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Smoke for thought

Some of us of a certain vintage may remember growing up in a household where both parents smoked. A lot.

The house always had that reeky tobacco smell. The ashtrays were always full, and the smoke clung to the air like morning dew on the grass. It was completely natural to ride around in the family car, in the middle of winter, with the windows rolled up, while the adults puffed away on their Craven As. Heck, it was completely commonplace for kids to go down to the corner store and buy smokes for their parents.

Those who don’t remember the good old days are likely horrified by how people treated cigarette smoking back then. Some would say it was a form of child abuse, and with what we know about the dangers of cigarette smoking today, there’s a good argument to be made that it was.

Society has come a long way over the decades, but it hasn’t done so without some kicking and screaming.

When a tobacco smoking ban was introduced in St. Albert in 2005, there was public outrage. The bingo hall-goers, casino players, and bar and restaurant patrons were up in arms. The ban surely was going to impact peoples’ livelihood. It was a pretty big deal.

Today, that big deal is a vague memory. Society has adjusted, and in the process has become more educated about the dangers of tobacco smoking as well as second-hand smoke.

While we may look back at 2005 with a smug smile, we are again faced with what some would say is a very divisive issue: the possibility of a total tobacco smoking and vaping ban in all of St. Albert’s public places, which includes parks, the trails and public sidewalks.

Those who would defend tobacco smoking and vaping in public places would use the age-old argument that it is their right. Prior to 2005, it was also their right to smoke in a restaurant or at the blackjack table. Times change, and so do social mores.

There has been a steady and persistent move over the last two-plus decades in Canada to take the cool out of the Marlboro Man. Tobacco companies can’t advertise their products, and they’re forced to place unsightly warnings on their packaging that tells people cigarettes cause cancer and harm babies.

With what we know today about tobacco smoking and vaping, city council has only one option, and that’s to pass a bylaw that would prohibit tobacco smoking and vaping in public places. But alas, survey-happy council is at it once again, surveying people to see if there’s an appetite for a public places ban. A survey is a tool council uses so it can avoid making decisions that will undoubtedly ruffle a few feathers.

Council is elected to lead and make decisions, and this decision is obvious. Five years from now, we should be able to look back at 2019 with a smug smile.

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