Thursday, April 16, 2009

Do cigarette displays corrupt kids?

In May, 2008, the Ontario government amended the Smoke Free Ontario Act to ban “point of sale” tobacco advertising in convenience stores, gas stations and other retail outlets across the province. Retail store owners were forced to hide all cigarettes and other tobacco products from public view, lest underage youth be tempted to buy and try the fiendish cigarettes.

The “power walls” of tobacco displays, as they were called, were thought to influence the smoking habits of teenagers. The anti-smoker cult believed our young people were being led astray by all the pretty packaging with their grotesque pictures of diseased lungs and sinister health warnings.

Cult leaders persuaded gullible politicians that the power walls were a serious threat to the health and welfare of our most impressionable citizens and they were duly banned. And, the only lasting health threat was the threat to the economic health of the retail store owners.

So, it’s interesting to watch the current debate in Scotland, land of my birth, on a similar initiative to banish in-store advertising of tobacco products. It’s actually quite amusing to see the anti-smoker brigade across the pond using the same bullshit and bafflegab used by the anti-smoker contingent here in Canada in their efforts to pass similar legislation.

It is not in the least amusing to realize that politicians around the world seem susceptible to the ravings of the anti-smoker crowd; so easily baffled by the bullshit.

Some MSPs (Members of the Scottish Parliament) have claimed that teenage smoking prevalence rates fell after the display of tobacco products was made illegal in Canada. They claim a ban on power walls was responsible for a decline of 32% in youth smoking “between the introduction of the tobacco display ban in Canada in 2002 and 2007”. The politicians accept this claim, and repeat it, because these “facts” were provided by bona fide members of the anti-smoker cult.

And, that sounds pretty impressive; a 32% decline in smoking prevalence among Canadian teens in only five years.

But, wait a minute. Ontario, Canada’s most populous province (roughly 40% of the population) only approved their ban on power walls in May, 2008, not 2002. Quebec, the second most populous province followed Ontario. In fact, bans on in-store tobacco displays were implemented in only three provinces and one territory between 2002 and 2007.

The three provinces, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Prince Edward Island are among the least populated in Canada. And, the population of the newly formed territory of Nunavut could be seated comfortably in the Sky Dome although a few might have to sit on the infield grass.

So, why the misleading suggestion that there was a country wide ban in effect between 2002 and 2007? Why the claim that the ban on power walls was responsible for the decline in smoking prevalence among Canada’s young people? It simply isn’t true.

And, what about the alleged decline of 32% in smoking prevalence. Could that figure possibly have been plucked from the posterior of the first anti-smoker cultist caught bending over?

Well, actually, no. The 32% seems to be an honest number. Health Canada estimated a decline in youth smoking from 22% to 15% (a decline of roughly 32%) between 2002 and 2007. The deception was in the inference that there was a nationwide ban on power walls in effect during that period, and that it contributed to the alleged decline in youth smoking.

It is not even remotely possible that the country wide decline in smoking prevalence could be attributed to a ban on tobacco display advertising in the least populated regions of Canada. To suggest otherwise is to ignore reality. That’s nothing new; anti-smokers frequently distort the facts.

Unfortunately for politicians (and the public), the anti-smoker cult has little more than a nodding acquaintance with the truth. They know that the truth will not sustain their efforts to de-normalize smokers.

So they lie. And that’s the truth.


Mrs. Pelican said...

In our local convenience store, the evil smokes are concealed behind a curtain. Right next to the open displays of beer and hard liquor, porno magazines, and lottery tickets.

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