Despite its title, The Smoking Section was never meant to be a blog about smoking. In fact, I have often refrained from writing about the topic for fear of being perceived as a single-issue writer, or, worse, one with an agenda. I’m not, and with luck, I never will be.
However, with a total smoking ban coming into force in just two weeks, in the city I fell in love with in large part because of its notorious joie de vivre, I feel compelled, almost duty-bound, to address the issue. Hell, what do I have to lose?
In the days to come, I will make a number of arguments against Bill 112 and similar legislation that has been implemented elsewhere. These are not intended to be pro-smoking arguments, or even ones that endeavour to convince supporters who feel strongly about the ban. They are simply an attempt to give voice to ideas that have been lost in the increasingly acrimonious debate about smoking.
In another sense, they are also a response to my friend Wade, who asked me recently—and, I believe, sincerely—why I am against the ban. I should mention that Wade is a vegan who chooses not to smoke, who does not drink alcohol or caffeine, and who, I am reasonably certain, avoids drugs as well. Really, our lifestyles couldn’t be more different, but we still like each other a lot and genuinely want to understand each other. This is the spirit that informs what I will write here, and, I hope, what you will write here as well.
By Statistics Canada’s estimate, 24.9 per cent of Quebeckers are daily, or habitual smokers, a figure that does not include the presumably larger number of non-daily, or “social” smokers. This means that there are at least 828,301 smokers in the Montreal Metropolitan area, every one of whom’s relationship to public space will be affected by the ban. Try to remember this as you read on.