A letter sent to, and not published by, the Vancouver Sun.

While I have not yet seen all of the details of the recently-announced provincial No Smoking policy, it appears to be off to a rather rocky start.

In the very first paragraph of "Restaurants allowed smoking patios" (Nov 7), Health Minister George Abbott not only attempts to make some sort of a distinction between designated smoking rooms and patios (they're all smoke pits!), but he completely destroys the much-sought-after "level playing field" that is so absolutely critical to the success of any No Smoking law.

Then he creates a little more confusion by suggesting that there's a link between "ban[ning] smoking altogether" and "make[ing] tobacco illegal," when, in fact, the two are as different as night and day.

Given all that is now known about second-hand tobacco smoke, banning smoking altogether (in all public places and workplaces, including patios and entranceways, in parks, on beaches, on all school property and in all multi-unit housing [apartments and condos], etc.) is completely reasonable. Such bans have nothing whatsoever to do with WHAT anybody does (in this case, smoke); it is solely and exclusively about WHERE they do it and, even more importantly, WHERE the smoke goes. And the government has the right and, in fact, the duty/obligation to protect its citizens from such a hazard.

Making tobacco illegal, on the other hand, is something that neither I nor any anti-tobacco activist I know (and I know dozens of them, from all over the world) has ever suggested. To attempt to make a product that millions of people are addicted to illegal would result in unimaginable chaos... from riots to civil disobedience to smuggling and/or an instant black market, etc.

Many others before Abbott have falsely implied that there's a link between banning smoking and the dreaded 'P' word: Prohibition. What we are trying to achieve, in terms of tobacco control, is not at all like the (not-surprisingly) failed experiment of prohibition, which was clearly intended to rid the U.S. of alcohol entirely.

And finally, I loved the part of (Ivanhoe co-owner) Chris Gock's comment, where he said that, "There are guys who almost live in those smoking rooms..." (emphasis mine) First, it's funny to see the word "live" in connection with a product that is directly responsible for so much disease, disability and premature death; being preceded by the word "almost" makes it even funnier.


Errol E. Povah