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John Robson: McMaster University thinks adults can’t decide for themselves whether to smoke

It is grimly amusing to read that McMaster will soon be the first entirely smoke-free campus in Ontario, banning lighting soon-to-be-legal joints as well the dreaded cigarettes. What are they teaching them in schools?

According to the Post story, the University president said banning all smoke except the stuff coming out a columnist’s ears “was a next step in ‘fulfilling our responsibilities as educators.’” Which would be what exactly?

To prevent students from assuming adult responsibilities for another four years? Or to keep them from learning how to make prudent scientific judgements? I remember when education was about sound information and reasoning skills. But nowadays evidently it has become a branch of applied social engineering.

According to the Post, “Allowing smoking to go on any longer would have been at odds with what the school said was ‘globally recognized’ research in the health and ‘societal well-being.’” So evidently world-class research has revealed that adults making their own choices, including risky ones, is contrary to the revolution or something. But don’t worry. Those who flout the ban will, initially, be referred to “a cessation program or given access to supports and resources.”

Does the university want to prevent students from assuming adult responsibilities for another four years?

Ah. Re-education. You shouldn’t have. But they did. Fourteen Canadian universities now ban smoking entirely, as does the Yukon territory on all campuses there.

To be fair, there is a certain petty consistency in legalizing marijuana because anything goes nowadays, only to immediately ban it because nothing does. McMaster’s Assistant Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer told the CBC, “Smoking is a personal choice. We’re not saying you have to quit smoking.” You just can’t, you know, smoke.

It also reflects a pervasive irrationality about second-hand smoke bound to impact legalized marijuana as well as officially disapproved tobacco. Despite the condescending banner of “evidence-based decision-making,” government ads drivel things like, “There is NO SAFE LEVEL of SECOND-HAND SMOKE… Even Outdoors!” That City of Ottawa ad, spotted on a bike rack in August 2010, raved, “EXPOSURE TO SECOND-HAND SMOKE CAN BE AS DANGEROUS OUTDOORS AS IT IS INDOORS.” And there was a snitch line to foster social cohesion.

We are not saying you have to quit smoking. You just cannot, you know, smoke

Are you kidding me? Everybody who prefers actual to politicized science has known “the dose makes the poison” since Paracelsus (dead white male physician, 1493/94-1541). Whereas McMaster won’t even let you smoke in your car lest a stray molecule pierce a passerby and leave them prostrate or merely hysterical on the sidewalk. “That provision,” the Post reported, “is meant to protect passing students, staff and faculty from second-hand smoke, dean of students Sean Van Koughnett told The Canadian Press.” Evidently no provision exists to shelter them from second-hand paranoia.

The university did suggest therapeutic marijuana users consider pot brownies or pills. Despite globally recognized evidence that eating the stuff makes it harder to control the dose or get quick relief. But even vaping is out despite generating far less harmful fumes, suggesting the scientific rationale is something of a pretext for anti-fun snobbery.

I’m not sure how they view snuff or chewing tobacco. Or whether using marijuana to relax or socialize constitutes a therapeutic purpose, given that stress and loneliness are bad for you. Yes, I know, lips that touch wine shall not touch mine and all that. But much evidence (remember that stuff?) suggests that moderate drinking is healthier than total abstinence, possibly because being totally uptight is harmful. It may also be true of reasonable marijuana use. But if you go to McMaster, you won’t find out.

But even vaping is out despite generating far less harmful fumes

Unless you’re aboriginal; there is the obligatory PC exemption for “the unique relationship that many Indigenous cultures have with traditional and sacred medicines.” What would happen if you attended a smudging ceremony and deliberately breathed in tobacco smoke then exhaled second-hand death gas is not entirely clear.

Whether you could convert to an Indigenous religion, temporarily or permanently, is a question for their department of theology. Or rather “Department of Religious Studies,” which proclaims that, “In Canada’s multicultural society and the global economy, professionals need to have knowledge of the different religions and cultures. Understanding the world’s cultures and diversity is a key element of social interaction.” Not, you understand, because some religion might be true. We’re too post-modern for truth.

Including the truth that adults can either use marijuana legally or not. The federal and Ontario governments seem to be trying to allow and prevent it simultaneously, lunging for revenue and plush public-sector jobs while insisting on drab packaging and inconvenient retail to shame and discourage users, as if the populace might rise up in Reefer Madness horror if they realized adults would now be allowed to choose. Unless they are at university, of course.

If they are, they’re going to learn that the people in charge are paranoid Puritans. Which I guess is worth knowing.

National Post


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