Raise your hand if you don’t know smoking’s bad

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Tobacco companies have long been considered, at the very best, extremely sketchy. They peddle a highly addictive legal drug that causes some of the most impressive health problems our species has ever seen. And while I think it’s certainly valid to take Big Tobacco to task for past wrongs — denying the adverse health effects of the drug, even publishing ads way back in the day with “doctors” recommending tobacco as a healthy habit — I’m starting to wonder when all of the badness arising from smoking is no longer the fault of Big Tobacco.


Photo by Lillian Nelson

I know what you’re thinking: “How can you even say such a thing! It’s preposterous! Smoking is really bad for you!”

I know all this. That’s why I don’t smoke.

Hell, it’s so bad for you that the Alberta Government recently passed Bill 48:

Bill 48, called the Crown’s Right Recovery Act, passed on Wednesday. […] Alberta could also sue tobacco makers or join existing lawsuits to recover health-care costs for tobacco-related illnesses. Ontario has already launched a $50 billion lawsuit while Quebec is looking to recover $30 billion. (From CBC.ca)

So while our governments continue to allow Big Tobacco to do business on one hand, they also regulate the hell out of (as they should, frankly). BUT they also sue them to recover health care costs. And while this makes sense for the Boomer Generation, and even Generation X — who were woefully misinformed of the adverse health effects of tobacco — it makes absolutely no sense for my [and subsequent] generations.

We know tobacco’s bad. We know it’s unhealthy. We know it causes cancer. We know second-hand smoke is also terrible. We know how unpleasant it is for non-smokers to be around a smelly smoker. And yet, people choose — CHOOSE! — to do it anyway.

I know it’s absurd. I know it’s crazy. But we’re a species of hedonists, and when it comes to vices, we don’t really have a lot of forethought. In fact, about 18% of Canadians are completely lacking in forethought when it comes to smoking. That’s about six million of us.

Knowing the widely-publicized risks and adverse affects of smoking isn’t stopping people. And those people will eventually develop health complications. And those health complications will present a strain on our health care system. But many of those people started smoking knowing the risks. So why should the government enact legislation that allows them to recover those costs from tobacco companies? Why not shut those companies down?

Because: people will still find a way to acquire tobacco. People will still smoke it, people will still get cancer, and people will still wind up in hospital. Only now, the government can’t pin the blame on anyone. They’ll have no one left to sue to recover thos health care costs Except the smoker himself (and he likely won’t have deep enough pockets anyhow).

Sadly, this takes a lot of the responsibility for behaviour outside of the hands of those who smoke. The only incentive they have to quit is to, you know, not die. And we’ve seen the impact this “incentive” has had on people: that is to say, it has had little impact. And so we pass Bill 48, and allow tobacco companies to continue to operate while suing them to ensure our health care system doesn’t tank.

It’s far from perfect. But I doubt it will change in my lifetime. What do you think?

Man, I need a cigarette.

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