Monday, April 14, 2008

The path to prohibition

Dalton McGinty and the Ontario Liberals are considering a ban on smoking in cars with children. The Premier has declared publicly that the ban should not be seen as the start of a journey down the slippery slope to an erosion of personal liberties and/or parental autonomy.

The problem is that McGinty and the Liberals have already chosen a policy of appeasement, rather than compromise and common sense. They accepted the unsubstantiated claims of the anti-smoker brigade and their distortions of science and statistics. They failed to recognize that the “science” surrounding the ill-effects of exposure to SHS is less than conclusive and that there is a considerable amount of debate in the scientific community itself on the issues surrounding SHS.

And, if you listen to only one side of an argument, you can reach only one conclusion.

But, historically, policies of appeasement have never worked. Now, having conceded that the province wide ban on smoking in public places was necessary “for the public good”, and that a ban on smoking in cars with children present is necessary to “protect the children,” there is nowhere to go but downhill.

How can McGinty now justify any failure to impose sanctions on smoking in homes with children or even a non-smoking spouse? How will he be able to stand up to the onslaught of the anti-smoker brigade when they start insisting that, if bans are required in public places and private automobiles, they are required even more in the private homes and gardens of the province . . . to protect the spouses and children of smokers.

How can McGinty possibly explain how secondhand smoke is less dangerous to non-smokers and children simply because exposure occurs in a private home?

ASH (Action on Smoking and Health) has been at the forefront of campaigns to ban smoking in public. The organization has chapters all over the world. ASH is also responsible for some of the most outrageously false claims pertaining to the health risks of exposure to secondhand smoke.

This anti-smoker pressure group is now claiming that the British government's public smoking ban has made the problem worse for children because it encouraged parents to light up at home instead of in pubs. They will be making similar claims in the near future about Ontario’s smoking bans; count on it.

Having remained silent on private sector discrimination against smokers in employment, housing and medical treatment, how will McGinty be able to resist the pressure for even more aggressive restrictions on smokers? By adding his voice to efforts to “de-normalize” smokers, he has contributed to the intolerance, invective and discrimination being openly directed at them.

And, to make matters worse, the government is in a state of denial about the socio-economic impact of their "tobacco control" policies; job loss in the hospitality industry, bars and casinos; job loss in the tobacco industry; declining tax revenue; increased costs for policing the growing demand for cheap contraband tobacco.

Will they continue to bury their heads in the sand when the call for bans turns into a call for outright prohibition?

The policy of appeasement has a price. It will be high.

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