Everyone’s got a hidden agenda

AndrĂ© Picard has an (opinion?) piece in the Globe about Quebec’s anti-smoking law one year later. Some sentences of note:

Despite the sky-is-falling claims of some bar owners (most of them aligned with Big Tobacco), the world as we know it did not come to a grinding, smokeless halt.

Aligned with Big Tobacco? This is the first I’ve heard of this claim, and it’s not explained at all. Perhaps it’s true, but even if some big bars are getting paid off by the cigarette companies, the concerns of small independent bars weren’t and aren’t frivolous. Fewer people went to bars, and the bars lost some money.

Bar business did not go “poof.” Bingo halls did not go bankrupt. Nicotine addicts did not drop dead outside hospitals as they trudged nine metres from the door desperately searching for a place for a legal puff.

Funny he mentions bingo halls, since we just had a story on bingo halls’ lost profits. And though bar business did not go “poof” (is there anyone who seriously suggested bars would cease to exist?), some bars have indeed closed because of the smoking ban.

In fact, according to a new poll, the smoking ban is enormously popular with the public: 78 per cent of Quebeckers surveyed – including 60 per cent of current smokers – said the legislation has improved the health and quality of life of citizens.

This is misleading. The question did not ask if people approved of the ban, but whether it improved peoples’ health. The two are not the same. It’s conceivable that someone could be against the smoking ban for reasons of freedom or practicality, while still agree it’s good for their health.

I don’t disagree with his conclusions: That anti-smoking legislation improves public health, that it’s popular, and that the losses are more than offset by the gains. But when arguing a controversial topic, it’s important that all your statements be incontrovertible.

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