Smoking wars update

Bridgewater has finalised its anti-smoking bylaw, modifying it to be more reasonable.

Town council in Bridgewater has passed an anti-smoking bylaw that prohibits puffing on a lot of town-owned property.

Places affected by the new measure include the cemetery, parks, playgrounds, outdoor recreational facilities and streets within designated school zones.

The bylaw passed by a 4-1 vote Tuesday night. No date has been set for implementing the measure.

Mayor Carroll Publicover says the bylaw has been modified from the original proposal and does not ban smoking on all town streets and sidewalks.[link to source]

This compromise offers at least the chance that A) people will abide by it instead of blowing smoke in the councillors faces as they walk by them on the street and B) will be enforceable to some degree. But we note that no “effective as of” date has been given.

Looking into the future, what do we see. More stories like this one. Where and when you smoke will be the subject of fines and gossip.

New Brunswick is taking leave of its usual common sense by following the befuddled footsteps of its Atlantic neighbours in burdening small businesses with a ban on tobacco display.

The amendments to the Tobacco Sales Act will ban point of sale advertising for tobacco products in all retail stores except specialty tobacco stores.

Cigarettes and other tobacco products will have to be kept in a drawer, under the counter or in another part of the store out of the view of customers.

There will be fines for anyone caught violating the new rules. [link to source]

At least there seems to be an exemption for specialty stores. This would probably help the Gees who are waiting to see if they will be charged.

Bob Gee and his son Jeff operate Mader’s Tobacco Store, an Aberdeen Street fixture since 1929, but since last fall in violation of provincial regulations for improperly displaying their tobacco products and for selling items other than tobacco.

“Last month, we received a 30-day warning letter. That deadline has now passed and we’re waiting now to see if we’ll be charged,” Bob Gee said Wednesday. “Other than that, nothing has changed since last summer.”

Gee says he made a business decision in January of last year, when the regulations took effect, “that we would stay the course and see this through.” And while it wouldn’t be his first choice, he hopes he’s charged “so we’ll finally know where we stand.

“I don’t like to,” he says, “but I don’t feel we have a choice.” According to the regulations, “I’m selling an illegal product here. They’re essentially telling me I’m guilty of doing my job. I shouldn’t have to operate a business under those conditions.” [link to source]

But it isn’t an illegal product. The government wants to have its cake and eat it too. If cigarettes are so unhealthy, like illicit drugs, ban them and get it over with, don’t go hounding innocent retailers trying to make a living. The Gees express their frustration well. Multiply this many times over and you can see why people have little respect for government officials.

To Gee, he has two problems. First, “the government can come into my shop and dictate to me what I can and can’t sell.” He’s permitted to sell “lottery, tobacco, tobacco products and accessories, and nothing else.”

That, he said, “is the first part, but it gets worse. I’m a tobacco store, but I can’t display the tobacco products I’m trying to sell because it’s illegal, even though tobacco is still a legal substance in Canada and it’s perfectly legal to offer it for sale.”

Gee has argued, “if we do what they want us to do, we would increase our workload five or sixfold.” Moreover, “our workload would be moving in one direction and our productivity in the other, and I’m not interested in that kind of business either.”

Gee says he requested “special grandfathering status in perpetuity to protect me and my family, or anyone who might wish to purchase the business,” due to the age of his store and its status as a community landmark, but his request was refused.

I spent a lot of 2007 on this issue,” he said, with no satisfaction, either personally or in business terms. “The last meeting I attended was not positive, and I’m being polite in saying that.” [link to source]

We don’t have a tobacco store, we don’t even smoke, but we worry about not only about Mr. Gee but the ordinary citizen who doesn’t recognise the thin edge of the wedge when they see it, these restrictions on liberty they are condoning even supporting. When they find themselves on that slippery slope themselves for some other issue it will be too late. [emphasis ours]

Right to free enterprise being eroded, Gee is “also worried about the eroding of our rights and freedoms – our right to free enterprise; the kind of things our democracy is built on. It’s bigger than a business issue, and it makes you wonder where it’s going to stop.” …

And while he’s pleased with the amount of local support he has received, he said, “I don’t want people to feel sorry for me.” If he loses his fight, “everybody is the loser here, whether or not you’re a smoker and regardless of how you feel about tobacco.

Mr. Gee is fighting this fight for all of us. Support him and let your Provincial officials know your view. You can contact our MLA (Morse- Kings South) here or for Kings north (Parent) here. Or perhaps you would prefer to contact the minister of heath promotion and protection and give him an earful. This is about more than tobacco.

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