Dawn Muenchrath/the Gauntlet

City smokers down to the last drags

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A few of us at the Gauntlet smoke cigarettes. I know, smoking will likely kill us, and I know, it’s expensive, gross, stupid and yada yada yada.

New smokers quickly realize that society no longer accommodates them. Soon, we’ll have fewer places to indulge in our addiction in public.

The City of Calgary recently proposed a bylaw that will make smoking illegal in the vicinity of outdoor sporting facilities. This will eliminate some of the city’s best smoking spots, including Shaw Millennium and Bowness Parks. Lighting up on the sidewalk near playgrounds will be illegal. The bylaw’s message is clear: if you smoke, you are unwelcome, you should find a place as far from healthy people as possible, and wallow in the shame of your disgusting, dangerous and expensive habit, you bastard.

Legislators proposing the bylaw say it will protect children and families from the harmful effects of second-hand smoke. The bylaw stems from fears that if swift action is not taken, poison-puffing addicts roaming our city’s parks will corrupt children’s lungs and minds. Kids will adopt the habit after observing how a cigarette dangling from one’s lips can transform acne-ridden teenagers into James Dean-esque sex symbols.

The chilling facts about the substance have gained increased exposure — smoking kills over 37,000 Canadians every year and is responsible for over 80 per cent of lung cancer diagnoses, according to Health Canada. 

With statistics like these, smoking bans sell themselves. Those who don’t smoke will support nearly any anti-smoking laws, and those who do will remain silent; because like pornography, while many indulge in smoking, few will vocally defend it.

However, we need to reconsider spending time and energy on this bylaw.

One of the politicians who proposed the bylaw, Ward 10 alderman Andre Chabot, claimed during an interview that the new rules were common-sense measures. But just seconds later, he also acknowledged that the bylaw could not be enforced, making compliance voluntary. The law’s lack of teeth is where the issue lies.

In an interview with the CBC, Chabot said that city council is “basically just trying to set an example through this bylaw.” To translate, city leaders are debating whether to create a new bylaw to make smoking in public more shameful. Keep in mind that there aren’t any plans for peace officers to roam public parks or any other new measures to enforce any of the proposed rules. 

Banning smoking in buildings is enforceable because there is a defined boundary. While the bylaw attempts to define a 5-metre boundary around outdoor facilities, there are many grey areas, such as when the arbitrary line crosses onto private property.

So yes, smoking is detrimental to public health, but city council using its limited time to table a bylaw that they acknowledge will not be enforced defies common sense.