Brands don’t kill people…

Ormstown, 9 Aug 2003

After a long vacation in the repair shop and an infusion of parts, the metawidget production laptop is back.

The time with an empty patch of desk where the laptop usually is has given me many chances to read, be outdoors, and socialize with people I figured had drifted off on their separate ways... and hadn’t, really. It's given me time to be up to all sorts of mischief, but for the most part, I've been good.

But that’s not what this is about.

The city has been a-tizzy with word that us Montréalers may be deprived of the 2004 Grand Prix. Peripheral comments aside (about it not being cancelled, or the possibility that it may have been due to the bankruptcy-protected status of the big sponsor, Air Canada), it seems to be boiling down to cigarette company sponsorship.

If cigarettes are bad for us (duh), then the government's war shouldn't be fought reducing brand recognition (at least when the efforts to establish it hinge on sponsoring good things, or even the overblown but economically useful spectacle of the Grand Prix). Although hearing some smokers insist on their favourtie brands suggests otherwise, smokers are generally addicted to cigarettes, not Benson & Hedges.

This is not to suggest a blanket war on tobacco — putting lots of tobacco smokers in jail or setting up byzantine medical-tobacco laws is a bad idea (before anyone suggests such a crazy idea...). It should be about keeping the waft of smoke in people's own homes (actual festival and itinerant practice aside, one can only legally drink in drinking establishments and at home... why not make smoking equally inconvenient? Sure this doesn’t make my pub experience any better, but there is always Ottawa.) The campaign to control tobacco damage should include regulating the production process: spiking one's alcoholic beverage past certain limits is illegal, why is there seeming free rein in how much and nicotine and what absorption-accelerating additives are put in cigarettes? Of course, there should also be education for the young masses — even if Florida's Truth campaign didn't change a single fourteen-year-old's mind, it's still government funding of fun visual culture (don’t let any Republicans know that something fun or clever is competing with their tax cuts, faith subsidies, jail openings and war machine).

Enforcing laws on carding the younguns wouldn't hurt either.

So these measures wouldn't wipe smoking out. Well, people of legal age should be entitled to whatever self-destructive habits they desire, as long as they have a product that conforms to their expectations (including consistency of active ingredients across lots and brands), and the rest of the world isn't overly inconvenienced by their use of it (including wading through masses of smoke and smokers at the entrance to all these smoke-free buildings). If someone invented cigarettes tomorrow and they needed Health Canada approval, it might be another story, but cigarettes are here, they’re paying their way, people will find noxious stuff to do with or without them. Whether they do it with Benson and Hedges or Gitanes or DIY tobacco sticks is secondary.