Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Smoking is OK, but SHS in cars is a no-no

Bad public policy, plus the law of unintended consequences, can often lead to inadvertent scenes of jocularity.

For example, a cop stands at the side of the road writing up a ticket. A 20 year old driver has just been “busted” for smoking in a car with a minor under the age of 16 present. The law under which the driver is being charged was supposed to protect minors from the alleged hazards of secondhand smoke. But, while the cop writes up the ticket, the passenger, a 15 year old girl, gets out of the car and legally lights up a cigarette.

It was a bizarre situation. One MPP (Member of the Provincial Parliament) claimed it was simply a “glitch” in the law that should be corrected. Uh-huh.

The amendment to the Smoke Free Ontario Act, known as Bill 69, was originally scheduled for the fall session of the Legislature in October, 2008. But pressure from anti-smoker groups forced the Liberals to deal with the issue earlier by creating a sense of urgency; the same anti-smoker groups which comprised the OTN and OCAT, whose campaign was being funded by the Ontario Ministry of Health Promotion.

"Every day that goes by, there are people smoking in cars with kids," said George Habib, president of the Ontario Lung Association. Janice Willett, head of the Ontario Medical Association, said Ontario can't afford to drag its heels on the issue;
“protecting children's health should be a top priority.”

The point is that, although these organizations should be free to petition the government for redress of any grievance they may have, their activities should not be funded with taxpayer dollars. And, the government should not rely solely on these organizations to formulate public policy.

But, that appears to be exactly what happened.

During debate in the Legislature, Dave Orazietti, who sponsored the amendment, rose to thank the various organizations for their help and support. Orazietti acknowledged that he had been “working with these stakeholders” for over a year. He did so without mentioning OTN or the fact that they were funded by the Ministry of Health Promotion.

Said Orazietti:
“Clearly, public opinion on this and research that has been provided by many of the organizations I previously mentioned have been key in bringing to light the very severe and negative effects that individuals and young people experience in an automobile while tobacco products are being used.”

So, OTN was formed in 2000 by several of these organizations. They were funded by the Ministry for seven years. They conducted the research, lobbied individual members of the Legislature and shaped public opinion. The public was provided with only one side of the debate, which, for all intents and purposes, was over before it started.

The campaign of the OTN, conducted on taxpayer dime, became public policy.

The debate on the issue in the Legislature was farcical. One after another, with few exceptions, MPP’s from all parties rose in the Legislature to support Bill 69. And, it’s pretty clear from reading Hansard (written account of proceedings in the legislature) that protecting the children was not the only thing on the minds of the legislators.

France Gélinas (NDP) wanted an amendment to the legislation that would make the cut-off age 19, raising the spectre of an 18 year old driver being ticketed for smoking in a vehicle in which he was the sole occupant. Another amendment proposed by Ms. Gélinas was that the law be turned into “a health promotion vehicle”. Drivers would be given the option of paying the fine or taking smoking cessation classes.

And, perhaps Ms. Gélinas was anticipating the invention of third hand smoke when she said: “Also, second-hand smoke is absorbed into car furnishings and later let off as gases. We know that stale smoke is even more toxic than fresh cigarette smoke.” OK, maybe the ranting of the “stakeholders” in the OTN and OCAT influenced her judgment.

And just what other "very severe and negative effects" were brought to light by the OTN and individual member organizations.

Well, during the debate, Dave Orazietti provided some evidence that he had perhaps spent too much time listening to OTN propaganda. Said Orazietti;
“Exposure to second-hand smoke in a car for an hour for a child is the equivalent of a child smoking between 17 and 35 cigarettes.”

He emphasized, “[t]'s the equivalent of a child smoking, in an hour, 17 to 35 cigarettes”, noting “the average child in Ontario spends 50 minutes a day in an automobile.” Bullshit and bafflegab.

The few MPPs who dared question the need for Bill 69 were heckled and jeered; dissent was not to be tolerated. The intrusion on personal liberty and parental autonomy was never considered. No one was prepared to oppose a measure designed to “protect the kids.”

Admittedly, I haven’t read the entire debate on this issue. But, from what I have read, the anti-smoker cult is leading our politicians around by the nose. The public record is full of the same gross exaggerations and distortions of science being touted by the “stakeholders”; the anti-smoker extremists.

Smokers are being openly discriminated against in areas such as employment, housing and medical care.

The government provides funding to lobby groups to conduct their de-normalization campaigns. The lobby groups demand the government impose draconian bans to further ostracize smokers. And, the smokers themselves are expected to foot the bill, in the form of confiscatory tobacco taxes.

To hell with them and the horse they rode in on. This is one smoking taxpayer who won’t pay their extortion while being relegated to the status of second class citizen. It’s the least I can do to preserve freedom and democracy.

Read part of the March 12, 2008 “Debate” in Hansard.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I have just heard today the Mcguinty is going to go after "Big Tobacco" for health care money again.

What a tool!