Opinion

Smokers deserve a haven in Duncan bus shelters

I got on the bus recently and got a belated awful Christmas present. The driver, who is really a very nice person, took great pride in pointing out city council had passed a bylaw saying it is now illegal to smoke cigarettes at a bus shelter.

I am an avid smoker and, like most Canadian citizens have rights. I find my rights have gradually been eroded by political correctness.

In 1991 I had a breakdown and was committed to the Eric Martin Pavilion. I was discharged out on the street with no money, no family, no house, and no job.  As I was an out-of-work 51-year-old with a mental health label, I did not see much hope of landing a good-paying job. I found Sombrio Beach. There I could live with a bunch of squatters who had less money than I did.

At first, I was the rich person on the beach.  Eventually, however my U.I. ran out. Being upper middle class, I was too proud to ask for social assistance.  This period of my life was rather stressful and I really needed cigarettes. I found as long as I had a quarter to offer to buy a cigarette I could get one. Sometimes, I could go in to a coffee shop in Sooke, have several cups of tea, several cigarettes, and come out with my original quarter.

I lived in Victoria in the 1990s when my right to smoke started to be eroded and you could not smoke in public buildings. I found the best place to go bumming cigarettes in Victoria was in the legislative buildings. People like Corky Evans could be caught in the washroom and I could guilt them into giving me a bribe of a cigarette to shut me up. The Press Gallery was also a very good place to get cigarettes.

I could go on about how I was banned from Lake Cowichan, right after I was married, for the whole summer of 2007. I was arrested for picking up butts.  They told me It was unhygenic.

In the fall of 2007, I gave up smoking for three or four years. In February of this year my doctor tried to have me committed to the fourth floor. They did not have a bed for me on the fourth floor so I spent a couple of days in emergency and a few days on the surgical third floor.  I never even used the bed they found for me on the fourth floor.

It was quite stressful and I started smoking again.  Things have changed.  Smokers are now an embattled co-fraternity.  I no longer need a quarter (actually the going rate now is 50 cents).  I can just ask for a cigarette and usually get one.  In fact, during the past month I asked for one cigarette three separate times and was given a full pack. One of the best places to bum cigarettes is a bus stop.  People always light up while waiting for a bus.

I do not plan to stop smoking at bus shelters.  The people who passed the bylaw do not know anything about public transportation and how things are at bus stops.  Probably the last time they took a bus was their last day at school.

If anyone is so concerned about my secondhand smoke at a bus stop they can bloody well go and stand out in the rain themselves. They can catch pneumonia as they dial 911.

Gerald McVeigh is a Duncan resident.

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