The Veteran Fighting BC’s Anti-Smoking ‘Fascists’ in Supreme Court Is a Hero

More than $11,000 in fines hasn't stopped him from lighting up

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Sep 24 2015, 7:21pm

Photo via Flickr user SuperFantastic

Within a few hours of my last trip to Vancouver, I knew I was home.

It wasn't because I gazed up to catch the glorious peaks of Grouse Mountain, or because I took a sandy stroll along English Bay or because I was suddenly inundated by the scent of skunk and/or skunky weed. No, it was because I was treated to bitch face after bitch face—the active kind—the second I lit up a cigarette.

British Columbians are terrible smokers. And by that I mean, they just don't do it. Hand Vancouverites a bowl of green (crack works too), and they're down. Tobacco aficionados, on the other hand, are akin to lepers. Over the years, both the province and city have cracked down on smoking to the point where it is now effectively banned everywhere.

In the city of Vancouver, smoking is forbidden at parks (and their parking lots), public beaches, golf courses, along the seawall, on patios, within six metres of any entryways including windows, outside of building air intakes, and inside cars if someone 16 or younger is present. Other municipalities in the province have taken similar measures. (Much to my disappointment, Toronto enacted a bylaw this past summer making it illegal to smoke on patios. You can still smoke like a foot away from where your friends are sitting, but if there's an enclosure of some sort, you gotta be on the outside of it.)

Residential buildings in BC are also following suit, designating themselves as "smoke free."

Paul Aradi thought he was safe. The 70-year-old veteran has been sucking back nicotine and tar for half a century. He bought his Langley unit 10 years ago, but in 2009, his condo board passed a rule banning smoking inside common areas and suites. Aradi's response to that rule has pretty much been: GFY. He's continued to smoke in his suite—at the rate of a pack and a half every two days—and as such, has been the subject of multiple complaints to his board. He's also racked up more than $11,000 in fines, which he hasn't paid, nor has he ceased smoking. I repeat: this man gives zero fucks.

But Aradi, who was wounded while acting as a peacekeeper in Cyprus, was forced into action when his meddling condo board filed a Supreme Court petition this month asking a judge to order him not to smoke in his suite.

"[Aradi] is causing and creating a significant nuisance and disturbance for the strata owners," says the petition, which goes on to lament whiffs of stale cigs in the hallway and the dangers of secondhand smoke. It also claims that Aradi could fall asleep while lighting up and that's a fire hazard. (So is cooking. I know from experience.)

Due to mobility issues, Aradi can't easily get outside to smoke, which is why he stays in his suite. He thinks his strata council is trying have him kicked him out of the building.

"They want to get rid of me," he told reporters. He's filed a counter-petition in Supreme Court and a complaint with the Human Rights Tribunal arguing that his nicotine addiction is a disability for which he's being discriminated against.

Aradi is a hero for oppressed smokers everywhere.

Here's a man who literally took a bullet in the name of freedom and he can't even enjoy a goddamn cigarette in his own home? Admittedly I love smoking—it tastes delicious and offers a break in the day when there otherwise wouldn't be one. I also understand that it kills, smells gross, causes cancer, etc. But bottom line is it's still fucking legal. In fact, the feds make a shitload of cash by taxing tobacco—$700 million in 2014 alone.

As for the much touted second-hand smoke argument, is it really relevant in this case? Research shows the impact of second-hand smoke on nonsmokers is negligible in places like parks and beaches. So it's hard to believe that Aradi, smoking in his apartment with no one else around, poses a health risk to others in his building. More likely, his neighbours are worried about how the smell of smoke will impact their property values.

Aradi's lawyer Paul Roxburgh said the issue boils down to human rights.

"What foundation do they have to say 'it's your home and we're going to forbid you smoking in it'?"

As for BC's anti-smoking crusade, "It's fascist," he told VICE.

I tend to agree.

Aradi's petition will likely be heard in Supreme Court in November. With any luck, he'll be successful, and for a change his nosy neighbours will be forced to butt out. (Sorry, couldn't resist!)

Follow Manisha Krishnan on Twitter.

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