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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