Call it addition by subtraction. The fight against smoking would be closer to victory, if our provincial government ended their dependence on tobacco taxes and lawsuits against Big Tobacco.
Last month, Prince Edward Island has filed a lawsuit against the tobacco companies to offset the cost of health care going back to 1953, making it only the latest in a long list of Canadian provinces to do so.
PEI knows its chances for a big payout are good. The industry looks to be a cash cow to provincial governments desperate for additional revenue.
Big Tobacco has had a lot of middlemen, including our own provincial governments.
As anyone who was alive in the 1960s and 70s is confirmed, it has long been known that there are significant health risks of smoking. Back in 1964, the U.S. Surgeon General linked smoking and lung cancer.
This was followed by a series of similar warnings from numerous national and international health organizations. In 1968, the terminally ill actor William Talman from the Perry Mason TV show filmed widely broadcast commercial, in which he accused his lung cancer for three packs a day, a habit.
By the 1980, there was no excuse for those who do not know the facts. Cigarette packets carried labels warning about health risks of smoking. Advertising of tobacco companies in magazines, television and radio was outlawed. Airlines banned smoking on flights.
For many years, tobacco advertising and marketing have been designed to keep a lot of Canadians in the industry products. The automotive industry, which ignores the thousands of deaths each year due to driving, and beer companies whose ads with frolicking, scantily clad young women never mention the health related costs due to alcohol.
Initially, too, tobacco companies challenged the study of public health blame smoking cancer. But nothing environmental icon Rachel Carson, who in his best selling book Silent Spring (published in 1962) and in the face of evidence insists cancer was caused by pesticides and herbicides, not smoking.
The American Medical Association adopted the funding from the tobacco industry until 1978. Prior to this, countless doctors took money for the industry within the advertising.
In 1973, tennis star Billie Jean King wore a Virginia Slim colors and sequins, beating Bobby Riggs in the “Battle of the Sexes.” Horse racing industry, men’s and women’s tennis in Canada began to take tobacco funding in 1980.
In 1991, a group of activists from ACT-UP AIDS began to take money from Philip Morris to combat AIDS and anti-gay bias.
The list goes on, but the institution with the greatest responsibility can be taken for the government.
The industry is right: the government licensed and regulated by their companies, is taxed them and consumers, all the while aware of the risks associated with cigarettes. As the years passed, the governments on both sides of the border have become addicted to tobacco taxes and legal settlements. Could not put its own financial house in order, they were grateful for the financial cushion of their income tobacco.
All too often, tax revenue on tobacco goes into the general fund and not towards the cost of health care and programs rarely wean smokers from their cigarettes.
Additionally, governments have taxed cigarettes so strong that smuggling has become big business. First Nations communities have made huge profits selling contraband cigarettes. But Canadians should pay the bill in the form of high costs for fighting organized crime.
In other words, governments were virtual shareholders in the tobacco industry for many years. How seriously do you think that they are really to reduce consumption of cigarettes?
And if you think that you are personally blameless, check the following statement by the Pension Fund. You may be surprised to learn that you’ve invested over the years in stock owned tobacco company. Managers of the New Brunswick Pension Fund held shares in Imperial Tobacco for years, even though the province is suing the same company.
No one denies the addictive qualities of nicotine contained in cigarettes and other tobacco products. As Mark Twain once said that it is easy to quit smoking, he did it again and again.
However, this is the hard truth: no one in this day and age, suffering from tobacco-related disease is no more or less victims than alcohol or an avid player. And I have not seen any indication that provinces take great Booze in court or reduce their addiction to “game” income.
Thus, the perturbation of the PEI government is highly selective and ignores the long trail of historical evidence. Like any provincial government, he shares complicity in the inability to end Canadians’ dependency on tobacco products.
Health care would be better if governments limit their participation in education and out of the tobacco business as a whole. Even if Prince Edward Island wins a large settlement, we will most likely not be closer to a smoke-free country.
Why not keep the nicotine reduction to voluntary, non-profit organizations such as the Cancer Society and Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada?
Governments have been part of the problem for many years. When they become part of the solution?