Cigarettes and superheroes

By Matt Oakes

Smoking stinks and everybody knows it. So why do so many of us do it?

Simple. Because we can and because it’s cool.

Smokers are a social bunch, and being social is cool. We form crowds in bars and doorways while jealous non-smokers walk by wishing they had as many friends as we do. Research shows we also have twice as many sexual partners as non-smokers and more sex is cool. In addition, smokers can remain conscious in a carbon monoxide-enriched environment up to 10 times longer than a non-smoker. That means we can rescue a non-smoking friend from certain death in a monoxide-infested garage.

Being a superhero is very cool.

Still, we all know that too much smoking is bad for us, that is obvious. However, too much of anything is bad for us. Too much coffee, too much alcohol, even too many carrots can turn you orange–not good.

Smokers are a humble bunch, we just want to be left alone to smoke. Unfortunately, a proposed city-wide smoking ban threatens our superpowers. Adequate anti-smoking laws already exist to protect Calgary’s citizens and additional regulation to ban smoking borders on the tyrannical.

The new bylaw misses the bigger picture. We live in a free society and have freedom of choice. The state cannot tell us how to live. Economics teaches that if there is a demand, there will be a supply and today’s Calgary has a healthy supply of non-smoking establishments. If you don’t want to be exposed to smoke don’t go to places where smoking is permitted. If non-smoking pubs and night clubs were economically viable they would be on every corner.

What’s more, the anti-smoking lobby is a totalitarian collective. They have no regard for a healthy minority. They would have you believe that smokers are not Canadian citizens and do not deserve to be protected by the same Charter of Rights and Freedoms they hide behind. They use images of babies choking in smoke-filled rooms to get you mad. This is a problem as children should not be exposed to second-hand smoke, but it is not the cigarette’s fault it is in the same room as a child, it is the fault of the parents who smoke them.

Every day we assume a certain amount of risk. By getting out of bed we expose ourselves to a plethora of hazardous activities. Did you know fatal asthma attacks can be induced by certain types of perfume? What about airborne viruses and bacteria? Should we ban all perfume-wearing citizens and anyone with a cold from public places? Of course not.

Considering there has been inadequate research on the specific effects of second-hand smoke, what the issue really boils down to is a fight over smell.

Then there is the ever-present issue of health care. The anti-smoking propaganda would have you believe that smokers are a great burden to the heath care system. The truth is cigarette taxes generate billions of dollars for the federal government. Money that, if properly distributed, could easily pay for the alleged adverse health costs. Plus, the anti-smoking campaign is ignoring the obvious: Smokers consume less health care and pensions in their old age because they tend to die earlier.

If the proposed city-wide ban becomes law I guess it will be time to get the patch–The equally hazardous, more addictive and more expensive alternative to cigarettes. At least I will support a different industry. Goodbye tobacco cartel, hello pharmaceutical cartel.

Like Superman and kryptonite, the patch will render me powerless. And that’s not cool.

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