Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Minor passenger smokes; smoking driver gets fine

Last August, Ontario passed a feel good law to ban smoking in cars carrying passengers under the age of 16. The intent, of course, was to protect children from exposure to secondhand smoke while being transported in the family car.

Some anti-smoker cultist determined that secondhand smoke in a car contained 23 times the toxins found in a private home, if you kept the air vents and windows tightly closed. This, of course, made it imperative that the government step in to protect the kids.

The law became effective in January, 2009 and police have already issued several tickets.

But, on the more humorous side, the Globe and Mail reported recently that a twenty-year old was stopped and issued a ticket for smoking in a car with a minor passenger. While the cop was writing out the ticket, the passenger, a 15 year old girl, got out of the car and lit up a cigarette.

Lou Rinaldi, MLA (Member of the Legislature Assembly) says this may represent a glitch in the law and wants it examined by Ontario’s Ministry of Health Promotion. Rinaldi has suggested changing the age limit on how young the passenger has to be for the smoking ban to kick in.

Showing that he is every bit as adept with statistics as his anti-smoker colleagues, Rinaldi said: “In 99.9 per cent of cases, the legislation is doing the job.”

Since the law only became effective January, 21 of this year, and a mere handful of tickets have been handed out, one must assume he plucked that statistic from his posterior like so many of the statistics we hear from the anti-smoker crowd. OK, OK, I’m being facetious; it was probably just a figure of speech.

But, obviously, there is something of a glitch in the legislation.

What if it had been the 15 year old who had been smoking in the car? Would the driver have still gotten the ticket for failing to protect the girl from her own secondhand smoke?

Meanwhile, down at city hall, Toronto has approved a by-law prohibiting smoking within 9 metres (roughly 30 feet) of a city playground, splash pad or wading pool. The ban is intended “to protect children who may not be able to move away from second-hand smoke.” The by-law will become effective when the province sets the amount of the fine, which the city is hoping will be around $300.

One councilman suggested the $16,000 cost of erecting signs wasn't the best way to spend scarce tax dollars. “We can't fix our playgrounds, but we'll find the money for these signs.” Uh-huh. Gotta get those signs up, never mind the kids coming home with splinters in their ass from playground equipment in a state of disrepair.

And, there may be a few glitches with this particular by-law as well.

Yesterday was a holiday in Canada; the kids weren’t in school. And the small city park across the street was full of young people. Some were playing basketball, some were kicking a soccer ball around and still another group had congregated in the tot lot, perched on the swings and playground equipment and . . . smoking.

The new “No Smoking” signs haven’t gone up yet, so, technically, no one was breaking the law. The question, however, is whether minors found smoking within 30 feet of the playground can be fined under the terms of the new by-law and if the parents could be held responsible and made to pony up the $300 fine? Or, will they be exempted from prosecution under the Young Offenders Act?

But, these are minor glitches and one group is already proposing a solution. The Canadian Convenience Stores Association (CCSA) is calling on provincial governments to pass a law banning possession and use of tobacco.

Current laws prohibit the sale or distribution of tobacco products to minors. But, it’s quite legal for kids under 19 to possess tobacco and smoke openly.

The CCSA conducted a “study” last year, collecting and examining cigarette butts from schoolyards in Quebec and Ontario. They found that 26% of the butts found in Ontario, and 36% of the butts found in Quebec, were contraband. (Does anyone do any real scientific research these days?)

According to the CCSA: “the fast-growing trade in contraband cigarettes means that young people are getting widespread access to cheap, unregulated and untaxed cigarettes. In 2008 surveys showed nearly 50% of cigarettes in Ontario were illegal.” Who woulda thunk it?

At any rate, they want to make tobacco possession and use illegal for young people.

And, of course, they have a study that shows the combination of tobacco purchase, use and possession laws, combined with existing tobacco control measures can reduce youth smoking. They even have a catchy little acronym for the proposed laws. They’re called purchase, use and possession (PUP) laws.

Says Steve Tennant, CCSA spokesperson: “More and more jurisdictions are turning to bans including Alberta and Nova Scotia and many U.S. states have adopted these kinds of laws including Ohio, New Hampshire, Minnesota and Colorado.”

I wonder if “banning” possession and use by those under 19 is the same as “criminalizing” possession and use.

Naw. It’s probably just my imagination.


son of gaia said...

Hello, "Old Rambler"!

I've enjoyed your commentaries & insights, here. I'm Roy, and I've been covering some of the same issues for a number of years, over at Surreality Times:


Gary K. said...

Keep up the good work!

Hans Wienhold said...

Uncle Block reporting from Canada. I just heard that a private citizen was stopped by the Ontario Provincial Police coming off the Six Nations Indian reserve with some good tasting smokes. Word is they slapped her with something like $800 in fines.

It's getting nasty.