Thursday, March 24, 2011

When Alberta Banned Smoking...

When Alberta finally pulled the trigger on a comprehensive tobacco ban I was, at least in theory, in favour of it.

It is, after all, a habit both filthy and deadly, possessed of no redeeming qualities. An addictive drug as well as being the only product that, if used correctly, killed it’s user in 100% of cases.

Why was such a product even allowed on the market in the first place while other, far less dangerous, recreational substances had been long since banned? It was, everyone agreed, indefensible.

So when they debated the costs of tobacco, both in terms of human life and strain upon the health care system, I generally agreed with the points the anti-smoking coalition made. And when they banned it’s sale and use anywhere in the province, I cheered their courage in doing so.

And then I moved to Vancouver.

I was a smoker, I’m still a smoker, and I do sincerely hope some day to quit. I’ve tried a number of times in the past, but it never seems to take. As a smoker hoping to give the addiction up, I’m exactly the sort of person the law was meant to help. And it isn’t that I don’t appreciate their attempts to encourage me into a healthier lifestyle. I’m very appreciative.

It’s just that I’m a smoker, and one who’s tried to quit on numerous occasions, and I know what my moods are like when I’m in the midst of quitting smoking. And I have no interest in watching every single smoker in Alberta quit, cold turkey, simultaneously.

So; Two weeks before enforcement of the ban, I moved to Van. A decision which, in hindsight, turned out to be even wiser than I’d initially thought.

Two weeks after the ban the murder rate in Alberta tripled. It would continue increasing for the next eleven months.

Two months after the ban, the province could no longer hire new police officers, which was a problem as the cops with enough seniority to take early retirement were starting to do so, and the cops without said seniority were taking serious sideways looks at jobs in other provinces.

Four months after the ban the government fell, hounded out of office by protesters with an uncomfortable habit of turning violent. Strangely, few of them were protesting the smoking ban itself, instead they were protesting a variety of unrelated issues, that taxes should be raised or lowered, university tuition should be frozen, the provincial government did too much/too little for minority groups. The protestors had little in common, politically, but they did share a few qualities. They’d recently quit smoking, they wanted to keep busy to distract themselves from this, and they were in apocalyptically foul moods. Not the sort of people the Premier of a province wants to see chanting outside his office day after day, presenting demands that were by turns lucid and insane and then refusing to negotiate them or give up any ground.

He caught a flight to Vancouver five months after I did, two steps ahead of an angry mob. I saw him once as I was coming out of a 7-11 on Broadway, and gave him a wave. He flinched until he saw me light a smoke. Then he seemed to relax.

Political consensus by this point was to rescind the damn ban and get it over with, however without a stable government to do so this was easier said then done. And, to further complicate things, the majority of Albertans remained in favour of the ban. Even the newly ex-smokers, forced into their new, healthier state, agreed that they were going to have to quit eventually and, after months without a cig, didn’t want the temptation back in their lives.

They weren’t smoking, everyone agreed that that was good, everyone knew that it was healthy, and if they were going to do something about the constant, unchecked rioting in the streets and the breakdown of productive civilization, it would have to be something other than lifting the tobacco ban.

If only people would pause their day-to-day struggle for survival and think of something else that would work…

When things calm down a little, I’d like to go back to Alberta. It’s my home province after all, I was born in Edmonton and spent the majority of my life either there or in Calgary. But I won’t be going any time soon. Life back there is too nasty, brutish and short for my tastes at the moment and, much though I love Mad Max, I’m not well suited to live that sort of lifestyle.

In the meantime, I’m thinking about going back on the patch starting next week, so if I get snappy I apologize in advance. Wish me luck!

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