Council v unholy smokes

Last updated 05:00 06/08/2014

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OPINION: Which is worse: normalising smoking or normalising daft, tokenistic council bans?

Neither thought appeals but the Invercargill City Council needs to realise that there's room for some tolerance between those two choices. So it should take a deep breath before it considers bans on e-cigarette smoking.

The request, in a recommendation from community development manager Mary Napper, is to include the devices in the smoking bans already on place in outdoor settings under council control, like parks, reserves and playgrounds.

Well, we call them bans. In truth they are enforced only to the extent that other citizens might purse their lips and start either scowling or become confrontational.

The council itself is nowhere to be seen in any enforcement role. Essentially it passes these decisions and then ducks for cover, muttering "you get the message" as it goes.

The message being what? Begone you black-lunged weaklings. You have no place in public view, in front of society's decent folk, until you sort out your antisocial addictions.

Smoking outdoors is scarcely a health problem for anyone else, except for the much-cited perception that it is "normalising" smoking for impressionable youth.

But surely the impression given by anybody chuffing away on an e-cigarette is that here is someone trying, gamely, to quit.

Someone who we might even be minded to wish well - or at least cut a break.

Apparently that's crazy talk. The social agenda, Napper attests, is to normalise smokefree living. Well, the more likely effect is that it would normalise a climate of gratuitously mean, censorious scolding.

We should acknowledge one weakness to our argument. Although e-cigarettes are sold as quitting devices, some do still deliver nicotine and there is tobacco industry backing behind that idea.

But even so, these devices are something to which people who are trying to kick the habit are turning. And even the nicotine-using ones are seriously better than conventional cigarettes, with all their extra toxic componentry.

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- The Southland Times

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