Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Anti-smoking/anti-smoker. Where's the line

Is the press finally ready to remove their head from their anal cavity and question at least some anti-smoker assertions?

Last week, in a piece called “Crossing the line from anti-smoking to anti-smoker’, Rob Breakenridge of the Calgary Herald noted: “The appeal of anti-smoking measures derives from their ostensible goal of protecting people -- non-smokers, children, and smokers themselves. However, the anti-smoking lobby may be a victim of its own success, in that they're running out of people to protect”.

Breakenridge was referring to a hike in sin taxes being proposed by an anti-smoker coalition in Alberta. They want to increase the price of cigarettes by $2.00 per pack. That’s a hefty increase, considering Alberta already has the highest price per pack in Canada.

Breakenridge points to research by McMaster University health economist Philip DeCicca which suggests peer pressure and peer acceptance may be more relevant factors in controlling the prevalence of teen smoking. DeCicca suggests that taxation has little impact on whether teens start smoking and concludes that "price hikes are not a very effective tool to discourage youth smoking."

I’m not sure why anyone needed a study to figure that out, but there it is. Common sense tells us that punitive levels of sin taxes have encouraged black market sales of contraband cigarettes. Cheap contraband cigarettes ensure that smokes are well within reach of the average teen budget. It’s the law of unintended consequences in action.

Cigarettes are not readily available to teens through normal channels. They face too much of a hassle at the local convenience store. And, in Ontario, at least, there has been wide-spread compliance with laws prohibiting sales of tobacco products to minors by convenience store owners.

Punitive levels of sin taxes have made contraband extremely profitable and made cheap smokes available from irresponsible adults who have no concern for the health or safety of our young people.

Breakenridge contents that, if the objective was to protect non-smokers, especially children, then that goal has been largely accomplished.

And, he’s right. Smoking bans have purged smokers from most public places. They are now forced onto sidewalks and into back alleys to grab a few puffs before returning to the bar or club while socializing with non-smoking friends.

Non-smokers are now protected from exposure to secondhand smoke in all public settings. But there is emerging evidence that public bans may not be having the desired outcome. Once again, the law of unintended consequences may be coming into play.

Smokers are socializing more in private settings (most notably the home), rather than going out to clubs and bars which no longer want their business. And, their non-smoking friends are joining them. Some anti-smokers are now claiming that because of the restrictions on smoking in public places, many non-smokers, including children, are suffering greater exposure in the home.

And, the only way to resolve that issue is to prohibit smoking. Period.

Breakenridge also notes that the public has been made fully aware of the dangers of smoking. And, again, he’s right. Further attacks on smokers are unjustified and will not protect non-smokers or children from anything.

Says Breakenridge: “But that leaves us with the adult smoker, fully aware of the dangers and obstacles of his or her habit, who does not wish to quit. Does this group really require protection? If the answer is no, then maybe we've crossed the line from anti-smoking initiatives to anti-smoker initiatives”.

He obviously hasn’t given a lot of thought to the concept of de-normalization or he’d understand that the line was crossed many years ago. The scientific evidence supporting the contention that secondhand smoke is a serious health hazard is too contentious.

The process anti-smoker crusaders refer to as de-normalization was not introduced to control smoking; it was a declaration of war on smokers. And, the anti-smoker element of society does not intend to take any prisoners.

1 comment:

vincent1 said...

I wish I could ramble like that, love your article thank you.
Just read this great article to from Gian on our frontpage, thought I would share it with you.

The drunken crocodile
Gian Turci
12th September 2008.