March 06, 2008

A Couple of Quick Updates: Smoking and Book Bans

It's being reported that McGuinty is going full steam with the ban on smoking in cars while children are present. Good. It's about time. I've written on this a few times and have yet to receive any real challenge to this new law. Why? Probably because there is no real challenge to be made here. This law is about protecting the health of children and limiting their exposure to secondhand smoke. It's not about directly limiting smokers' rights to kill themselves like some idiots will claim. ALW has probably given the strongest analogy I've seen by comparing this ban with drinking and driving. Also, don't believe the clowns behind mychoice.ca when they argue this is going to lead us down a slippery-slope where cell phones, sneezing and scratching your ass are next to be banned. Slippery-slopes hardly come true and there are no foundations to back up any further bans. The ban in cars has a solid medical background and even though this evidence could also backup smoking in homes, the home is sacrosanct and therefore pretty much off limits.
See Also:
here, here, and here.

And while we're on the topic of bans:
Dufferin-Peel Catholic School Board has
decided not to pull Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy out of their school libraries. However, they will be putting disclaimers on the covers to warn students about the supposed misrepresentation of the Roman Catholic Church - which is only likely to draw more attention to the Pullman's point. This is a change of view from the Halton Catholic School Board, which pulled the books from their library shelves in a misguided and cowardly manner. In that regard, I think Dufferin-Peel deserves some praise for not being so short-sited as to attempt censorship and hide with their tail between their legs. Just as Dr. Rowan Williams, the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, argued, this trilogy should be mandatory reading in religion courses to teach students about how to avoid the traps of organized religion control and losing the message to dogma. Furthermore, a publicly funded school board should not be able to censor books arbitrarily, like Halton had done. If the books are pornographic, racist or similar ilk, then maybe a school board would have an argument. But to ban the books because you disagree with them sets a very bad precedent for future books that may also bring up a challenge. Dufferin-Peel is the obvious leader in this situation. We now know is being run by confident and competent people.
See also:
Here, here, and here.

2 comments:

Kyle said...

ALW writes:
Well, don’t overstate the case, Kyle. McGuinty is right to worry about a slippery slope here. It’s important to attempt to define some principled reasons why it’s right for the government to regulate parental behaviour here, but not elsewhere - otherwise we do indeed run the risk of telling parents what they can and cannot do.

Take eating habits for example. Much like the effects of secondhand smoke, the effects of poor diet on one’s health are well-documented. Should we therefore regulate what parents feed their children? And even if we wanted to, how would we enforce it?

We could say that the distinction lies in the ‘spillover effect’ of secondhand smoke, a characteristic of the activity of smoking that is not present in cases of eating or drinking (i.e. if you smoke around me, my health is affected; if you eat or drink around me, it isn’t). But this argument won’t work with children, because it is parents who control what their children eat or drink.

At some point we need to confront the fact that one of the prices of living in a free society is that free people will make bad and harmful choices, not only to themselves, but to those around them. As much as possible, we use the law to attach the consequences of detrimental choices to those who make them, which both protects the public and provides a disincentive to bad decision making. But it will never be perfect, and we need to ask ourselves where we draw the line.

As you know, I struggle with this immensely because as with smoking bans in general, they are intuitively appealing, and in this case the victims are children. But I fear the day when an argument is someday made using exactly the same arguments towards much more intrusive and controversial purposes, and that myself and others will have no basis to draw any distinction.

Kyle said...

I remember someone writing something similar at your site (about feeding kids). It is a difficult issue to overcome but for me it's about comparing the realities of the two situations - food vs. smoking.

First, eating is a necessity whereas smoking is not.
Second, there are things that children can do to negate the effects of poor eating habits, some of that is addressed in schools now. The health problems are generally reversible when it comes to poor eating habits, if not as a child but at least as an adult. Whereas, reversing asthma or something worse, caused by being inflicted with secondhand smoke as a child is near impossible.
Third, it is highly unlikely that a child is being force fed fast food every meal, every day, etc. versus being forced to inhale secondhand smoke. If I were a betting man I would put my money on the number of children being exposed to smoke hugely out weighs the number stuck in a comparable situation involving fast food.

These comparisons are nowhere near perfect but I think they could form the beginnings of how or why the line will be drawn at this recent ban. Going further than this is would obviously be a step too far.

Quotes from people smarter than me...

"If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich" ~ JFK

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. " ~ Martin Luther King Jr.

"Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. " ~ Benjamin Franklin

"First it is necessary to stand on your own two feet. But the minute a man finds himself in that position, the next thing he should do is reach out his arms. " ~ Kristin Hunter

"When you're a mayor and you have a problem you blame the provincial government. If you are provincial government and you have a problem you blame the federal government. We don't blame the Queen any more, so once in a while we might blame the Americans." ~ Jean Chretien

"Which is ideology? Which not? You shall know them by their assertion of truth, their contempt for considered reflection, and their fear of debate." ~ John Ralston Saul

"It is undoubtedly easier to believe in absolutes, follow blindly, mouth received wisdom. But that is self-betrayal." ~ John Ralston Saul

"Everybody dies, Tracey. Someone's carrying a bullet for you right now, doesn't even know it. The trick is to die of old age before it finds you." ~ Cpt. Malcolm Reynolds (Firefly, Episode 12)

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