It’s a Ranty Kind of Day – Smoking in Metro Vancouver Parks

There are so many things I could rant about today like my mother, work, illness, traffic, life in general. Sadly, I am not free to rant about what I really want to rant about unless I password protect it and I don’t really like to do that. So, I will rant about yet another CBC BC Almanac call in program. Generally, the quality of these programs is a little bit higher than you would normally hear on commercial radio. That statement was true until today. I really felt bad for Mark Forsythe today!

The topic of the second part of the show was Metro Vancouver considering a ban on smoking in all parks, beaches and campgrounds. (you can listen here) The guest Mark had on was Langely City Councillor Gayle Martin who chairs the parks committee. After Mark introduced her and her position, he asked her to comment on the issue. It went downhill from there… Her first response was that she was against it – plain and simple. She sees it as an imposition on the rights of people to do something that is legal. She actually used the following analogy: you wouldn’t tell a fat person to stay off the trails because they sweat and then they smell would you? I just about choked.

Then the calls started. Most callers did not agree with the ban and saw no reason for it. What really struck me was the complete lack of sophistication in the views being put forth. Martin kept saying things like: most smokers would not light up in front of a swing set in a kids’ park. When the issue of allergies was brought up she asked why should someone with health issues trump a smoker’s right to smoke? It was utterly bizarre. She could not seem to figure out that for some people, cigarette smoke is a serious hazard. Then there were the people who equated smoking with driving a car. If you drive a car, their argument goes then you have no right to criticize a smoker. Other callers suggested that tobacco companies be outlawed and tobacco made illegal if people were not going to be allowed to smoke wherever they want.

One of the things that was completely missed was the effect on children seeing people smoke. If I had children, there is no way I would want them to be anywhere someone was smoking. It just would not happen. I wouldn’t want them breathing in second-hand smoke, nor would I want them thinking that smoking was acceptable. I am an ex-smoker so I really do not buy into the idea that smokers can be considerate with their addiction. I was a smoker and I was never considerate to anyone. It was clear to me that if you were in my car or my house I was going to smoke and I didn’t really care if you objected.

I hope Metro Vancouver adopts a bylaw that bans smoking in parks, campgrounds and beaches. We do not need the next generation thinking that smoking is cool. People should be free to go to public areas, all supported by our mutual tax dollars, and not have to risk their health so that addicts can engage in their addiction.

It’s a Ranty Kind of Day!

At least 3 topics have crossed my mind for a rant today. The first and second topics would have been driving rants. However, there was something much more pressing today. Once again, this rant is courtesy of the CBC and its BC Almanac program.

At the top of the hour, Susan McNamee was interviewing Lembi Buchanan from the BC Coalition for Action on Alcohol Reform.[1] The coalition would like to see the price of 7% alcohol content coolers raised to reflect the alcohol content. The argument they are using is that it is generally young women who are drinking the coolers with the 7% alcohol content while their boyfriends are drinking 5% beer. Buchanan pointed out that women metabolize alcohol differently[2] and the increased alcohol content jeopardizes their safety. She argues that if the price was increased the amount of alcohol consumed by young people would decrease. She also believes that strategic price increases on easy to drink, sweet beverages will reduce binge drinking.

There are an incredible number of assumptions made by Buchanan and her coalition. The idea that young women have no idea that they are consuming more alcohol than their boyfriends is insulting. Does she seriously think they are that stupid?  Almost all of the callers completely disagreed with Buchanan. They cited teenage behavior, correctly pointing out, that teens will continue to drink regardless of the price. Teens continue to smoke no matter how much they cost.

After several callers had disagreed with her she pointed to a study that was done in Saskatchewan. It was at this point it appeared that the real reason for raising the price of the ciders and coolers was to reduce drunk and disorderly issues in low-income housing areas. Apparently, SK has introduced and they noticed, very quickly, that police did not attend as many times for alcohol related issues in low-income areas.

Personally, I find it very insulting that people who are less affluent should not have free access to alcohol. They were certainly not talking about raising the price on wines and spirits that ‘other’ people drink. It would seem that the whole argument about binge drinking and teenage girls was a ruse to further control the poor. Not having enough money in this society means that your power and choices are systematically eroded.

First there is the welfare system, which is incredibly punitive and intrusive. The very act of deciding if someone should receive money from the state involves a great deal of power. The civil servants making these decisions try to be unbiased however it is pretty much impossible.[3] Discrimination against the poor is pervasive in this country courtesy of the ‘Protestant Work Ethic’ upon which this country formed. Many people believe that the poor are not deserving of any kind of compassion and that they just need to ‘pull themselves up by the bootstraps.’ Enter the BC Coalition for Action on Alcohol Reform who now wants to try to prevent them from consuming inexpensive alcohol. Heaven forbid the poor be able to relax and enjoy a drink! Lembi Buchanan also regaled the CBC listeners with tales of her own alcohol assumption, which included frequent glasses of Jack Daniels and wine every night with dinner. I find it interesting that Buchanan consumes copious amounts of expensive alcohol while trying to restrict access to others in a presumably lower socio-economic class. Perhaps she believes that her alcohol consumption is civilized while downing several 7% alcohol vodka coolers.

The bottom line is that income status is irrelevant when it comes to alcohol abuse. Excessive drinking has the same consequences and effects on families regardless of socio-economic class. In fact, they may be worse in affluent families who are trying to avoid the stigma of alcohol related issues affecting their families.

If we, as a society, are to get serious about alcohol reform we need to look at a continuum of care. We need to focus on education and prevention. Children need to understand the effects of binge drinking and parents must ensure that their drinking is not adversely affecting their families. Finally, the government can do its part and raise the price of all alcohol. The money raised from the extra taxes can then be used to fund alcohol treatment programs and other services to assist families impacted by alcohol.

I am unclear what is motivating the BC Coalition for Action on Alcohol Reform. Their lack of website does not help in trying to figure out what they are trying to accomplish. I would also be very interested to find out what is motivating them, who funds them and what they want to accomplish besides controlling the poor. If the callers on BC Almanac are any indication, it seems that people are not buying what the BC Coalition for Action on Alcohol Reform is selling.

[1] I cannot seem to find a website for these people.

[2] She never says how women metabolize alcohol differently.

[3] I worked in a welfare office for 7 years.