When there is a real or perceived problem that becomes a public issue a politicians first instinct, so it seems, is to pass a law. Sometimes a law is necessary, makes sense and is enforceable and other times it just makes you wonder if the legislators have even read or possibly thought through what they are voting on.
What got me thinking of this is British Columbia’s new smoking laws, which come into effect on March 31st. Specifically the section making it illegal to smoke outdoors within 3 metres of “a door, window or air intake”.
Now I make no brief for smokers in general. I was ecstatic when smoking was banned in restaurants and in the workplace. But what happened when the bans took place was the obvious. Smokers moved outside to light up.
In some cases if the weather was inclement they stood in bus stop shelters to feed their habit, to the annoyance of non-smokers also using the shelters while waiting for their transportation. So the law had to be expanded to make it illegal to smoke in bus stop shelters. A new law because of the effects of the old law.
But mostly the smokers left their workplace and stood just outside to smoke and this annoyed the people who had to walk past them and inhale the smoke while going into the building. So the government passed the 3 metre law as noted above. The law purportedly being to stop the outside smoke from being sucked back inside, but which inconveniences the smokers just a little bit more by making them go a bit further from their workplace in order to light up.
Which made me think: Who is going to enforce this “3 metre” prohibition? Do the police have a new responsibility? Will they need to carry measuring tapes to decide whether the law has been broken?
So I went to the Ministry of Health website.
In looking at the Ministry’s website it becomes very apparent that the ongoing legislation is not merely meant to protect non-smokers, but is actually a social engineering project. In fact, the site flat-out states that:
Our goals are to prevent youth and young adults from starting to use tobacco, to encourage and assist tobacco users to quit or reduce their use of tobacco products, focusing on the three groups with the highest rates of tobacco use, and to protect British Columbians, especially infants and children, from exposure to second-hand smoke.
The Tobacco Control Program develops legislation, programs and resources to; prevent tobacco use, help people quit smoking and protect British Columbian’s from exposure to second hand smoke.
So the laws are not just meant to protect ‘me’ from ‘them’ but to protect ‘them’ from ‘themselves’. But in order to do this I see that we now have not only Regional Tobacco Reduction Coordinators spread around the province, but we also have Tobacco Enforcement Officers.
I have no idea what the job specs are for any of these people, but hopefully the new Tobacco Police (?) won’t be issued tasers so they can take down smokers becoming unruly within the 3 metre limit.
A smoker will also need to know what the definition of a ‘window’ is. The law doesn’t appear to differentiate between a window that is, or can be, opened, or a sealed or display window. I guess that will be the job of the Tobacco Enforcement Officers to make that interpretation.
It just seems to me that there should be a rule that in order to pass a new law the government needs to get rid of one old law. At least in that way it would be a zero sum game.