Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Smoking Out Big Tobacco

The Province of Ontario is joining British Columbia and New Brunswick in suing the big tobacco companies in order to recover money they've spent on tobacco related illnesses/deaths.

Now before I go on, let me establish a few things.

1- I am incredibly anti-smoking.
2- I have never smoked a day in my life.
3- I know and love people who smoke.
4- I know and love people who have suffered serious side effects (including death) as a result of tobacco.

And yet I'm left scratching my head about this lawsuit.

The Province is suing for 50 billion dollars; an amount they say they've spent on treating tobacco related illnesses since 1955. I actually think that amount is too low. I also think that people have known about the adverse effects of tobacco since 1975... So there's a 20 year window where personal accountability doesn't really come into play because people were just rolling with what the scientific data at the time was saying, which was that it wasn't that bad. Hell, even doctors were advertising the stuff!

So for that 20 or so year window, the tobacco companies knew it was bad but people didn't and so I understand that there's a serious accountability issue there.

But where's the personal accountability after that? What about between the 70s and now?

In our Health Care system, being the public system that is, we don't formally discriminate against illnesses. By that I mean that if you're suffering serious emphysema and you've been a- pack-a day smoker, the Health Care system can't say "Oh well, that was stupid, now deal with it on your own"; they've got to do their best to help you. So I understand that the Health Care system is stuck between Big Tobacco and Consumers. And I also understand that the Health Care System is you and me and everyone else living and paying taxes in Ontario. So it's my money that's being spent on big tobacco's side effects.

BUT it's also the Government, both Federally and Provincially, that monitors and governs the rules around Big Tobacco in this country. And so it seems incredibly short-sighted to be benefiting from the taxes and sales of tobacco, and then at the end of the line, suing them to recuperate the amount you've spent on the side effects in between.

The Government of Canada, in general, has such a backwards way of looking at the tobacco industry, much like alcohol and gambling. They benefit up front and then bitch about the after effects; after effects which were clearly foreseeable.

And suing Big Industry to recuperate what is essentially our money just doesn't seem like the right way to do it. Sure it looks incredibly aggressive and anti-corporate and therefore has a nice Erin Brockovich, David and Goliath vibe to it. But upon closer look, it just comes off as greedy and corporate as Big Tobacco itself.

1 comment:

Making !T Work said...

Very well said. More discussion is required to make everyone (tobacco, government and the smokers) accountable. Even if Mister Mcguinty wins, he is likely NOT going to put it into health care.

If they really wanted to solve the issue they would just ban smoking period. But then no taxes.

They will go after the gas companies for knowing making a product that pollutes.

Looks like it is Grandpa Mcguinty trying to save us from us again.

I would prefer if he just started to govern.