It was a Tuesday afternoon during one of my many classes. At 1:15 pm we were all relieved to hear the professor utter those four glorious words, “let’s take ten minutes.” Break time had finally arrived for us overworked journalism students. I decided to take advantage of the lasting warm weather and get some fresh air outside.
I started chatting with just about the only people who ironically do get some fresh air during breaks, smokers. As we sat on the steps outside of the CJ building at Loyola, we were suddenly surprised as out of nowhere appeared Mr. security guard. “You can’t smoke here, you have to go behind the yellow line,” he said with all the seriousness he could muster. I half expected him to break out in some weird Fantasy Island parody “The line! The line!” But maybe he was saving that for the communications students. So this is what it had come to. Let the line dance begin.
Before I go on, let us go over this law that has been the bane of many smokers’ existence. On May 31, 2006, at precisely 12:01 a.m. “La Belle Province” outlawed smoking in all restaurants, bars and bingo halls (how can you play bingo without lighting one up! How, I ask!) Basically, if it’s inside, you can’t smoke there. The only exceptions are a few places where you can still smoke cigars, proving that the rich jet set will always be an exception to the rules. Some bar owners have contested the law, arguing that profits will drop as a result. The jury is still out on that one.
Now don’t get me wrong, I understand this whole anti-smoking law. I really do. It sucks to go out, have a beer and smell like an ashtray when you get back home. Cigarettes reek. The smoke gets in your hair, your clothes and your eyes. But is this seriously the best we could come up with? You have to be at a minimum of nine metres from most public entrances if you want to get your nicotine dose. In most areas downtown, that means you are smack dab in the middle of the street. Who cares about lung cancer, when the only place you can legally smoke is literally in the middle of rush hour traffic? Do me a favour sir, and really enjoy that last cigarette before you get hit by the number 15 bus.
Back to our humble little university. My friend the security guard repeated his edict to us, stunned na’ve students. As one, we ridiculously descended the eight or so steps that separated us from the glorious line.
I understand the reason for the line. It is a good line, well painted and flashy. Its parents must be proud. Now here’s my query. Is this really better for the environment, the student body, the school as a whole? Walk up to the southwest entrance of the CJ building, the line doesn’t even need to be there since the demarcation of cigarette butts will clearly indicate where the smokers are supposed to be. Not an ashtray in sight, excluding the ground of course. I personally don’t enjoy the sight of hundreds of cigarette butts littered all around, but that may be my own slanted view of cleanliness. There are many areas at both campuses where ashtrays are lacking, but hey who cares? You mean cigarette butts aren’t biodegradable?
And it’s not just at Concordia. Drive up St. Denis st. on a Friday night. See those people standing in line? Are they there to get into the latest hip club? Of course not, they’re all smokers, and every one of those cigarettes will end up on the sidewalk.
The city, and the university, needs to handle this law better. Ashtrays should be placed at every entrance, for starters. And please, smokers, use them.
I’ll see you guys behind the line, since my friend the security guard will make sure we’ll all be there.