For years my peers have made fun of Canadians, and I've never understood why. They're friendly, they don't take themselves too seriously, they don't have as many guns, and just crossing the border into Canada makes me want to quit smoking cigarettes. So why can't Oregon take a page out of their book?
While certain Canadian provinces have smoking bans in bars and restaurants, that's not the only reason they have such a low smoking rate. There's also Canada's socialized healthcare system, which has spurred the government to place heavy-handed emphasis on quitting smoking. It makes sense that if people smoke less, their publicly funded system is less burdened by folks with lung cancer, emphysema, and other smoking-related illnesses. In the states, however, with our private healthcare system, the government has less motivation to care about smoking—because we're forced to pay for our own diseases.
Another reason for Canada's low rate could be thanks to the way smoking is portrayed. Television commercials there show people who are deathly ill from smoking. On cigarette packages in Canada, Europe, and Australia, graphic images like rotten teeth, gangrenous feet, diseased lungs, and stroke-addled brains warn you not to light up. In Canadian bars where smoking is still allowed, cigarette lovers are relegated to a prison-like plastic room (something like they have at Holocene) where you have to choke down everyone's second-hand smoke just to get a puff of your own. In Canada, smoking seems ridiculous. In Portland, Oregon, our attitude is... well, everyone else is doing it.
I've been a part-time smoker for almost 10 years. Often times I find myself praying to God to spare me from lung cancer, or promising myself I'll quit by the time I'm 27, 28, 29, and now 30. I'm also a reactionary, and I think that if someone gave me a good reason not to smoke I would stop. Like if Oregon bars banned smoking, I doubt I'd be standing out in the rain sucking on a fag.
However, that's not the only answer. For the most part, Oregon's problem is ignoring the problem. Thus far, according to the American Lung Association, our state hasn't used any of the money from the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement between the National Association of Attorneys-General and Big Tobacco which was set aside for tobacco-use control or prevention. And not only has the Oregon Restaurant Association worked hard to shoot down smoking ban legislation, in 2004, Oregon was the first state in 10 years to actually lower taxes on cigarettes.
If nothing else, we could at least follow Canada's lead as New York recently did—and with astounding results. The state has been broadcasting anti-smoking commercials, which graphically depict a man swabbing out his tracheotomy. Disgusting? You bet. But since the commercials have started airing, three times more New Yorkers have been convinced to call city health about quitting smoking than last year.
Banning smoking in bars could work—but so could the direct approach.