Nicholas Simon: Vancouver smoking ban in parks and on beaches is unfair to us all

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      Last week, I sat at Third Beach with five friends and lazed in the sun. We joked around, discreetly sipped beers, and discussed random topics. At some point, I noticed our laughter and banter occurred between a good many cigarettes. One after the other, my friends would puff and chuckle the smoke out of their noses or speak while it escaped their lips. The smoke didn’t bother me, but a thought did: this is the last summer we will legally be allowed to do this.

      On September 1, Vancouver imposed a no-smoking bylaw in all its parks and beaches. That scares me. Ironically, I am not a smoker; I do not approve of smoking. However, I do stand by the belief that Canadians should have the opportunity to choose the lifestyle that they prefer—as long as that lifestyle doesn’t harm the innocent. I believe this choice, and the protection of it, makes us Canadian.

      A bylaw like this is not to be taken lightly. Many share a welcoming attitude to the new ban. I understand why, and I am not writing this in an attempt to argue the safety of public smoking. We all know that smoking kills, it is bad, shame on you. But smoking or any legal activity should not be discriminated against because it is unhealthy or simply because we do not like it.

      The government collects massively high taxes from smokers yet continues to restrict the places people can enjoy a cancer stick. Smokers are not doing anything wrong. Why are they being punished?

      In 2008, a smoking ban took effect on Vancouver restaurant and nightclub patios. In 2000, an earlier ban was imposed on indoor smoking, eliminating smoking sections and detoxifying indoor areas in businesses. This is a growing trend—one that may eventually see smokers reduced to smoking huddled in an open-air glass box erected high in the sky, neither indoor nor outdoor.

      Now this in itself does not disturb me. The part that does bother me is the assault on civic liberties, the government declaring what we are allowed to do. What aspects of our life can be snatched away because someone deems them to be inappropriate or unsafe? Where do we draw the line?

      I am not sure if I am more afraid of what Canada is becoming or of what it is. Perhaps the ideas of choice and freedom are simply illusions. It is starting to feel like we are only free to choose from the menu of what we are allowed to do. Now what if the things I like are not offered on that menu? Like hanging with my chain-smoking friends at the beach? I fear one day they will tell me that I cannot listen to hip-hop music in public, and then that I cannot play it loudly from my car, until a total ban on playing hip-hop music in Canada is imposed and I am confined to my iPod. We should be able to decide the way that we live and respect the choices of fellow Canadians despite our personal views.

      In 2003, U.S. “shock jock” Tom Leykis was booted from Vancouver-based MOJO radio. The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council accused the show of containing material discriminatory against women and of being inappropriate for Canadian listeners. The show was edgy but Leykis’s message was good: respect yourself or why should anyone else? The cancellation stemmed from a complaint reviewed by the CBSC, and eventually led to the death of MOJO.

      At the time, I was a 20-something student eager to hear the insights and perspectives of Leykis and his callers. Before it was snatched away, the program encouraged me to form opinions on dating, the portrayal of women and their role in society, and premarital sex.

      This listener may have spoken for some Vancouverites, but my views in no way speak for all Vancouverites. It is disturbing how people cannot simply turn to another station if something bothers them. It surprises me these people do not feel there should be a place for other people that do enjoy this—to enjoy it. I fear we live in a system where people want growing amounts of control on things they do not agree with.

      That is a scary thought. A thought I was reminded of that day on the beach.

      This may seem like an exaggeration based on one smoking bylaw in Vancouver, but it’s a slippery slope. There should be a place for Canadians to enjoy the things that they choose to enjoy. Any individual, bylaw, or group that stands in the way of this stands in the way of being Canadian.

      There are alternative solutions to issuing a full-out ban: designated smoking areas in beaches and parks, and an increased amount of ashtrays for butts would be a start. We can achieve desired public-safety goals without infringing on the civic rights of our Canadian brethren. Those rights matter. Smokers in Vancouver are being treated unfairly, and as Canadians we need to stand up for them. My beach party depends on it.

      Nicholas Simon writes about music for Beyond Robson.


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      Sep 2, 2010 at 1:55pm

      damn, sucks to be a smoker


      Sep 2, 2010 at 1:58pm

      We don't allow people to ride around on motorbikes or cars or practice shooting their handguns in City of Vancouver Parks either, even though they are all perfectly legal activities.

      Which is to say society restricts all sorts of legal activities.

      Thank You!

      Sep 2, 2010 at 1:59pm

      I was beginning to think I'm alone in this meek to-eager-to-comply-lets-tar-and-feather-all-the-smokers wanker city of hours. For a city where people openly smoke joints pretty much anywhere they feel like it, it sure is bizzare to try and stop someone from having a butt on the beach. We should probably ban cars before moving on to smoking. sheesh!

      Travis Nicholson

      Sep 2, 2010 at 2:06pm

      "I fear we live in a system where people want growing amounts of control on things they do not agree with."

      Hear hear!

      Thomas Parsons

      Sep 2, 2010 at 2:26pm

      I am sorry, but you are comparing apples and oranges. Free speech and the right to smoke wherever they want is insane.

      I frequent the parks and beaches and look forward to the times that I can walk down the beach without walking through discarded cigarette butts, or walking the seawall behind a smoker puffing out smoke behind them in my direction.

      I say hooray for the Vancouver Parks Board. Great decision.


      Sep 2, 2010 at 2:41pm

      I've said it before and I'll say it again.

      The pretext for which this by-law was passed, the reasoning of it, doesn't line up.

      Too many butts on the beaches and parks... Then why not enforce the littering laws?

      Butts arn't an issue if it's self-rolled and without a filter though...

      Oh but it's about 2nd hand smoke being cancerous and a leading cause of death / cancer... then why are "other weeds" included when many other smokable substances DON'T cause cancer (first hand or second hand)?

      The reasoning is flawed and doesn't stand up to simplistic and straightforward scrutiny.

      It's clearly about city image and garnering votes. If it's about something else, please clarify and explain the rational. Otherwise, the law should be amended.

      No, thank you!

      Sep 2, 2010 at 2:41pm

      I think the biggest issue that park users were taking with smoking on beaches were the cigarette butts that were being left in the sand, sometimes still lit. These are very hard to clean up and are often found by little fingers and feet.

      Ernst Thomas

      Sep 2, 2010 at 3:01pm

      Great piece Bro!! Ever thought about writting full time..this could potentially be an exceptional career move. Keep up the good work..




      Sep 2, 2010 at 3:02pm

      Good point regarding slippery slopes.

      But seriously I am sick of breathing other people's poisons when I am at a park or beach. It's disgustingly stinky and ruins the experience.

      I feel for smokers -- they lack the self control to end a bad habit.

      But they should not punish those around them with nasty fumes.

      14 7Rating: +7

      Nicholas R Simon

      Sep 2, 2010 at 3:11pm

      @Thomas Parson. I never said people should have the right to smoke wherever they want. You should reread the article. It is about restriction and rules and the opinions of some affecting the rest. Freedom of speech isnt represented at all.

      There is a small piece of me that likes the ban. Small. But wait until someone rallies to ban something you are into and we will see how you look forward to that treatment. It is easy to pick on smokers because smoking is gross.