Monday, September 1, 2008

Stop helping smokers

Over the past three or four days, I’ve stumbled across seven Canadian newspapers which carried essentially the same story; smoking rates in Canada have stagnated over the last three years. All of them were pushing the same solutions; higher levels of taxation and a need to crack down on the sales of contraband.

And, in reading the articles and editorials from those newspapers, it’s clear that they all came from the same source. The anti-smoker crowd seems determined to remind the public, on a regular basis, that the war on smokers is not over until every smoker in Canada is eradicated.

The Edmonton Journal (Alberta - August 29): “the percentage of Albertans smoking in 2007, 21 per cent, is still two per cent higher than the national average”.

The Daily Gleaner (New Brunswick – August 27): “while only 19 per cent of Canadians smoke, here in our province, 21 per cent of the population lights up regularly”.

The Telegram (Newfoundland – August 29): “This year the rate is 21.2 per cent - among the highest in Canada”.

The Moose Jaw Times Herald (Saskatchewan – August 29): “The news came this week that Saskatchewan, for the third year in a row, has the highest rate of smokers in Canada at a high 24 per cent. Shame on us”.

You get the picture. Here’s your story gentlemen, get a quote or two from your local anti-smoker crusader and make sure it gets to press. There’s no need to check the facts, we’ve done that for you. Thanks for your contribution to the war effort.

The Alberta Cancer Board is quoted as saying, “one important step is to increase taxes on cigarettes again, this time by $2 a pack”. Cigarettes are already over $10.00 a pack in Alberta. And, the Journal article reminds us that the health care costs of smokers have to be paid somehow.

It's time to raise taxes on cigarettes to help pay for all that health care, and to discourage the rise in cigarette consumption. If willpower won't make a smoker cut back, perhaps a higher price per pack will”, says the Daily Gleaner.

The Moose Jaws Times Herald says current controls on smoking “don’t reach into the private lives of Saskatchewan residents who continue to smoke at home or in other non-regulated locations”. Uh-huh.

The Times Herald article goes on, “Smoking they say is a personal choice but when public dollars are spent to treat medical conditions caused by smoking, then those personal choices are interfering with the public good and wasting taxpayers dollars on self-inflicted diseases”.

Physicians for a Smoke Free Canada have estimates for smoking related health care, including costs for acute care hospitalization, family physician visits, ambulatory care/physician fees and prescription drugs. The total for 2006 was $4.37 billion. For the 2005/2006 fiscal year, Canada and the provinces took in $7.09 billion in sin taxes from smokers (GST/PST not included).

Canadian smokers are not only paying their own way, but are shouldering the burden for a substantial number of non-smokers. But, I guess you can’t let the truth stand in the way of an opportunity to vilify Canada’s five million smokers.

The Daily Gleaner points out, “We'll never eradicate smoking because no addiction will ever simply cease to exist. But there are ways to make smoking less tempting”. Behind the bullshit and bafflegab, what they’re really saying is that there are even more draconian ways to penalize and punish smokers for their obstinate refusal to do as they’re told and quit.

Perhaps the saddest part of the propaganda efforts by the anti-smoker fanatics is the one-sided press coverage. Only the anti-smoker side of the argument was presented in those newspaper articles. Not a single quote from any pro-choice smoking group. Not a single article or editorial questioned the validity of the science. Not one suggested a compromise of any kind.

It’s one thing for a newspaper to take an editorial stand in support of, or opposed to, any public initiative. It’s quite another to suppress debate to the point where the public is unaware that there is, in fact, an opposing point of view.

It’s expected that the anti-smoker activists will dismiss those who oppose their views as big tobacco shills or allies.

But, it’s irresponsible of the mainstream media to parrot the claims of those activists with no attempt to verify their legitimacy. The failure to provide an opportunity for anyone to express an opposing point of view is even more loathsome and a disgraceful abuse of the power of the press..

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