Wednesday, September 25, 2002
Janet Bagnall's Sept. 20 column "Blood money" reflects very well the current Canadian anti-tobacco puritanism, which is far more dangerous to our democracy than smoking. Fortunately, it represents the view of a small minority of Canadians.
As far as Ms. Bagnall's statistics are concerned, one can make anything out of them. For example, what are "smoking-related diseases"? As far as I know, there is only one: lung cancer. Heart attacks, strokes, etc. might be caused much more by what we eat than what we smoke, and they usually occur at an earlier age.
It is interesting that when a court action was recently launched in the U.S. against junk-food suppliers, such as McDonald's, The Gazette wrote an editorial saying that it was a ludicrous thing to do and that every individual has the right to choose what he or she eats. And McDonald's, as far as I know, makes all kinds of donations to hospitals, public events, and so on. Shouldn't we reject that money as well and shun the executives of the junk-food companies?
Furthermore, Ms. Bagnall's statistics are misleading because people who die from smoking are mostly older people, whereas those who die from AIDS, suicides and the like are mostly young people whose most productive years would still be in front of them. It's like comparing apples and oranges. But even if we accept that 45,000 old people die annually in Canada prematurely, because they smoked, we should remember that about the same number of people die every day in the world from malnutrition, and these are mostly children.
Those who smoke know very well that they will shorten their lives by about 10 years, and if they still want to do it, it is no business of Ms. Bagnall to ridicule them or those who supply the products they use. We should be grateful to the smokers since they pay a huge amount of taxes to indulge in smoking, which reduces the taxes for the rest of society, and they die younger, which saves society the cost of long-term care.
Canada already has the most stringent anti-tobacco laws in the world. Europe, Asia and South America have a much more relaxed attitude toward smoking. I was recently in Portugal for a few days, and virtually everyone smokes on the streets, in restaurants and in the hotels of Lisbon. The same is true in most of Europe, because, when it comes to these small individual choices, Europe has learned to be much more reasonable than North America. Many Europeans simply laugh at our anti-tobacco laws, pointing out that our government is not shy in collecting huge taxes on tobacco products.
I don't smoke cigarettes myself, but so long as they are legal, I think that those who do and those who produce them should not be constantly harassed.