Monday, June 05, 2006

Week one: At a remove

In a veritable tour de force, Nick writes:

Smokers are a dangerous bunch—looking at their filth-encrusted hair (w/ snakes) and gnarled teeth you get the disquieting sense that they could snap at any moment, even in the times when they get their fix on schedule. The cumulative effects of these smoking bans might not be known for another thirty years, but the damage to the smoker’s psyche is done. They are filth, scum, flaneurs, reprobates who probably have long hair and who partake in extramarital coitus. But now we’ve made them angry, and while we’re all fussing over our health and spending our days at the gym and our nights marinating in our post-industrial existential torment, smokers are sitting on fire escapes and plotting our bourgeois demise.

Yeah, I’d say that’s about it in a nutshell.

For those of you keeping score, I have not set foot in a bar, café, or other public drinking establishment since last Tuesday. I briefly considered venturing out onto an uncovered terrasse on Friday evening, but then it rained so I didn’t.

I did, however, attend Oblivia’s birthday party on Saturday, at which I learned that the barmaid at Le Bifteck was slapped with a fine at exactly 12:05 AM on May 31st, not more than ten hours after she had been ticketed for jaywalking. If you see her, please give her a hug, or better, your spare change.

Since then, Montreal’s dispossessed smokers have been threatened with fines for littering, charges for public mischief, and arrest for disturbing the peace. It seems that even the sidewalks are to be heavily policed, not by municipal officers, who claim to have better things to do with their time, but by our fellow citizens, who are being exhorted to make use of a snitch line administered by the Service de la lutte au tabagisme.

City of sin, was it?

It is, I am sorry to say, exactly as I predicted. Despite the stated wishes of certain of my fellow citizens, Bill 112 did not make 1,884,581 Quebec smokers instantly vanish into thin air. It has, though, forced us out of the womb-like confines of our favourite watering holes and into the bright light of public space, where we are apparently to be relentlessly harangued for having the audacity to still exist.

I guarantee you, it will only get worse from here.

I am not alone in my pessimism. Bob, God love him, recently brought this blog to my attention, which is authored by a tobacco control researcher and professor of public health at Boston University. In a recent post, he states:

There is a faction within the tobacco control movement that I believe is motivated primarily by a hate for smokers and nothing short of prohibition will ever satisfy this element. But since anyone who suggests that perhaps we're going down the wrong path will be censored or attacked, this element will never truly be challenged. And most scary, this element now seems to be the driving force, or a major driving force, within the movement. I think, therefore, that it is not inaccurate to state that the anti-smoking movement is now on a path towards advocating prohibition. As such, the anti-smoking movement is leaving the realm of public health and becoming more of a crusade. I think we need to turn back now before it's too late.

Until then, I shall patiently await the inevitable arrival of Montreal’s first smoke-easies, where I will once again be free to partake of the “neo-bohemian tonic of the spirit” that fuels this blog. If I didn’t think he’d immediately collapse into a fit of protracted wheezing, I’d invite Nick to meet me at one of them for a drink. And then I’d ask him to marry me.


Anonymous said...

Hi Vila,


Vila H. said...

Ah, my first government inspector.

Frank said...

I've really enjoyed reading all that you've written about this. I especially like the three-part series. It was quite touching.

Vila H. said...

Thanks, Frank. You just made my day.

Basil said...

I am a first time reader, and I have to congratulate you on an excellent blog!

I am a non-repentant Montreal smoker as well- I'm going to have to start reading this regularly.

berlynn said...

Been there, done that. And whined about it, too.

But I've been free of the addiction for 8 years now and I've never felt better. And, the people around me appreciate it, too.

So, uh, get over it.

Vila H. said...

Hey, everybody, it's another left-leaning smoker! Welcome aboard, Basil--and, incidentally, I'm so with you on the Ben Mulroney thing.

Vila H. said...

Berlynn--It is one thing to take away my right to smoke, but it is quite another to revoke my right to whine about it. Or does your committment to Politics'n'Poetry only extend as far as your own? Nevertheless, I congratulate you on your personal triumph over your addiction. Without question, you are a better person for it.

Frank said...

Vila, it would be cool to see you at YULblog tomorrow, err, tonight. I'll buy you a drink (as will Nick).

Vila H. said...

Now, that's an offer I can't refuse! Save me a seat by the nearest door, window, or fire escape, will you? :-)

Basil said...

Thanks for the warm welcome Vila :) Nice to see you again Berlynn ;)

Michel Leblanc said...

I am a smoker who is also fed-up with the non-smokers radical facism. Feels good to read someone that is also feeling bad about the new law. Let's start a smoker's revolt!

Vila H. said...

Yeah! Woo! Dans la rue!

Oh wait, we're already dans la rue. Um, now what?