Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Coffee and Tobacco; Complete Repose

I was first made aware of the disparity in attention to questionable substances in my first year of university. My psychology professor went off the rails discussing how he could not understand why people go to a party to drink a depressant (alcohol), he capped it of by triumphantly slamming the board with his hand and hollering,
"Have a damn coffee!"

The idea has stayed with me ever since, and has recently risen to prominence in the media again.
Bill C - 10, known as the crime omni-bus, is proposing to increase the maximum sentence for production of marijuana from 7 years to 14 years. That means someone growing a plant in their basement could serve 2/3rds of the time that Anders Behring Brevik (The mass murderer in Norway) will serve. It also means that marijuana production convictions can no longer be given an absolute or conditional discharge, which is considered beneficial in cases where the public is not at risk. This change is simply because the maximum sentence is now 14 years. The cases themselves have not changed one tiny bit, but the courts are now forced to see and respond to them differently.

Compare this to the minor developments surrounding cigarettes. Despite being highly addictive and dangerous to one's health, they are still widely available. The only substantial differences to their control has been the prohibition of smoking in public buildings and the restriction on advertising. There has been no change to the actual product or people's view of it, just change to the way the non-smoking public is presented with it. 

In another case energy drinks are becoming more highly controlled. Instead of energy drinks they will be labelled "Stimulant drug containing drinks", include a warning about cardiac irregularity, and may move to be sold only in pharmacies.  This in the face of drinks that are typically about the equivalent to a tall coffee or two cans of cola. Coffee and espresso drinks, of course, will not need such warnings, despite the fact that it is the same stimulant and since it is normalized, it is easier to overdose on. 

Compare these restrictions and developments to recent developments made against alcohol, despite the abysmal drunk driving record Canada holds, or to issues surrounding the obesity epidemic, where I have never seen a label warning people about the dangers of the high sugar or calorie content in a food.  These dangers have become 'normalized' in our society and so to introduce changes would be seen as unusual despite the fact that we know more about them now than we did before. Changes are good, apparently, just so long as they don't interfere with 'NORMAL' people; let the delinquents suffer, we have our rye.

The title, "Coffee and tobacco are complete repose" is a Turkish proverb.

1 comment:

Opal Sea said...

So let's ban it all!

That isn't the solution of course.

You do, however, have to start somewhere. Coffee is something that is targeted to adults, energy drinks are targeted to kids. It's the colourful berry flavored cigarette in the caffein world.

I don't say this in a "protect our innocent youth" manner, but in a "protect our ignorant, know-it-all youth" way. It is easy to say "then have parents watch their kids", but even in the best of households, that isn't a possibility. Kids will form groups, steal money, buy what they want, and hide it under the guise of studying. It's their purpose to rebel and find their own way.

But after spending 20 years raising that child, most parents will be damned if they will just let them make terrible choices and learn the hard way. So they do what they can by trying to restrict the sale of certain things. Or at least make the companies admit that this sugar syrup is not the same medicine Mary Poppins hands out.

As for marijuana, it is psychoactive and has neurological effects, no matter what the person taking it says. That is the difference between it and cigarettes. That's what makes it a drug to be restricted. If you shouldn't drive after cough syrup, then you sure as hell should drive with a drug onboard that changes your perceptions of your environment and slows your reflexes.

Sure, it would be nice to live in a world where no one took anything that was bad for them, but we are surrounded by things that are harmful to us. All we can do is educate ourselves about the dangers and engage in harm reduction.

Of course: anything in excess is a poison. it is the individual choice when to stop. No matter the government, no matter the rules, people will always be people.