it were inclined toward wisdom and fairness rather than toward bandwagon-jumping — could easily set aside designated smoking areas, both indoor and outdoor, where smokers could indulge their nasty habit without bothering anyone but themselves and other people who were willing to waive their right to not be bothered. Such areas now exist, but will be phased out.
An unwillingness to provide designated smoking areas reveals this issue is not really about health. It is about controlling some people’s behaviour.
It is not surprising that municipal councils from Victoria, B.C., to New York City have either considered or already implemented broad outdoor smoking bans in public places. As residents of St. John’s are aware, municipal politicians are not usually the hottest matches in the box.
But scholars are another story. Learned professors, observing their administration’s willingness to participate in the “do as I say” movement, should be the first in line to file objections.
For the record, I have not smoked a cigarette since 1988. I have no desire to smoke. I recognize it is an extremely unhealthy and potentially deadly habit.
However, unlike most ban-
backers, I recognize that a smoker’s right to personal freedom trumps any non-smoker’s right to not be offended.
If smokers are in a designated area where their puffing can’t possibly affect, bother or impede anyone else, they should be allowed to light up, since personal liberty is still considered to be — for the time being — an integral aspect of democracy.
For the ban-smoking movement’s stance to be legitimate, they must argue — and prove — that it is impossible for people to smoke anywhere without bothering or affecting other people. Of course, the discussion seldom, if ever, gets that far. It usually begins and ends at, “Smoking is unhealthy.”
Consider a sealed room with double doors and open windows, or, even better, ventilation directly to the outdoors. People are smoking. No one else is being harmed, in reality or potentially. No laws are being broken. The concept of freedom of choice is still in force. Now, state again the case for a blanket smoking ban.
The only argument to fall back on is, “The administration has a responsibility to protect those people from themselves,” which, upon closer consideration, is far more offensive than the act of smoking.
Brian Jones is a desk editor at The Telegram. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.