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Last gasps

The new smoking ban goes too far, says Lezlie Lowe.


December 1. No more smoking. No puffing in any indoor public places. No more separate smoking rooms. Even outdoor patios are butting out.

I gotta say, I’m kinda bummed.

The scene is Tom’s Little Havana. Friday night. And it’s so busy I can’t get a table. I can’t even get a chair. I stop to chat with friends before skulking out the door and…huh?...mmmm…what is that potent fragrance? What is it? Not cigar smoke. No. It’s cigarettes.

And before I even consider what I’m doing, I inhale a great gasping lungful. And mmmm. It’s good.

The significance only strikes me the following day. The putrid habit of hauling on a nicotine stick has finally made a great hacking exit from the public lives of Haligonians. And I know because for the first time ever, my non-smoking nose is able to enjoy the sweet smell of cigarette smoke.

The end of smoking has been coming for a while.

The fantasy world of no-smoking sections on airplanes and in restaurants has given way to huddled masses of smokers congregated in the doorways of public buildings. Now, smokers have been forced to the sidewalks. As the final legislative bits and bobs of the 2002-introduced Smoke-free Places Act roll out December 1, it’s only getting harder to find a place to go out and smoke.

Die-hard smokers haven’t only been pushed to the periphery geographically speaking. They are social pariahs, except in their own circles. (Please understand, this isn’t a personal attack. Some of the people I love most in the world are unrepentant, inveterate smokers. I’ve got a love-the-sinner-hate-the-sin vibe going here.)

The result of this social and physical exile of our province’s cancer-puffers has meant this: whether or not to breathe in second-hand smoke is finally a real choice.

Until recently, smokers have had the upper hand where they shouldn’t (aside from their pitiable bowing down to the monstro-mega-corps that package and market cigs). Individual smokers have always decided on behalf of all those around them who would join in on sucking back their noxious, cancer-causing chemicals.

But these days, no smoker expects to go to any public place and have her dirty habit tolerated. And the only places smoking is OK—by design, like Tom’s Little Havana, or by legal loophole, like the smoke- infiltrated stretches of sidewalk in front of the Dalhousie University Student Union Building—are so few and far between, they’re avoidable.

Smoking has become a mere sideshow act in our public lives. It is a novelty. Just as it should be. We’ve reached the elusive golden mean when it comes to smoking. Yes, I’m talking about Aristotle, but it’s simple enough to understand. The golden mean is simply the idea of not going to extremes. Regarding smoking—if you want to do it, you can; if you don’t want to, you don’t have to.

But that changes December 1.

So after a lifetime of railing against this stomach-turning habit, I’m worried the final drags of the Smoke-free Places Act are going too far. No smoking in any indoor public place whatsoever? Extreme. Aristotle would not be pleased.

Me either.

Come the deepest darkest days of winter, I’ll be pining for the occasional nip in to Tom’s Little Havana on a Friday night to enjoy a glass of wine and suck back some sweet second-hand smoke. But I guess the best thing to do now is get there early to get a table Friday night.

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