Boomers: Do as I say, not as I did

Boomers: Do as I say, not as I did

On Jan. 1, smoking will no longer be permitted on restaurant and bar patios in Ontario. Emma Teitel asks: why not ban porn and poutine, instead?

Martin Ruetschi/Keystone/Redux

Martin Ruetschi/Keystone/Redux

There’s something personally ominous about the nanny-state inhalation legislation that informs most governmental smoking edicts these days, and that is its unspoken target. Namely, me. At least, me, and young people in general. Consider three changes coming to Ontario’s smoke-free legislation: 1) On Jan. 1, smoking will no longer be permitted on restaurant and bar patios. In other words, the Ontario Liberals have ruined summertime for the young and the restless; gone are the days of afternoon patio drinks and smokes. 2) Gone, too, are the days of buying a pack after Psychology 101: The act will prohibit the sale of tobacco on university and college campuses. 3) The only cigarette that my demographic could reasonably claim for its own, the digital smoke, is under all-out assault: The government has introduced legislation that will ban the smoking of e-cigarettes indoors, even though there is no scientific evidence that “vaping” is nearly as harmful or invasive as traditional smoking. Finally, the sale of mentholated and flavoured cigarettes is to be abolished outright, ostensibly to protect even younger kids, who like their tobacco with a fruity, minty kick.

Let’s forget the argument about whether or not bans work. The state has no place in the ashtrays of the nation—particularly, when those ashtrays are outdoors, where there is more than enough clean air for those who can’t bear to stand or sit next to smokers. And let’s take on the more inconvenient truth: Guess who the nannies are? Boomers. Then, guess who the kids are. Millennials.

This is one curious equation. I mean, it might have been predictable that Boomers weaned on ’60s social activism and permissiveness would eventually trade in their idealism for consumerism, but that they’d trade the permissive part for puritanism is a bit of a wild card. Yet, this is exactly what’s happened. The things our parents had fun doing when they were our age are the things they don’t want us to do now. This might be the way of the world, but it’s extremely annoying, not to mention arbitrary. Anti-smoking legislation is enacted, the argument goes, “in our best interest,” because tobacco is responsible for 13,000 deaths in Ontario every year, smoking-related illnesses are a senseless strain on the health care system, and bans of this nature are statistically proven to curb deleterious cultural norms. But there are other cultural norms the Ontario government seems to have forgotten about—Frosh Week, for one. Every September, while their post-secondary progeny are donning puke suits in preparation for alcohol-binging at administration-endorsed beer fests, Boomer parents can now rest assured that at least their adult children won’t be lighting up at the same time. What a relief. Then, there’s that other bogeyman, otherwise known as sex. The Ontario sex-education curriculum is probably the most outdated in the country, but our nannies don’t mind that 11-year-olds are watching porn before they see a diagram of the reproductive system in school, because there are people smoking menthols and eating nachos at the same time.

I’m advocating that, as Millennials, we embrace the nanny state once and for all. In fact, I don’t think the laws go far enough. If the public lacks the willpower to make changes that benefit its health and ease the strain on the medical system, why stop at smoking? During the winter months, I often gain weight, and obesity, we know, can lead to death. For the sake of my expanding sides, rather than merely posting calorie counts, I implore the government to ban poutine—something I usually indulge in after a night of dancing at an electronic-dance music show, where my peers are known to indulge in all manner of illicit activities. If the Ontario Liberals, our parents in absentia, really cared about Millennials, they would establish an embargo on deep-fried dishes from Quebec, institute a province-wide curfew, and ban techno remixes of Lorde songs. But it appears that some sins—at least for now—are still sacred.

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Boomers: Do as I say, not as I did

  1. Well said; as a boomer, I confess to being somewhat ashamed of how a select bunch of my fellow boomers became so publicly puritanical, greedy and fascistic. In defense of my generation however, I seem to recall that back in those days liberal, hippy socialists were a distinct, albeit highly visible minority among the boomers. Most boomers were middle of the roaders quite willing to cop a joint or a feel if nobody was looking and towing the line if someone was. They still do today. The hypocrisy is now ingrained. There seemed to be as many politically active conservative leaning boomers as radicals and they got involved, and unfortunately for many of us, many still are.
    The difference was that most of the radical types either went to grad school and became lawyers or stockbrokers or OD’d or had their lives destroyed by the then current draconian drug laws or, like myself, simply saw their lives morph into a seemingly never-ending cycle of responsibility to spouses, children, employers or what have you. I think they call it growing up.

    The boomers dictating the new purities of thought, deed and consumption today are simply realizing a lifetime of disgust at the perceived liberalism of Canadian society and doing their best to reverse it. Under the rubric of the common good they veil their inner fascist to appear as the societal Albert Schweitzer’s valiantly struggling to protect us from the icky enjoyable things in life while remaining strangely silent about other “vices” that they themselves indulge in to excess. What haunts them most is the thought that someone somewhere is actually enjoying themselves outside of their narrow window of what they deem permissible.

    But I blame the millennials as well. These jokers got in the positions they hold today due in no small part to the apathy of the millennial generation. Protest, speak up and most importantly vote them out of office. Show them that activism as well as apathy has consequences, or expect more of the same, in spades.

  2. If you eat poutine, only you are affected by an unhealthy choice.

    If you smoke near me, *I* have to be the one also breathing your smoke.

  3. Ah…. the boomers.
    Not only do they create the great government debt, but their lust to keep every last cent of their wealth leads them down the spiralling path of lower taxes, decreased government revenues and diminished services. On top of that, they enable a government that jettisons it’s role as a good environmental steward and opts instead to demonize environmentalists while dismantling environmental legislation, leaving an unholy toxic stew to be cleaned up (and paid for) by their grandchildren.

    The boomer generation created some great music, but ultimately they are an immense disappointment.

  4. I usually love your articles, but this one is seriously flawed WRT smoking on patios. Those laws are primarily about protecting other patrons who don’t want to breathe in your second hand smoke. Some, like myself, have allergies to cigarette smoke and allowing people to smoke on patios can make an otherwise lovely place them very uncomfortable. Personally, it can lead to days of sneezing and irritation.

    Is it really asking so much for smokers to walk 10-20 meters so all of us can enjoy the patio season?

    That said, I think the restrictions on vapourizers are absurd and not based on anything other than old people panicking about new technology. Sure, I’d rather not have someone blowing their vapour in my face (though vapour doesn’t travel as far or stay as long as smoke), but that’s an issue with the smell rather than a health concern, and therefore not something I think should be legislated.

    Of course, restaurants, work places, etc. are all welcome to have their own rules if they find that their patrons are put off by the vapour, but I don’t see why the province has to step in to make that decision for everyone across the board.

  5. Another ridiculous law, that will only cost people their livelihoods. In Victoria BC which has one of the most restrictive anti-smoking laws around, dozens of bars went belly up. “That’ll teach ’em, they’ll stop smoking now, maaaaaaaaaaaan!” thought the gormless old hippies that passed the law. Nope. Last time I was there a friend invited me to a friend’s “Social Club” where he could light up, drink cheap drinks (you had to get them yourself from a fridge and ‘donate’ $3) and watch sports on a big screen TV, they even had snacks. Aside from marginal washroom facilities, it was a de facto BAR, a bar that paid no taxes, that had no employees, that could move overnight if things got dicey (text before you come over) and this bar catered to boomers! Imagine what sophisticated millennials could come up with! Nyaa nyaa, nanny state! :p

    • Employers are required by law to provide safe workspaces. As tobacco smoke is a known carcinogen, any employer who allowed smoking on their premises without providing workers with filtration masks wold be risking all kinds of legal problems. Anti-smoking laws make it easier for the employers to provide a safe work environment.

      Plus, you blowing smoke in my face would be as much an assault as my throwing water in yours to put out the fire. Bet you’d love it if people threw water at you every time you lit up.

  6. This ranks up there among your most vapid and self-centered columns (and while I like much of what you write, there’s an awful lot more vapid entries than for most columnists).

    Smoking affects more than the smoker. The issue is second-hand smoke. And safe workplaces. If you want to roll he dice on getting cancer, that’s your choice – but you don’t have the right to inflict it on others. It’s like saying “I have the right to wave my fists around as much as I want, and if they make contact with you, well too bad for you.” Unlike poutine, consuming tobacco publicly impacts the health of not just you, but those around you.

    As for e-cigs: there is no real regulation as to what goes into those. You’re right that there’s no evidence the vapor causes harm – but there’s no proof it doesn’t either. You want to be a guinea pig, go ahead – but that doesn’t give you the right to make others unwitting guinea pigs along with you.

  7. Joec123 said it. I normally agree with what you have to say, but here I think you’re wrong. Smoking affects the people around the smoker, which is why most people care at all.

    For the record, I’m no boomer. But my parents are and they would probably agree with you. Funny how it’s not always based on generation.

  8. I truly hope that this article is some sort of joke, while I do agree that the government does have a tendency to be overprotective at times, their decision to ban smoking on patios and campuses is in no way similar to a ban on alcohol or unhealthy food. I urge you to please use some of the time you save by not researching, to actually find out how many people die from smoking each year compared to the deaths caused by drinking and obesity. Furthermore, smoking affects everyone around you, through something called secondhand smoke, while unhealthy food and Lorde music only affects ONE PERSON!

  9. Aren’t any millennials going to disavow this claptrap and redeem their reputations? Such a sad, pathetic whine; such a waste of newsprint, pixels and readers’ time and energy. Specious generalizations, flimsy arguments, paper tigers and obnoxious, self-centered posturing masquerading as intelligent opinion? Puh-leze. Yes, puh-leze smoke your brains out and guzzle liquor, all the while congratulating yourself that you are not indulging in the other excesses you ascribe to your generation. Just don’t bore the rest of us with portentous musings and pollute our public places with your passive-aggressive presence. At least when you’re inhaling it’s unlikely you’ll be talking … or keyboarding … or voice-to-texting …

  10. Well. My dear. First of all, I applaud your activism. It’s refreshing to see young people look up from their smart phones long enough to notice the world around them and voice an opinion on something they disagree with, however misguided the issue may be. Not everyone has a worthy cause comparable to ending the Vietnam War or furthering civil rights. And no one understands better than Boomers the high that comes from the freedom of leaving home for university, college or a job and finally being able to make our own bad choices about how we spend our recreational time. While we also learned to drink, smoke and otherwise break the rules of the establishment, we were never so stupid we required puke suits. Gotta make a parent proud to see their young ‘uns going to the hospital to have their stomach pumped so they don’t die.

    And as for smoking, who is leading the charge for legalizing weed? You got it—Baby Boomers. We learned that taken in moderation and eliminating the criminal element, it’s not so bad. And it has been proven to have medical benefits for people who have seizures and chronic health issues. Personally, I don’t like the stuff for the same reason I don’t like liquor or tobacco and I’ve had my share. I hate not being in control of my mind and body and the possible implications of same.

    I have yet to understand the benefits of cigarette smoking or drinking yourself into oblivion other than we learn from our mistakes. Sitting at an outdoor patio on a beautiful sunny day next to a table of smokers infringes on my airspace and stinks up my clothes. I agree there are a lot of things wrong with our world and our laws but this new law is not one of them. When workplaces, elevators, movie theatres, airplanes and restaurants became smoke-free I was ecstatic. For the most part, smokers have been very respectful of the rest us by taking their dirty habit outside and around the corner. Just like most dog owners considerately pick up after their pets when they defecate in public spaces.

    As Boomers we have made our share of mistakes but ultimately we’re all trying to make the world a better place one step at a time. Hopefully, sexual abuse and equal rights will produce some productive outcomes before we depart this polluted world. In the meantime, take your dirty habits around the corner and don’t whine to me about your rights.

  11. What a sad story. Smoking has nothing to do with any generational divide, it has to do with health, and the long lasting effects that it causes.

    Both my parents smoked. In the 1950’s, I spent two winters at home with serious bronchitis. Not only were those two winters torture, but the result is that I have had breathing problems since then. All I need to do is sit next to a smoker on a bus, plane, restaurant, whatever, and I go into an asthmatic attack. No active smoking is required, just the residue on people’s clothes is enough to trigger an attack. Even with my puffer, which I need to carry at all times, it is very difficult. It feels like someone is sitting on my chest, even after using the puffer.

    While my parents stopped smoking when it was determined that smoking is bad for health, the damage was done. My Dad ended up with urinary bladder cancer – which is very rare for non-smokers. The cancer spread rapidly to the lower spine. Cancers of the urinary tract metastases rapidly and cannot be cured. Once they have metastasized, they are terminal. In the case of my Dad, he was in hospital for several months, in greater and greater pain until even the doctor could not take it any more. He put my Dad into a drug induced coma for his last month, and even with that, one could see my Dad writhing in pain frequently before he finally passed away.

    My wife worked at a restaurant as a teenager in Montreal. At that time, everyone smoked, although when she and I got together she stopped due to my problems, but she continued working in the restaurant, and then in a number of other positions were many people smoked, so while she only smoked for a few months, she was exposed to second hand smoke for quite a number of years. 40 years later she started bleeding badly in her urine. Luckily for her, her doctor, after asking her a number of questions about smoking, felt that it was possibly something serious. It was diagnosed as kidney cancer, again a cancer that mostly people exposed to smoke get, and like all urinary tract cancers, untreatable. In her case, she was lucky and had her kidney removed before the cancer metastasized. She has now been cancer free for 2 years – hopefully her other kidney will not get affected as well.

    So, an article stating that restrictions on smoking are frivolous is a major disservice – the effects of smoking are life altering, even life shortening, and in this day and age any article supporting smoking is totally irresponsible.