Step away from my menthols

Published on July 2, 2016

Dear editor: Regarding the July 1, 2017 proposed ban on the sale (and purchase and use?) of menthol cigarettes, I would like to voice my strenuous opposition to this illogical, insulting and socially divisive plan.

The Department of Health and Community Services justifying this further restriction by stating that it is in line with what certain other provinces have implemented doesn’t make it reasonable, either. For example, if a few other provinces banned the use of snowmobiles/ATVs on all waterways after Feb. 28, would Newfoundland and Labrador impose the same ban? Not likely (although it might have saved my son a few years back).

My currently legal and very moderate addiction is long established, despite the many government “promotions” to further curtail or outlaw it altogether. I have been a menthol cigarette smoker since my 30s (I’m now almost 61), and I previously smoked non-mentholated cigarettes since I was 16. I won’t refer to these as “unflavoured,” because every brand of tobacco has its own unique flavour. When I began working for the federal government in my 20s, I was actually encouraged to smoke, with the courteous provision of a giant ashtray at my desk and those of my coworkers.

While I agreed with the subsequent ban on workplace smoking in general, I didn’t think it should be applied to “open air” environments, unless the particular area is very small or enclosed — for example, bus shelters, or the smokers are littering the ground with their butts. I also believe property owners of drinking establishments should have been allowed the choice whether to implement the ban on their premises or not. They are the ones paying taxes on it, and no one would be forced to work in a smoking-allowed venue. The same goes for the patrons.

Regarding the plan to have only plain packaging for cigarettes, or just those grossly exaggerated graphic depictions that everyone (even children, apparently) learns to ignore, how is the store clerk supposed to identify one brand from another, or for that matter, spouses who smoke different brands? (As previously mentioned, each brand has its own taste.)

With the Health Department’s proposed ban on menthol cigarettes and other flavoured tobacco products, I am given to understand that it will be OK for my neighbour down the hall to smoke her regular cigarettes (and eventually her marijuana joints), but I will not have the right to smoke No. 7 Menthols, which are actually much more expensive than regulars and generate more revenue for the government and the retailer. And there are no children living in this smoke-free building.

I guess it’s also OK to drink Crème de Menthe or any other kind of flavoured alcohol (which, according to Health Department logic, would also be potentially attractive to children who might then grow up to become alcoholics). That’s grand, except I’m not much of a drinker, so not much consolation. But if I quit smoking, I can substitute nicotine for chocolate, right? Oh wait — I heard a rumour that N.L. is eventually going to ban anything containing cocoa and/or sugar (particularly if Ontario and/or the Maritime provinces make the decision first).

The Department of Health and Community Services needs to be reminded that their mandate, according to the voting public they serve, is to promote, not dictate, ways in which we should live our lives. This ever-insistent nannying/bullying of adults who have the right to make their own decisions in their personal lives is getting on my nerves. And that’s not healthy.

Diane Wells, St. John’s