Smoking bans: The end of good conversation


We’re going to a party this afternoon and there will be smoking.

Much, much smoking.

That’s because it’s an annual reunion of National Press Club members, the people who once made “the smoking room” famous.

The Smoking Room was a tar and nicotine haven which was created to protest the City of Ottawa’s smoking bylaw ten years ago.

Once called the games room, it soon became the place to be at the NPC; even the non-smokers eventually ended up there because it was the only place to find good conversation at the Press Club, and possibly within the entire Precinct of Parliament.

You could shoot a cannon through the rest of the Press Club and not hit a single soul.  But the smoking room was hopping, brimming to the rafters with members of Parliament, political aides, lobbyists, journalists and flaks who came to shoot the shit while sharing at least two common addictions.

After a time, the City got wise and the smoking room was closed, as was the Press Club, which had lost its cache and its uniqueness. Once they couldn’t smoke, NPC members dropped off in droves. They figured: why pay a couple hundred bucks to belong to a club where they had to go outside to smoke? As far as the smokers were concerned, membership no longer gave them privileges.

When the Club died, most people lost touch with each other. A hard core group of journos and politicos still get together to smoke outside of Hy’s but the rest of us scattered like the ashes from a pack of Number 7s. A lot of people stopped going to bars altogether because they loved to drink and smoke, and if they couldn’t do the two together, why bother? Might as well stay home with the smokes and your best friends Jim Beam and Jack Daniels.

I’ve never been a smoker, but most of my friends are tobacky addicts. Smokers are more fun than the rest of us; they’re, what can I say? Contrarians.

Smokers like to live on the edge, to defy the establishment and the law of statistics.

As my old colleague Tim Ralfe used to rationalize, smokers save the system billions because they die young.

Now dead ten years, Tim called it alright.

I was thinking about smoking today because there is a call for a ban on smoking on patios, parks and beaches in Ottawa.

Personally, I find this ridiculous. These are not confined spaces; no one is harmed by a smoker having a puff on a park bench — except for smoker and he already accepts his fate.

Driving smokers underground is unfair. They need to get out. To get some fresh air. To entertain the rest of us as long as they continue to draw breath.

Besides, smokers drive children off drinking patios. I am all for this.

So councillors, I urge you. Mind your own business.

Pity the poor smoker.

And the rest of us.

Who lament the death of good conversation.

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