Pubdate: Mon, 08 Jan 2018
Source: Calgary Herald (CN AB)
Copyright: 2018 Postmedia Network
Author: Chris Nelson
Page: A7


Second-hand smoke concerns will cut into consumption

The war on drugs is about to get a lot more interesting, here in

And not because of another tough-talking "lock everyone up and throw
away the keys" politician. Heck, we've seen that lot come and go
without making the slightest dent in an age-old problem, though it did
help get them elected.

Nope, that was just blather, bluster and tossing peanuts to the
gallery. Sure, politicians and law enforcement agencies love that
standby news conference where oodles of some drugs, bundles of cash
and a few handguns and semiautomatic weapons are proudly displayed for

It's pure optics. Al Capone, the poster boy for getting rich when
governments ban what people enjoy, ended up in the slammer on tax
evasion, not drug running (booze being the ultimate societal narcotic.)

Banning stuff and threatening jail didn't work in 1920s Chicago, and
it hasn't worked in 21st-century Alberta, where almost two people a
day are dying through opioid abuse alone and the flow of deadly
narcotics is so pervasive that we've had police stations evacuated and
prisons locked down in its wake.

Finally, we're trying a different path in Canada - if the one you've
chosen for decades keeps leading to an ever-deeper swamp then, really,
there's not much to lose.

That change arrives with the looming and entirely sensible
legalization of cannabis. Various agencies are now twittering about
implementing this or that regulation to control these legal dope days
on our horizon.

We're told smoking cannabis and driving is a huge risk, while
workplace joint-puffing threatens society, and so forth. Fair enough,
except do people think we've not been lighting up and driving for years?

But, voila, once it's legal, we're finally getting our act together to
find better ways to stop such dangerous behaviour.

And once it's OK to smoke the dreaded weed, then Brent Friesen's got
the green light to make doing so such a pain in our collective butt,
we'll take up knitting.

Let's travel back a decade or so, and ask that barroom or restaurant
owner in our fair city what image comes to mind when the name Friesen
is mentioned? The answer probably involves a noose, a gelding
implement or a call to some pliant Tory MLA to pressure the Calgary
Health Region to get this fella off our collective backs.

First, as the city's long-standing chief medical officer of health, he
pushed the ban on smoking in such establishments. It's hard to believe
today, but not that long ago, if you wanted to enjoy a pint or a pizza
without someone's smoke getting in your face, then your spot was over
there - that tiny, drafty, non-smoking section beside the washrooms.
Yes, back then, it was those whining non-smokers who were the nuisance.

Friesen then turned his attention to the use of trans fat in
restaurant cuisine. He helped push that through as well, despite huge
opposition. Maybe it was the last straw for some not as principled,
because he was off to Fort McMurray, as the health region was absorbed
into the new mothership called Alberta Health Services. Gone too, a
few years later, was that citywide trans fat initiative.

But the other day, looking through the Herald, there was a familiar
figure talking about closing loopholes in those decade old nonsmoking
regulations that still leave some workers exposed to second-hand
fumes. Marijuana smoke will soon add to that toxic mix.

Friesen, now a public health physician, is still fired

"The hazards associated with second-hand cannabis are similar to those
with second-hand smoke. Burning cannabis, smoking cannabis, releases
the same toxic chemicals as when you burn tobacco," he said.
Hallelujah. Now we can start the real fight on drugs, one for the
hearts and minds of citizens. The same fight that's seen tobacco
smoking rates drop relentlessly as the social stigma and health
concerns of lighting up constantly rise.

Now this is a war we can win.
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