Pros and Cons: Side effects of smoking

Graphic by Jennifer Kwan

Not hiring smokers will push them to kick the habit

by Robin Della Corte

A new trend seems to be popping up across North America where employers, including several Canadian jobs posted on, are refusing to hire smokers.

“Everyone knows smoking kills you and we prefer to work with very intelligent people who aren’t choosing to kill themselves with every puff,” Rob Hall, Momentous Corp’s president told CTV news in an interview last week.

Hall stated that by refusing to hire smokers, it has slashed half the cost of employee health benefits compared to five or six years ago.

According to Stewart Harris, a law professor at Appalachian State University, “smokers cost more money. Smokers miss more workdays, smokers have more health problems.”

A recent study conducted by the University of Nottingham showed that smokers are 33 per cent more likely to miss work, taking an average of 2.74 more sick days than non-smokers.

It has been estimated by the Conference Board of Canada that, on average, an employee who smokes costs employers $3,396 a year, as reported by Health Canada in 2008.

These costs are associated with increased absenteeism, lower productivity, unscheduled smoke breaks, maintenance of smoking areas, property damage and health and fire insurance costs.

The study also shows that smoke-free environments increased productivity, increased morale, lowered cleaning costs and lessened exposure to secondhand smoke for all non-smoking employees.

With these factors, many employers have introduced policies that restrict smoking in the workplace, limited certain types of jobs to non-smoking employees and offered programs designed to encourage and assist employees quit smoking.

From experience, I see that smokers generally take more breaks. From the five jobs I’ve worked, two of them were in restaurants—and if you’ve ever worked in a restaurant, you’d know that in most cases you can’t have a lunch break. However, smokers are allowed to step outside sometimes five or more times in a day, depending on the boss’s restrictions.

I would work like everyone else, a seven or eight hour shift, not having one single break and it would frustrate me more than anything being almost the only one working for those straight hours while almost all the workers would have the luxury of stepping out and taking their time with their cigarette.

Companies have the right to hire who they want as long as it doesn’t discriminate under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Although it does come down to a personal choice of lifestyle, smoking is not who you are; it’s a choice you made that does have negative consequences.

Instead of defending smoking, maybe smokers should take this as even further motivation to quit.

We’re already unproductive, smoking doesn’t change that

by Victor Barbaros

Do you smoke? You better think twice. Actually, more than twice or you might have trouble finding a job.

According to a recently published article on CTV, a growing number of private companies in Canada, as well as in the U.S. and abroad have begun to include the “non-smokers only” requirement when looking for new employees.

When I saw this article for the first time, I thought it was a joke; it’s ridiculously unfair to include the non-smoking status as a prerequisite for a job. I figured this was a discriminatory condition. Still, I decided to compare my thoughts with some official sources, mainly the Canada Labour Code.

A passage from the government of Canada’s website states that, “The Code does not provide for breaks over the work day. Most employers provide two paid ‘coffee’ breaks during the day. But to protect workers with unscrupulous employers, this practice needs to be enacted.”

Labour Standards in Quebec also allow for a coffee break, which is, “not obligatory, but when it is granted by the employer it must be paid and be included in the calculation of the hours worked”.

By law, during a working day we are allowed a minimum of 30 minutes for a lunch break, which is not paid. We also have a “coffee break”, which is defined by the employer when it comes to duration, but is paid.

Let’s be frank; during a full day shift, we don’t work each and every second. We take the time to talk to our colleagues, our bosses, get our coffee and so on.

So, you see, it’s not just the act of smoking that determines the quality and productivity of one’s employees. Smoking is not the only time-spending habit that is worth consideration.

This isn’t to say that smoking doesn’t decrease productivity. According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, most smokers are addicts. This means that an employee-smoker wouldn’t smoke his “morning-cigarette” and “lunchtime” cigarette (like you do with your coffee). In most of the times the smoker would need a puff each one to two hours. What’s funnier, the smokers usually don’t like to smoke alone; they need a companion, a partner that shares the same habit, so don’t be surprised when you see that they are going in couples. The time spent by an employee enjoying his or her cigarette may vary from insignificant to substantial.

I don’t try to cover this counterargument, however, I don’t believe productivity is the issue that most people have against hiring smokers. I think that the antismoking attitudes in our society and the promotion of a healthy lifestyle are reinventing themselves.

Since the 1950s we’ve heard about legal trials lost by big tobacco producers based on the insufficient advertising of the negative effects on the population’s health.

We speak about the risks of smoking everywhere, however, according to the 2010 Canadian Tobacco Use Monitoring Survey, 17 per cent of Canadians aged 15 years and older are smoking.

Smoking may not be good for you, but ultimately it’s not fair to favour job applicants who make different lifestyle choices. We are entitled to certain breaks and how employees spend them shouldn’t be controlled.


Cursive writing: a romantic art or a useless hassle?

Cursive writing has been under scrutiny lately. Is it a useless skill to have in a technology-driven world or is it a form of writing that should be preserved for the sake of keeping some type of handwriting in the curriculum? The Concordian looks at the pros and cons of cursive writing, and whether or not it should be preserved in the future.

Pro: The value in reviving a dying art

Catlin Spencer
Staff writer

In grade school, there were workbooks and piles of stencil sheets that were supposed to be filled out in an attempt to learn cursive writing. The problem was, our school gave very little priority to learning cursive; our teacher wasn’t given enough time to thoroughly grade our work, there were never any follow-ups and it was never used in any of the higher grades. Because of that, the majority of the students were able to forget cursive writing with little to no reprimand. Our school focused primarily on the new upcoming technology, and writing classes were replaced with keyboard lessons. I never learned proper cursive writing, and I’ve regretted it ever since not just because I can’t write well in cursive, but because my handwriting in general has suffered. It’s a slippery slope from eliminating cursive to losing handwriting to an over-reliance on technology – a fate that may be in store for future students if more schools decide to end handwriting classes like the principal of innovative teaching for Parkland School Division in Edmonton.

There are the times when things have to be handwritten, and not just scrawled, legibly enough to be read by anyone. For example, technology is not infallible; computers crash and deadlines are unforgiving. It may happen that work has to be written by hand. Also, final exams at Concordia, with the exception of take-home exams, must be handwritten and there are teachers that prohibit the use of laptops and tablets while requiring that students take notes. While no one else has to read a student’s notes, it would be embarrassing not being able to read your own writing, and even more so to lose marks on an exam because no one could read your answer.

Call it old-fashioned, but handwritten letters have always had a personal touch that you just can’t get with pixels and ink-jet printers. Whether it’s a thank you note or a love letter, no matter the font, it won’t have the same impact of a paper where each letter of every word was a done by the careful stroke of a pen or pencil. People appreciate the thought, and the time taken.

There is, however, hope for the art of script.

In an opposite measure than schools in Edmonton, a House panel in Idaho unanimously approved a bill in that would require public schools to teach cursive handwriting. The decision pointed to research that showed that handwriting courses help with visual recognition, refining motor skills and increases interest and capabilities in creative arts. There was also much concern over the possible loss of being able to read cursive, leading to a time when people will not be able to read old diaries, journals and important documents written in cursive. Generations of information could be lost, and we would become disconnected from a part of our past.

For these reasons, it would be a shame and a bad idea to eliminate handwriting from the curriculum in schools. It would mean the loss of an artform and a major blow to the quality of handwriting in general.

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Con: Out with the old and in with the technology

Robin Della Corte
Assistant news editor

When I was 10-years-old, hours and hours were devoted to mastering my lowercase k’s, z’s and uppercase G’s. Now, in a day of technology, these hours seem to have been wasted stressing over my cursive writing.

Today, more and more teachers have taken out cursive writing practice from their curriculum and replaced it with teaching students keyboarding and other computer-based communication.

Having only used my cursive writing skills in elementary school, I couldn’t be happier that teachers are finally realizing just how useless cursive writing has become.

George Couros, the principal of innovative teaching for Parkland School Division in Edmonton, told CTV News that both technology and literacy are developing but that “we need to really focus on what we do in school to help kids connect with the world.”

Going into highschool, I thought all my assignments would be handed in using cursive writing only, as my elementary teachers had prepared me. To my surprise, this wasn’t the case.

While I do recall having to give in a few handwritten assignments in my first year of high school, I’ve used my computer through high school, college and now, university.

In his letter to The Gazette, Robert Marcogliese argued that reading newspapers, instruction manuals, information documents, novels, university textbooks, Facebook, maps or even greeting cards, he “finds it impossible to remember any recent occasion when [he] had to read cursive text, or to practice [his] cursive writing skills.” The only time he remembers cursive is when signing cheques, which he believes will eventually become obsolete.

I don’t see the point in forcing children to learn a completely old-fashioned style of writing, when most teachers prefer students to hand in submissions which are typed.

It is a far better use of a child’s time to learn something undeniably useful to them, such as computer science and typing techniques.

There are some classes in college and university where teachers prefer if you take handwritten notes, but this hardly requires the perfection of each standardized letter.

When students are taking down notes while the teacher is speaking,few even bother trying to make it look neat. All they care about is getting the information down, and rightly so.

Ask yourself, when is your child ever going to use cursive writing? To write a fancy letter? No, because now, if you want to send a letter or message to your friend, it’s called an email or a text message.

I’m not saying to abolish learning to write by hand all together, but I think cursive writing should be excluded from elementary curriculums which should be updated in order to coincide with the times and to benefit children in the future.

Graphic by Jennifer Kwan


Pros and Cons: Star Wars…Disney is your father

There are some films that are so influential they will be engrained in film culture for years and years to come. There are some stories that are so appealing that they are rendered classics almost immediately. Star Wars is one of those films. Alas, the question we ask is this: Disney has bought the the rights to the series for a pretty penny, but should more Star Wars movies be made? Here’s a breakdown of the pros and cons.

PRO: Why fans should rejoice
by Jenna Cocullo

I sense a disturbance in the force; Disney Studios has bought LucasFilm for $4.05 billion with the intention of making three brand new films. Some fans were upset with the news. However, there is no reason to fret and here are four reasons why.

1. Once you hit rock bottom the only way to go is up.
Let’s face it, Star Wars episodes I to III were not exactly the most satisfying films. Matthew Hays, critic and film studies professor at Concordia University, agrees.

“The first Star Wars film was a lot of fun, and was very creative and new. The next two weren’t as good. The next three, the prequels, were generally quite rotten.”

The good news? Well it seems that it cannot get any more rotten as anything could be better than the last three films to hit theaters.

“I think a new sequel could be fun, and it couldn’t be much worse than the last few,” said Hays.

Disney is starting off favourably since expectations will be very low for any new Star Wars movies because the last few disappointed so intensely.

2. It’s Disney!
Besides supposedly putting subliminal messages in our beloved childhood films, have they ever really done anything bad? They are responsible for this summer’s greatest blockbuster, The Avengers, recent favourites like Pirates of the Caribbean and creating childhood classics such as the epic Toy Story trilogy. It is safe to say that the Star Wars legacy will be in good hands.

3. A fresh new storyline with a fresh new perspective
Had Disney decided to reboot the films, that would have been a problem (even though it would be kind of cool to see what they would look like in the 21st century).

“I like the idea of creating new storylines and not rebooting the old films,” explained Hays. “There are too many reboots going on right now, it just feels like so much recycling.”

Fortunately, that is not the case. New story lines are in the making — ones which do not involve the original cast at all. The fact that George Lucas is not the one producing them is even better because Disney can provide a new take on the films.

4. A classic movie is immortal
Star Wars will live on with the making of three new movies. Of course, they will never be as good as the originals, nothing ever leaves an impression like the first, but that is no reason to stop the legacy. Many enthusiasts have expressed their feelings of joy on Internet forums discussing the topic. They feel that they can relive a great part of their childhood. At the end of the day, a franchise so many love is coming back to the big screen. If it sucks, so what? The originals will always be there. So for any doubtful people out there, my advice to you would be to just sit back, relax, and enjoy the show.

CON: Don’t mess with a good thing
by Christina Rowan

Disney making three more Star Wars films instead of Lucasfilm is the equivalent of a modern day artist adding onto to Michelangelo’s oeuvre in the Sistine Chapel. What’s done is done!

From here on out, the legacy of George Lucas’ cinematic ventures runs the risk of being credited to Disney, which initially, had nothing to do with it.

Lucas will remain a consultant to the Star Wars franchise. However, Disney ultimately holds the cards, allowing them to take directions Lucas wouldn’t if it were solely up to him.

Lucas was clearly in no need of financial aid. He has made beyond what is considered a fortune on his franchise — an estimated $27 billion, through the films, television shows, action figures, video games, board games, you name it — yet still sold to mass film corporation Disney.

Since the sale, the announcement of three new possible Star Wars films has become public, but what more can Disney add to the story?

Everyone is already familiar with the the intergalactic empire, life-threatening lightsaber battles, epic pod races and the ultimate fight between good and evil. We’ve seen what happens from beginning to end to Luke, Princess Leia, and their villainous father, Darth Vader. Even the Emperor fell to his doom in Star Wars VI: Return of the Jedi.

So, is the production of three more Star Wars movies really necessary? Three new films may only tarnish the glory it possesses.

The entertainment business today seems to be popping out the same types of movies all the time, most recently, superhero films like Batman, Iron Man, and Spider-Man. They’ve been recycled and updated with clearer graphics, bigger explosions and louder sound effects. It’s becoming a little repetitive, when you think about it.

For Star Wars fans who were disappointed with the prequel films released since 1999, it will only be more of the same disappointment with three Disney-made Star Wars films.

Lucas said in an interview with IGN that when he made the first Star Wars installments back in the 1970s, everybody in Hollywood said it was a movie Disney should have made. He didn’t give in then so why now? In the end, Lucas made some of the greatest movies of all time. Can Disney really live up to that reputation? I don’t think so.

I’m sure the new movies will be enormous box office hits, action-packed blockbusters. They might even be great films in themselves, but we should be looking to new ideas, not revamping old ones.

Despite all the excitement and all the hype, the classics will always be the innovative, new world brought to life by George Lucas, and no remake or newer movie can live up to that.

Graphic by Phil Waheed.


Pros and Cons: Reality television

TLC’s “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo”

PRO: Who can resist a guilty pleasure?

by Sabrina Giancioppi

At face value, reality television is easily a reflection of everything that is wrong with society. The only thing worse than the housewives, bachelors, idols, kids from the shore, teen moms and toddlers, might just be those who tune in to watch these shows every week, fuelling our society’s great appetite for idiotism and humiliation. So why is reality television this irrevocably addictive?

Reality T.V. is life at the extreme; it’s indulgent and candid. It is the quintessential guilty pleasure that networks like TLC and MTV capitalize on because the truth is, reality T.V. is the staple entertainment of the 21st century as it makes us go from viewers to voyeurs.

Shows like Survivor, Big Brother, Real Housewives and The Bachelor give viewers the spectacle of drama different from any other television program. The fact that these characters are not fictional makes it gripping on an intrinsic level, exposing human nature at its extreme.

Ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle mulled this idea over for years, saying that the Athenians who attended the theatre did so as a way “to be cured, relieved, restored to psychic health,” he wrote.

After a long day of ordinary responsibilities and relationships, reality television is the perfect antidote. It is a form of catharsis that allows viewers to purge various emotions and exposes our very own excessive passions we sometimes keep withdrawn. The representation of real people in real situations makes the “what would I do?” question more plausible. We root for the underdogs and the stories that pull at our heartstrings, but we revel in the drama, the fights and the humiliation.

Many baby boomers cannot seem to understand the beauty behind reality television shows, and why would they? Classic sitcoms they grew up with like All in the Family, Three’s Company and The Mary Tyler Moore Show were wholesome, family-oriented shows.

Censorship was more prominent; people were not as open and candid. However, nowadays we live in an information age. The more we know and the faster we are updated, the better.

Not only is reality T.V. entertaining, but it sends the message that ordinary people can become so important that millions will watch them and talk about them to friends and coworkers.

People always bring up the falsehoods of reality T.V. and it being detrimental to society due to fabricated situations, pre-scripted events and various ethical issues. However, reality T.V. continues to win the popular vote as ratings for shows like American Idol and The Voice remain high time and time again.

Aside from the regular “trashy” programs, shows like ABC’s Supernanny, A&E’s Intervention and NBC’s Biggest Loser can actually be really helpful to an audience’s larger consciousness and provide beneficial information.
Blaming reality T.V. for our societal problems is just our way of dismissing the other reasons for our so-called “dumbed-down” popular culture. I’m pretty sure it’s not just the Kardashians corrupting and influencing the youth, however hard they might try.


ABC’s “The Bachelorette”

CON: Unrealistic expectations, anyone?
by Ayda Omidvar

From The Jersey Shore to Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, reality television seems to have taken up a large part of network airtime and everyday conversation. But the question is, why?

It’s only a form of gossip entertainment. Viewers adopt the idea that these characters exist in their day-to-day lives and when the gossip quota runs out, they turn to this type of polished drama. Reality T.V. has developed into a self-destructive sub-culture. The fact that a crime can be turned around into a good story is preposterous — an example being the episode of Jersey Shore where the overly tanned and boisterous Snooki is arrested on the beach for “disorderly conduct.”

In a less obvious way, reality T.V. makes the far-fetched lives of the rich into something attainable and even more so, expected.

The picture perfect girls on The Hills live in beautiful apartments in downtown L.A., drive nice cars, and have internships with companies such as Teen Vogue. Viewers, noticing that these characters aren’t anything above ordinary in regards to intelligence or wit, may start to wonder why their lives haven’t panned out the same way. It’s mainly because the girls on The Hills are filthy rich.

Not only do these types of shows damage the viewer’s mind, but also the minds of the ‘actors’ or participants in the shows.

Reality T.V. is like any other dramatized television show except that it “blurs the line between actor and person,” said Laura Buchanan, a student studying theatre performance.

Toddlers in Tiaras teaches children at a young age that aesthetics, physical beauty, and a slightly crazed mother will get you what you want. This is a recipe for disaster.

Starring in one of these absurd shows means living with the fear that if you don’t act ridiculous every episode, you’re going to be quickly replaced. Characters on Laguna Beach or The Hills who don’t invoke as much attention as the networks would like, gradually fade away until they don’t appear in anymore episodes.

“There is a reason people watch T.V., and it’s not to watch ordinary people’s lives,” said Kenna Prepchuk, a political science student at Concordia.

The people on these shows ruin their future dignity in the sense that no one can ever look at them the same way. Unless these actors have signed a contract to do the show for life, how can they expect to be recognized as a person who can be hired for any other job?

The networks aren’t solely to blame in this situation because just like any business, they are there to make money and will do anything to get it. Making profit from reality T.V. shows like Jersey Shore means including highlights of excessive drama and cutting out the mundane and the ordinary.

While reality T.V. lacks style and class, like any form of addiction, knowing its bad for you doesn’t mean you’ll quit it anytime soon.


Pros and Cons: Is video reviewing ruining the game?

Graphic by Phil Waheed.

PROS: Waiting on the right call
by Gregory Todaro

Sports are deeply ingrained in cultures around the world. However, the world has changed significantly since the beginning of sports, and it’s no wonder sports have evolved too. Sports are played at a faster pace than ever before, where players kick harder, shoot more accurately, and make the referee’s life much more difficult.

While these changes certainly make sports more interesting to watch, referees are having a harder time coping with the evolution of the game. Officiating sports was already a difficult task, but the quickness at which sports are played makes it harder to make accurate calls. One of the best ways referees can improve their ability to run a game is through the use of video reviewing, which has already been implemented into several sports, the most popular being football and hockey.

Despite numerous critics, video reviewing is an improvement on officiating. As a former soccer referee I know firsthand how fast-paced a game can be, even at a high school level.

I remember one incident during a high school game where a player took a shot that bounced off the post and rolled along the goal line before being scooped up by the goalkeeper. I was positioned directly on the goal line, but even then I couldn’t be completely sure the ball crossed the line. I made the best call possible, though I was not entirely sure.

The pursuit of accuracy is something referees have to go through every game. No official in the world of sports is perfect, and video reviewing allows for officials to make accurate calls.

Video reviewing has benefited the game as a whole. It has helped officials make the right calls and is keeping sports honest and accurate. Video reviewing should be used at the professional level, especially for quick sports.

People throw around the term “necessary evil” when talking about video review. While fans are concerned that reviews are time consuming and disrupt the flow of the game, the right call is always worth the wait. When you look at other game stoppages, such as TV timeouts, they take about as much time and contribute nothing to the game.

There are many incidents that have been controversial and that have brought up many serious questions about the lack of video review in sports. The examples are endless, some more serious than others, and they create a large unfairness in many sports.

While the technology isn’t perfect, it’s the best system we have available. Eventually technology will allow balls and pucks with interior sensors to report information in real time to officials. In the meantime, video reviewing is vital to ensure a game is played and judged as accurately as possible. After all, referees are only human.

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CONS: Don’t fix a good thing
by George Menexis

I live in the past, I’ll admit it. Although I admire progress, there are some things that shouldn’t be changed or tampered with. Indecisive calls in sports are one of those things.

Video reviewing is ruining the world of sports; however, there’s still a chance to escape it. Although I do understand why many admirers would find it an attractive solution to indecisive calls in sports, it’s also seriously interferes with the entertainment factor that each and every sport has to offer.

Jack Todd is a sports columnist for the Montreal Gazette and agrees wholeheartedly that endless video review is ruining sports.

“It’s the worst trend in sports, worse than Gary Bettman and his neverendum lockouts,” wrote Todd.

“They keep pulling more tricks from the bottomless bin of technology, but the result is no better than it ever was. Nine times out of 10, the video replay exercise is either inconclusive or the officials still get it wrong.”

Why spend countless hours and piles of money to provide video technology that will do little to ensure the fairness of a score? Do not think I’m ignorant. I do recognize that some plays are simply impossible for the referees to judge appropriately. However, for the sake of the game, it is a compromise sports fans need to make in order to ensure that the passion for sports is kept intact.

As a sports fan, I recognize specific allures that are common in every sport — the competitiveness, the passion, the fans. However, this also includes the indecisiveness, the wrong calls, and the game changers. These are moments that have marked sports history since the very beginning, and this is also what video-reviewing is getting rid of.

“But the real problem is that replay reviews have drained all the drama from the game,” wrote Todd. “You can’t jump up to cheer a great play anymore, because you know you’re going to have to wait 15 minutes for the video review.”

“It’s hurting hockey, where a goal is not a goal until it’s reviewed for an hour or so by the war room in Toronto.”

That’s the serious dilemma that many sports will face in the coming years. The battle for accuracy against passion. In my books, passion wins by a mile. There is no need for video review in sports. If anything, it’ll just drive more fans away.

The mistakes made by referees have created a controversial history in sports that still have people reacting emotionally when mentioned. That is what sports are all about. That’s the tradition; and, in my opinion, it can’t be ruined. It’s ingrained in the world of sports and needs to stay there for years to come. The referee’s call stands, and that’s that.


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