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Monday, December 29, 2008

The noose tightens on Alberta smokers

Beginning January 1st of the New Year, the sale of all tobacco products in pharmacies, stores that contain pharmacies, health-care facilities and public post-secondary institutions will be prohibited.

This is the government’s final step in implementing Alberta’s Tobacco Reduction Act. On January 1st of 2008, smoking was banned in all Alberta workplaces and public places. Smoking within five metres of a doorway, window or air intake of a public place or workplace is also prohibited. As of July 1, the retail display and advertising of tobacco products was banned in the province.

“The Tobacco Reduction Act is one of the key elements of our strategy to reduce tobacco use and the harmful effects of second-hand smoke,” said Dr. Raj Sherman, Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Health and Wellness. “The majority of Albertans support legislation to restrict tobacco sales and reduce tobacco consumption, especially among young people.”

“Our commitment is to creating a healthier province with a sustainable health-care system,” said Dr. Sherman. “As such we must take aggressive action to promote health and reduce the harm associated with tobacco use.”

Dr. Sherman, MLA for Edmonton-Meadowlark, is helping to remind us that an unbearable cost of universal public healthcare is individual liberty, among other things.

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on December 29, 2008 | Permalink

Comments

This legislation is "Anti-Smoker" as well as anti smoking. And like all government restrictions and prohibitions it will pave the way for an underground (criminal?) economy.

Posted by: JC | 2008-12-29 12:54:07 PM


JC, you are right. To what degree, we will see.

Although I MUCH prefer going places where there is no smoking, I prefer even more personal responsibility and the preservation of property rights.

Posted by: TM | 2008-12-29 1:15:05 PM


Alberta, the land of the free. It used to be that Alberta was about the only sane province in this country, but I see no difference anymore. Sad.

Posted by: Alain | 2008-12-29 2:41:23 PM


I'm not sure what to think about this issue. To be sure, there is an individual liberty aspect which must be considered. Yet there is also the problem of where do you draw the line on questions which over-arch the rights(s) of individual(s)? As me old Dad used to say, "Your right to swing your fist in the air ends at the tip of my nose."

I'm not really sure where the line exists, but I must confess I lean towards anti-smoking. You may have the right to smoke, but as smoking necessarily causes a (perhaps) serious discomfort for me, who's right, in public settings, becomes paramount?

In short, sometimes rights have to be prioritized. In your own home or on your own property, smoke whenever and how much you want. But as we all have to, at one time or another, venture into public places, banning smoking in that area seems a reasonable stand. I do not see where I have to smell (or smell like) smoke in support of your rights.

Posted by: Charles Martin Cosgriff | 2008-12-29 4:54:54 PM


venture into public places, banning smoking in that area seems a reasonable stand. I do not see where I have to smell (or smell like) smoke in support of your rights.


Posted by: Charles Martin Cosgriff | 2008-12-29 4:54:54 PM

This situation already stands Charles. The laws prohibiting where you can smoke in public are up and running. What this article points to is the governments intervention into the business arena as to who can and who can't sell tobacco products. What's next? Who's rights will be on the hit list after they are done with smokers and purveyors of tobacco products?
This isn't really about smoking, its about an extension of government power.

Posted by: JC | 2008-12-29 5:58:23 PM


While my previous comment on what Alberta has become was not based solely on the smoking issue, I note again the confusion from some concerning rights. It has become "as long as you do not deny me my rights, you can ban others' rights". Those who demand smoking bans have no concern what it cost others to grant them their "right", and of course it cost them nothing whatsoever. The owner of the property ends up with all the cost but of course the ban-it crowd does not give a damn.

Posted by: Alain | 2008-12-29 6:27:53 PM


Charles Martin Cosgriff: "In your own home or on your own property, smoke whenever and how much you want."

Yes that's a good compromise position, but governments should recognize the fact that businesses are also private property. Business owners are the only people with legitimacy to decide whether customers should be allowed to smoke in a bar, restaurant, etc.

Now that the vast majority of Canadians are non-smokers, economic forces should be enough to make most places non-smoking. But that shouldn't preclude a few businesses from catering specifically to those who do choose to smoke.

Under the kind of legislation that Alberta (and BC) has passed, even cigar shops can't allow their customers to smoke samples, etc. indoors. How illogical is that?

I am a non-smoker with no great fondness for second-hand smoke, but I completely agree with Matthew that these kinds of laws are an assault on personal and economic freedom.

Posted by: Jeremy Maddock | 2008-12-29 8:35:49 PM


And the nanny state marches on.

Posted by: peterj | 2008-12-29 9:58:36 PM


< This isn't really about smoking, its about an extension of government power.>>

A fair point, to be sure, JC. But an awful lot of businesses are the sort where the public may have the need to attend, just the same. Office buildings and the like; professional businesses. I think part of my concern here lies in the slippery slope argument: we tend to think that once on a road there is never variation or return or doubling back. Sometimes the tread into, well, in this case a debate about individual rights in a particular instance, doesn't necessarily mean a threat to all individual rights in general. History is not a straight line leading inevitably towards a certain point.

I thought the article spoke also of banning smoking in workplaces and such as well; I have to admit I missed the part about who can and cannot sell tobacco products, and I concede that point. Those who want to sell them should be able to.

Posted by: Charles Martin Cosgriff | 2008-12-30 5:57:15 AM


I too enjoy smoke-free spaces, but this is really about property rights.

Property rights give you the authority to either accommodate smoking or prohibit it.

The trend was headed toward smoke-free restaurants before the tobacco reduction initiatives by the province. When the ban was introduced in Edmonton, for instance, there were over 100 smoke-free restaurants, and that number was growing. The market was responding to changing lifestyles -- but politicians wanted to take credit for the change and decided to get in front of the parade.

The other issue is that public health and safety objectives often conflict with individual rights. As soon as universal healthcare was introduced, it allowed busy-bodies to say "I shouldn't have to pay for your unhealthy lifestyle" and then demand some petty restriction on our liberty. And, of course, it's true. Nobody should have to pay for someone else's unhealty lifestyle, which is a good reason to return to market-based healthcare delivery.

Dr. Sherman is essentially saying that to keep public healthcare sustainable -- that is, to contain costs -- his government is prepared to use coercive measures to control behavior and interfere with property rights and markets.

Posted by: Matthew Johnston | 2008-12-30 9:53:46 AM


Matthew, you are correct in saying that the control zealots use the universal healthcare as an excuse, however that alone does not explain the situation. The US has no universal healthcare yet they have no shortage of the same kind of control zealots. The problem lies much deeper I fear, for this is a group who have no grasp of individual freedom nor the end result of allowing and encouraging collectivist statism no different than the old Soviet Union.

Posted by: Alain | 2008-12-30 12:13:39 PM


<

Property rights give you the authority to either accommodate smoking or prohibit it.>>

I'm going to go out on a limb here and point out that right and wrong do not hinge on property rights. Who owns what cannot ultimately dictate morality. The actions in and of themselves must be right.

Posted by: Charles Martin Cosgriff | 2008-12-31 11:52:44 AM


The actions in and of themselves must be right.

Posted by: Charles Martin Cosgriff | 2008-12-31 11:52:44 AM

Right according to whom? The Government?

Not putting words in your mouth, but its my opinion that the Government has no place in the issue. It simply isn't their job to dictate morality or any other form of social engineering.

That's probably not what you meant anyway. :)

Posted by: JC | 2008-12-31 5:10:08 PM


<

Posted by: Charles Martin Cosgriff | 2008-12-31 11:52:44 AM

Right according to whom? The Government?

Not putting words in your mouth, but its my opinion that the Government has no place in the issue. It simply isn't their job to dictate morality or any other form of social engineering.

That's probably not what you meant anyway. :)>>

Ohhh, JC, now we hit on the crux of many an issue, in my book. As simply as I hope I can put it, while I believe that individual rights must be respected to the greatest degree possible, and that property rights are perhaps the greatest of individual rights (if you cannot own you cannot be free), the individual nevertheless cannot be the ultimate arbiter of right and wrong. All that would lead to is either anarchy, or a might makes right world.

So, to answer your questions in particular, although the government may be right or wrong on an issue, as a moral person government itself is subject to the same standards of right and wrong as reason may dictate, as is any given individual. Right and wrong are determined by Right Reason, which presumably any given person is at least capable of understanding. So no, government AS government does not determine what's right.

Government has no place on many issues, and I admit that on the smoking question its place is subject to debate. Part of me does indeed feel that smoking regulations for private property should be left to property owners generally. But as to dictating morality, doesn't government do that, legitimately, in many areas anyway, areas we would not call outside of its province (no pun intended, this having to do with Alberta originally, but I couldn't resist)? Making us drive on the left side of the road for the sake of order is essentially a moral judgment that order on the highways is good and necessary; this before we even get to questions of robbery or murder, things which are clearly moral judgments based on something beyond the person. I guess I have to say that perhaps I can see the government as affirming morality provided it sticks to only those areas without whose regulation, I believe Aquinas taught, civil society could not function.

Social engineering as such would fall under those parameters too, although the term worries me.

As you believe government has no place on the question of who smokes where with regard to private property, I freely admit I may be wrong on that. Reasonable men may differ on certain things, I should hope!

Posted by: Charles Martin Cosgriff | 2009-01-01 10:26:43 AM


Government has no place on many issues, and I admit that on the smoking question its place is subject to debate. Part of me does indeed feel that smoking regulations for private property should be left to property owners generally. But as to dictating morality, doesn't government do that, legitimately, in many areas anyway, areas we would not call outside of its province (no pun intended, this having to do with Alberta originally, but I couldn't resist)?
Posted by: Charles Martin Cosgriff | 2009-01-01 10:26:43 AM

Traffic laws such as they are make pretty good sense and they are generally acceptable to all. Which legitimizes them.
I believe that one of the legitimate functions of government is law enforcement. But even then I believe that government has left the arena of justice and moved into areas where they have no legitimate authority. They are for example able to dictate laws of control on what should be considered private property. They are able to do this because private property doesn't actually exist in Canada. With no private property rights, we are in effect squatters on government domain at all times and our "law" system reflects that. So at what point have we left morality behind?

And yes, reasonable men may and should differ on issues. Its how we come to a consencus.


Posted by: JC | 2009-01-01 7:40:12 PM


JC, don't get wrong: governments almost always go too far in dictating what can and cannot be done by the people. I have no disagreement there. I just think the framework I work from is different, and more objectively justifiable. So I still have to quibble about what may be 'generally acceptable to all'. It's really just a different form of the question. Government does not decide right and wrong per se; how then is consensus legitimate in itself? Why should I listen to other men and women who theoretically are no better than I in figuring out what actions to take?

I was unaware that there is effectively no private property in Canada (I live in Detroit, MI). That's deplorable, and I fear we are reaching that point here. Surely, as you say, the government has left the arena of justice and lept into areas outside her best function.

Posted by: Charles Martin Cosgriff | 2009-01-02 6:19:45 AM



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