Monday, October 12, 2009

Smoking is a Human Right - Shhhh

London Writer Looking for Next Career Move

Before an hour ago, I had never heard of London Topic, although I live here in London. The company motto is "If you're on . . . you're in!" If you're on what, you're in what? I don't get it, but then, I had never heard of it either, so my not getting it has not been a problem for either of us.

As London Topic says about itself:
We're London, Ontario’s daily online local news source.

With two solid years of existence, has proven to be one of London’s most credible, timely news sources in the city.’s local news content has shown time and again they can and will continue to deliver the news London readers want and have grown to trust.

Sure coulda fooled me, but I don't want to burst their bubble. I mean it has been two solid years, not two shaky years.

In an article entitled "BEYOND THE ONIONS: London trucker's human rights violated by smoking fine", Ross McDermott, the editorial director of London Topic, makes a pitch to Barb Hall for a job on her staff. It seems that London Topic's attempt to get cash from Dragon's Den last year flopped, so a little resume work has been in order, maybe.

McDermott weaves a tale about a butt smoking truck driver's minor legal tangle:

Last week (Oct. 6), a London truck driver was stopped by OPP in the Windsor area and was ticketed $305 for smoking in an enclosed workplace under the Smoke-Free Ontario Act, after an officer spotted the 48-year-old man rolling down the 401 in his truck with a cigarette dangling from his lips.

It was the first time the OPP had enforced the Smoke-Free Ontario legislation since it came into effect in May of 2006.
McDermott is not satisfied to report the news. He then went on to make it up:
So, for the sake of argument, although I'm sure there are those who will still argue the fact, let's say that cigarette smoking is an addiction to a drug.

Now, the Ontario Human Rights Code provides for equal rights and opportunities, and freedom from discrimination. The code recognizes the dignity and worth of every person in Ontario and applies to the areas of employment, housing, facilities and services, contracts, and membership in unions, trade or professional associations.

In the workplace, employees with disabilities are entitled to the same opportunities and benefits as people without disabilities. In some circumstances, employees with disabilities may require special arrangements or "accommodations" to enable them to fulfill their job duties.

In the code, the word "Disability" covers a broad range and degree of conditions, some visible and others not. A disability may have been present from birth, caused by an accident, or, and here's kicker #1 – developed over time, like the addiction to cigarette smoking.

The word "Disability" includes physical, mental, and learning disabilities, mental disorders, hearing or vision disabilities, epilepsy, environmental sensitivities, other conditions, and here's kicker #2 – drug and alcohol dependencies.

Tobacco is a clearly a drug that creates a dependency in those who use it.

Also under the Ontario Human Rights Code is the term "Accommodation" which, in a nutshell, states that an employer can not simply dismiss someone based on a disability, but must make efforts, together with the employee, to "Accommodate" within the workplace that disability.

Now, this London truck driver was in his place of work, and was therefore violating the Smoke Free Ontario Act. But for many truck drivers, their rig is also their home. This truck driver is self-employed and under the Ontario Human Rights Code he could be seen as "Accommodating" his disability – cigarette addiction.

By imposing a fine on this man for smoking in his workplace, a workplace where only he is exposed to the dangers of second hand smoke (and first hand smoke, for that matter), could be seen as a violation of his human rights under the Ontario Human Rights Code.
This is just too much. I might fall off my chair. Too funny:
Today, right now, somewhere, someone is looking at a "smoker" in disgust. Someone is making a public comment and a judgment against someone with the disability of cigarette addiction.

Smokers are a minority. A minority with a serious addiction that is a detriment to their health, and a possible detriment to the health of others, yet to discriminate against a smoker is acceptable in our society, despite the fact that for years cigarettes were publicly promoted on billboards, at sporting events, in many forms and mediums, and the actual addiction can be seen as being a result of the influence of this promotion of what is still today a legal substance. Not too (sic) mention the fact that cigarettes are taxed to the hilt with the money greedily collected by the same government hands that wiggle a finger at us and say smoking is bad.
I wonder if he believes this stuff, or if he is really applying for a job with the Ontario Human Rights Commission, and is padding his resume. His conclusion is priceless:
To that London trucker who was ticketed for smoking in his rig, I say get a good human rights lawyer and fight it, if for nothing else, as a matter of principal (sic).
To Ross McDermott, I say, if you are going to be a reporter, or even if you are prepping your resume for Ms. Hall, learn proper English. "Not too mention" should have read "Not to mention", and "a matter of principal", should have read "a matter of principle." Kids these days.

Before I close though, I found an interesting dichotomy when I saw a separate article from 9/29/09 on the same site with the title "Ontario files $50 billion lawsuit against tobacco companies; Bentley announces".

That article starts out:

Ontario's Attorney General and London MPP Chris Bentley announced that the Ontario government has filed a $50 billion lawsuit against tobacco companies, Tuesday (Sept. 29).

The lawsuit seeks damages "for past and ongoing healthcare costs linked to tobacco-related illness," said a media release from the Ontario government.

"Ontario is taking the next step towards recovering taxpayer dollars spent fighting tobacco-related illnesses," Bentley said. "We are joining British Columbia and New Brunswick in initiating a lawsuit to recover health care costs from tobacco companies."
But, it raises a question for London Topic. I wonder if they should be advising the tobacco companies that smoking is a Human Right, and so they should fight the lawsuit as "a matter of principal". Just asking.

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