tocacco plant Native American Tobaccoo flower, leaves, and buds

tocacco Tobacco is an annual or bi-annual growing 1-3 meters tall with large sticky leaves that contain nicotine. Native to the Americas, tobacco has a long history of use as a shamanic inebriant and stimulant. It is extremely popular and well-known for its addictive potential.

tocacco nicotina Nicotiana tabacum

tocacco Nicotiana rustica leaves. Nicotiana rustica leaves have a nicotine content as high as 9%, whereas Nicotiana tabacum (common tobacco) leaves contain about 1 to 3%

tocacco cigar A cigar is a tightly rolled bundle of dried and fermented tobacco which is ignited so that its smoke may be drawn into the mouth. Cigar tobacco is grown in significant quantities in Brazil, Cameroon, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Honduras, Indonesia, Mexico, Nicaragua, Sumatra, Philippines, and the Eastern United States.

tocacco Tobacco is an agricultural product processed from the fresh leaves of plants in the genus Nicotiana. It can be consumed, used as an organic pesticide, and in the form of nicotine tartrate it is used in some medicines. In consumption it may be in the form of cigarettes smoking, snuffing, chewing, dipping tobacco, or snus.

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Turning smoking into a crime

It’s an odd world we live in: Ontario inmates now have more rights than truckers.

On Friday, Judge Luc Martineau of the Federal Court of Canada ruled that a May 2008 ban against all smoking in federal penitentiaries -even in designated outdoor areas — went “too far.” If civilians may smoke outside their office buildings, the logic goes, prisoners must be permitted to indulge their habit outside at prisons, too. According to Justice Martineau, inmates may be denied only those rights that are necessary to enforce their punishment, such as freedom of mobility.

The litigation began after the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) prohibited all smoking inside federal prisons — those in which offenders are sentenced to two years or longer -in January, 2006. When many of these 13,000 prisoners ignored that ban, the CSC extended it last spring to include all prison property, both inside and out.

Justice Martineau saw through Ottawa’s contention that the ban was about protecting non-smoking inmates from the deleterious health effects of second-hand smoke. Since the federal government has not seen fit to outlaw tobacco or to restrict smoking on the outside of federal buildings, it cannot be all that concerned about non-smokers’ exposure in equivalent outdoor prison environments, he reasoned. So Ottawa’s prison rules must have a different objective than the one claimed. From this, Justice Martineat concluded that the rules violate the Charter rights of the plaintiffs.

Contrast all this with the treatment of a 48-year-old London, Ont., truck driver who was fined $305 earlier this month for smoking in his place of work — the cab of his truck.

According to the 2006 Smoke-Free Ontario Act, there is to be no smoking permitted in “enclosed workplaces or public places.” So when Ontario Provincial Police officers pulled alongside the unnamed trucker on Oct. 7 and noticed he was smoking while driving his rig, they stopped him and wrote him up for a violation of the anti-smoking law.

These patrolmen might be forgiven for merely enforcing the letter of the law. The real blame goes to the legislators who originally felt the need to impose this needless ordinance on Ontarians.

Ontario Labour Minister Peter Fonseca said the charge and fine were laudatory given the provincial government’s goal of reduce smoking as much as possible. “Work vehicles were deemed workplaces in that act, so that is a place of work,” he explained.

If that is so, then, Ontario’s law intrudes into dangerous new territory — dictating personal behaviour that has no ill effects on anyone else. Most bans against lighting up at work — indeed all the other instances we could find — are applied to protect non-smokers against unwanted exposure to others’ bad habit. But the ticketed trucker was alone in his cab. His side stream was bothering no one else. While there is an argument to be made that the government has the authority to step in to protect those who cannot protect themselves, this case seems to be purely about nanny-state puritans thinking they know better than an individual what behaviours he should engage in.

Every time a law like this gets passed, observers assume that it represents the final frontier of government intrusiveness. But then the years pass, and nanny-state advocates keep pressing the boundaries of regulations further. Already, the Ontario Non-Smokers’ Rights Association is actually pressuring the provincial government to go further — and rewrite the provincial building code to forbid smoking in all apartments and condominiums. And who knows? They may soon get their wish. After all, a generation ago, who would have thought that many Western restaurants and bars would be smoke-free in 2009?

If the trucker decides to fight his ticket -and we hope he does — we are confident large sections of Ontario’s smoke-free law will be struck down. It is simply not possible in a free and democratic society for the state to be so intimately involved in regulating personal choices, even dumb ones, such as smoking. Until then, we supposed smokers increasingly will have to consider committing an indictable offence in order to indulge their constitutionally protected rights.

National Post, October 27, 2009

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