Long after so many other civilized corners of the world clued in, Quebec has finally decided to join the party and ban smoking in all restaurants and bars. Despite this trend becoming more and more popular across the globe, it’s a major breakthrough I thought I’d never see happen here. Quebecers are hopelessly addicted to tobacco, and asking them to lay off the ciggies over a beer or a coffee is a pill about a thousand times harder to swallow than gay marriage, a prime minister from out west, or the fact that Celine Dion is an insufferable shrill skeleton. They just love to smoke as no other culture on Earth.
Witness one woman I saw only hours before the smoking ban was due to take effect. She was sitting on a bus-stop bench, an arm adorned by a huge hepatitis-chic tattoo, a smouldering cigarette hanging out of her mouth, and a belly full of nine-month-old fetus. Just try suggesting she should quit. She’d claw your eyeballs out. When I, with no particular affinity for children, see someone like that, I still think, “Hi. Could I adopt your child once it’s born so you don’t get to fuck it up?” If I actually said it out loud as often as it occurs to me, though, I’d probably end up with more adopted kids than Angelina Jolie and Mia Farrow combined.
It’s not like you can warn the typical Quebecer off the stuff, either. They laugh in the face of mortal peril. Then they start coughing and hack up half a cup of tar, but they’re still giggling once they’re done. Even the particularly vile Surgeon General labels they started covering cigarette packaging with failed to put anyone off. Pornographic pictures of gum disease, heart disease and lung disease didn’t slow down sales, it boosted them.
Last month my local corner store guy complained to me at length about one interminable transaction he had to go through before it was my turn at the cash. The guy in front of me wasn’t just buying cigarettes, he was filling out a collection. He made the cashier rifle through every single pack of his favourite brand of smokes looking for the one particular tumor he was still missing. No luck that time, but I’m sure he was happy to smoke a few more crates of coffin nails looking for it.
Bar and restaurant owners have launched an appeal of the new law, convinced it’s going to drive customers away. I, on the other hand, know a few establishments I’ll be frequenting much more often now that I can enjoy a meal or a drink without tasting someone else’s fumes. Taking a walk on the sidewalk outside, however, will be like strolling through the smoking lounge of a tobacconist convention.