1996
CBC.CA MILESTONES

Worth Repeating:
Toronto Smoking Ban

from CBC.ca archives | Wed, 3 Jul 1996

From a column by Rex Murphy

BRIAN STEWART: Well, just about everyone has an opinion on Toronto's hard-line position, including the National's Rex Murphy, who delivers his own puff of smoke on this issue.

REX MURPHY: On any given day, two vast clouds overhang the Toronto skyline. One is the typical wad of urban pollution; the other is a vast balloon of self-righteousness and smug prudery, an altogether more dense mixture of vapours that hovers over Toronto City Hall whenever the hygiene vigilantes and the health missionaries huddle to ventilate on the evils of other people smoking.

In an excess of moral imperialism all too familiar among the civic satraps of this tight little town, city council last night issued a fatwa on all smoking in every restaurant and bar within its granny domain. What a perfectly wonderful Boy Scout paradise of political correctness sweet old Toronto is. Can we not now, all of us, from sea to sea, gush along with the city elders, now that they've done all they were elected to do: now that there are no more car jackings, no more home invasions, homicides in the parks or muggings in the alleyways; now that street crimes and subway swarming and rapes are all a part of history; now that the homeless are all living in high rises; the municipal schools are graduating little Shakespeares and Newtons; now that the expressways are open every weekend, and Molsons and Labatts are the pharmacologists for every civic spree; now that the air blowing off the Gardiner is of such pristine purity that they send up invalids from Arizona just to take in the local ozone; now that crack and heroin and speed are the plagues of yesteryear -- isn't it wonderful that the municipal masters can find the time to boss the bar owners and restaurants around, and execute their prissy little legislative pieties.

This isn't a health issue, and I certainly won't dignify it by calling it a civil liberties issue either. It's just the most volcanic outburst of busy- bodyism in a good cause -- prudishness and sanctimony under a haze of good intent -- that this continent has yet seen. The legislation is childish, picayune, condescending, paternalistic, fatuous and hypocritical -- all in the same self-righteous breath. I'll gladly swap addictions. I'll gladly give up cigarettes the day the public health fundamentalists swear off their obnoxious compulsion to mind other people's business. In other words: I'll butt out on the same day they do. But not before.

For the National, I'm Rex Murphy.