This week, six City of Calgary Aldermen had the gall to take Calgarians' health into account and reopen the smoking ban debate, advocating that the previously agreed upon city-wide ban on smoking in public places be moved ahead a year. If the dissenters get their way, the city-wide smoking ban will be advanced from Jan. 1, 2008 to Jan. 1, 2007.
While bar and pub owners are lamenting their lost profits and smokers are coughing their way to City Hall to voice their protests, other Calgarians should commend these Aldermen for attempting to bring Calgary's smoking policies up-to-date with other cities across Canada.
As it stands now, Calgary's smoking bylaws are not only outdated, but downright ridiculous. Smokers are free to light up indoors at clubs and pubs across the city, creating a cloud of carcinogenic second-hand smoke to foul the air for bar employees and non-smoking patrons. But don't even think about lighting that cigarette outside on a patio where the smoke can escape into the air. Here in Calgary, smoking inside is encouraged, while lighting up on patios is prohibited.
Alderman Helen Larocque-supposedly holding the balance of power in council-told the Herald: "I am for a smoke-free Calgary, but the public does have a choice whether or not to go into an establishment where there's smoking."
This "Calgarians have a choice" attitude lacks insight. Right here on campus, for instance, there is a single bar which permits smoking. While it would be nice to have a smoking and a non-smoking option on campus, there is only one place to go for an apres-class drink and it happens to be smoky. Patrons
who want to find a non-smoking bar or nightclub are hard-pressed to do so, and when it comes right down to it, many will sacrifice their lungs to socialize with friends-especially when the alternative is an evening alone. This attitude also fails to consider bar employees who have no choice but to breathe in second-hand smoke everyday when they come to work.
Businesses should also stop blowing smoke about the issue.
If a city-wide smoking ban is instigated, people won't stop going to bars. Just this past June in Ontario, a province-wide ban on smoking in all public areas came into effect and there have been no media reports of massive bar bankruptcies. Likewise, the entire provinces of Manitoba and New Brunswick have been entirely smoke-free since Oct. 1, 2004 and one trip to a bar in Pilsner-swigging Manitoba or Keith's-adoring New Brunswick is all it takes to see that the bars are surviving just fine-and are less likely to give non-smokers lung cancer.
Bar owners should also note that the majority of Calgarians are non-smokers. According to Statistics Canada, only 22 per cent of Canadians were smokers in 2005. Did bar owners take into account the fact that the other 78 per cent of the population will be more inclined to visit a bar if they don't have to sacrifice their lungs and smell like an ashtray afterwards?
City council needs to uphold democracy by making decisions which benefit the greatest number of people, rather than listening to a group of affluent business owners who believe they need indoor smoking to boost their bottom line.
Smoking causes cancer, emphysema and death. Second hand smoke causes cancer, emphysema and death. There is no debate about either one of these facts. Nor should there be a debate in City Hall about whether to make the city smoke-free as soon as possible.