|Canada's Smoking Laws
The Health eZine - Canada
Will Canada become Smoke Free?
Summary: Massive change is about to take place in Canada, and all three major political parties have agreed to work together to change what Canadians are doing to their lungs. Big Tobacco is looking grim as lawsuits weigh in favour of the health of Canadians. Who's going to pay the healthcare bill? Taxpayers? Or Big Tobacco?
Canada may become the first country in North America to become "cigarette-free". Or at very least, cigarette expensive.
So far the Canadian way of discouraging cigarette smoking has been to put "sin taxes" on it, raising the price and making Canadians more likely to stop because its so expensive. But those taxes only effect a small percentage of quitters, and the taxes raised does very little to pay for the healthcare requirements of smokers.
And so who's been paying the healthcare bill?
Taxpayers, that's who.
Well, no longer. Canada's political parties and the Canadian government have launched multi-billion dollar lawsuits against Big Tobacco. Why? Because they believe Big Tobacco should pay the cost for healthcare, for the last 30 years, retroactively.
If Big Tobacco loses its case in the courts, the payout is going to be huge. Billions of dollars of tobacco money going back into the hospitals and paying for all the damage cigarettes have caused during the last 30+ years.
Of course, if you're still smoking after 30 years its amazing you're still even alive. The average life expectancy of a male smoker is 59 (or 61 if you're female).
Several of the tobacco companys have started making comments about "pulling out" of the Canadian market. A spokesperson for Marlboro said "Selling cigarettes in Canada simply may not be profitable anymore. We have an obligation to our stockholders to pull out if the going gets too tough."
Right now there is an election going on in Canada and the political parties are throwing mud at each other. Stephen Harper has been calling for tougher laws on underage smokers, referring to the fact that its not actually illegal for underage people to smoke cigarettes, simply that its illegal for underage people to BUY them. So if someone else buys them, they can smoke all they want. Or, if the convenience store guy simply doesn't care...
Harper wants tougher penalties on people who sell cigarettes to minors, new laws prohibiting underage people from buying or smoking cigarettes, a "Tobacco License Control Board" which will sell licenses to convenience stores/etc and take them away if they are caught selling to minors (similar to the current laws governing the LCBO), raise tobacco taxes to a minimum price of $10/pack of cigarettes by 2007, and to continue raising tobacco taxes 7% every year (at that rate, the price per pack would reach $20 by 2017).
The other political parties (Liberals and NDP) are making similar promises.
The reasoning behind the minimum cost of a pack of cigarettes is simple: Those people who smoke half a pack or more per day are those who are most at risk of having major smoking-related health problems. By raising the price to the extreme, the idea is that people who smoke a pack/day or more will start limiting themselves and "stop smoking as much".
So smoking a little is okay?
Well, no. But its nowhere near as deadly as smoking a half-pack/day.
To quote Stephen Harper: "Canadians have to understand that smoking is like playing Russian Roulette. Sooner or later you're going to bite the bullet."
For once Stephen Harper seems to have a sense of humour.