Monday, February 9, 2009

Ontario Uses Teens As Tobacco Sting Artists


Bob Runciman, the Interim Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party and current leader of the opposition in the Ontario Legislature, said Ontario public health units have been hiring teens as young as 15-year olds in sting operations against tobacco retailers, reports Antonella Artuso in the daily Toronto Sun.

He said that under the provincial smoke-free legislation convenience store owners are being harassed, but nothing is being done regarding the sale of illegal cigarettes from aboriginal smoke shacks.

"Morally wrong" to hire "these young kids"

The Toronto Sun quotes Runciman: "They seem to be hell bent to try and harass and prosecute what are essentially hard-working and law-abiding people. And I think this is morally wrong to be hiring these young kids and sending them in, and in my view, induce these people to break the law."

The Ontario law prohibits the sale of cigarettes and other smokes to persons under the age of 19.
Some public health units hire 15 to 17-year olds to try to purchase smokes in retail stores. The intention is to detect the violators of the law.

Ontario Premier's Rebuttal

Premier Dalton McGuinty disagreed with Mr. Runciman and said that Ontario has a long-standing practice of hiring teenagers to test tobacco retailers.

"I would have hoped that my friend [Bob Runciman] would have said his real concern was selling cigarettes to under-aged young people," the Premier mentioned.

"These decisions [of using under-aged teens] are made by the local health unit, but I must say that I support this practice," he said.

Ethical-Moral Considerations

This blogger tried by e-mails to get the reaction of Mr. Runciman to the rebuttal of Premier Dalton McGuinty. At the time of writing this no reply was received from him.

The use or misuse of the under-aged teens for attempting to buy smokes from retailers demands discussion of this practice's ethical-moral considerations, especially from parents. Parents need to give a closer look at different angles of this practice and its long-term effects on teens involved.

From the point of view of law, using under-aged teens is wrong. If selling smokes to these people is wrong, so buying smokes by the same group of teens is also wrong. In the same light, sending such teens to attempt to purchase smokes is also unjust and wrong. On the other hand, this type of attempt of purchases is tantamount to seducing retailers to violate the law.

From the point of view of parents, such practices do not look right, too. Should parents let their under-aged children be used for such a purpose? What are the future repercussions on the children? Who can guarantee that by being used in such a way, some of the teens will not become attracted to smoking?

From the point of view of teens, this practice is not only unjust, it is morally wrong, too. We are teaching teens that it's all right to violate the law (of buying cigarettes even if one is not legally eligible of doing so). What is the guarantee that one day some of these teens will not feel guilty and have a remorse for being used as baits for sting operations?

This blogger informally asked 10 parents whether they would allow their under-aged teens to be used for sting operations. Seven of them said "no", three others said "yes". One of these three said: "I heard that the government pays very well to do this job."

Finally, all of us should ask ourselves: "Do the ends justify the means?"

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