Saturday, December 6, 2008

End the war on smokers

In tough economic times, companies usually recognize the need to tighten their belts in an effort to reduce costs and protect the profits of share holders. More often than not, the first divisions or departments hit are training and occupational health and safety. Most company executives tend to view these activities as expenses, rather than investments.

As the financial crisis deteriorates, governments around the world are also looking for ways and means by which to curtail discretionary spending and balance budgets. In addition, recessions usually create great angst in the population. And, governments are reluctant to antagonize voters any more than necessary in the midst of a harsh economic climate.

So, it comes as no surprise that Freedom2Choose in Britain is reporting that: "Measures to help cut smoking and drinking are expected to be shelved this week because of fears they will alienate voters during the recession.

Ministers have decided they cannot justify some of the more draconian measures to reduce cigarette and alcohol sales during the economic downturn.”

The draconian measures, introduced in Britain over the past few years, have cost the treasury billions in revenue. Politicians have been unmoved by the plight of pub owners forced to close by the thousands with job loss in the tens of thousands resulting from those closures. Profit should not come before public health, they wailed.

But, as the recession deepens, and their own jobs are placed on the line due to mismanagement of the economy, they are apparently having second thoughts. As noted in the Times article: “It is understood, however, that ministers have reluctantly conceded there is not enough evidence to support the tobacco proposals and have concluded it would ‘not be in the nation’s best interests’ to press ahead.”

How kind of them. How democratic. Screw the working man. But, when it’s their ass in a sling, there’s “not enough evidence” to support anti-smoker initiatives.

Here in Canada, a world leader in the anti-smoker crusade, the social and economic damage has been every bit as devastating as in Britain. Tobacco farming has been practically eradicated, tobacco industry jobs have been moved offshore and the hospitality industry has been ravaged by rabid anti-smoker legislation. All have had a severe economic impact on the economy. Canadian governments whine about the loss of two billion dollars annually in tobacco tax revenue alone.

But the blinders they wear obscure the fact that it is government policy on tobacco control which is responsible for much of the damage. By focusing strictly on measures designed to force smokers to quit, they have contributed significantly to the economic malaise which the country now faces.

Politicians have allowed anti-smoker crusaders to lead them around by the nose and pressure them into passing poorly conceived public policy. They have squandered taxpayer dollars on these special interest groups and the often counter-productive legislation they propose in their “war on smokers”. In so doing, they have abdicated their responsibility to their constituents.

Politicians should be reminded that punishing five million Canadian voters, because they choose to use a perfectly legal product, may not be in their best interest. It certainly hasn’t been in the best economic interests of the country.

The war on smokers didn’t cause the global recession all by itself; it is only part of a greater problem. And, therefore, it must also be part of the solution.

So, let’s put an end to it. Repeal, or at least relaxation, of some of the more draconian smoking bans could go a long way towards alleviating the effects of the recession.

Let’s cut the bullshit and bafflegab and get Canadians back to work.

1 comment:

Andrew said...

That picture reminds me of the "Ceiling cat is watching you masturbate" joke photo.

I'm having a lot of fun reading through your back-posting. I finally came over here from tobaccoanalysis and am glad I did. There are a lot of angles I hadn't considered before. Very measured anger, but very clear. I'll be sure to keep reading.