Friday, March 27, 2009

Manitoba's NDP: Duplicitous Tobacco Junkies!

Getting any addict to kick their habit is no easy task. And if the addict in question has a monetary incentive NOT to kick the habit AND it also happens to be YOUR GOVERNMENT- well then (ha,ha,ha,) good fucking luck trying to get them to change.

If nothing else, our latest budget here in Manitoba proves that Premier Gary Doer's government is, in this season of floods, all wet. There's no denying it: 'Today's
NDP' are Manitoba's biggest tobacco junkies. And, like fuzzy-minded junkies everywhere, when confronted with the truth of their addiction they will lie, deny, and then ... lie some more. You can bet your bottom butt they will not, under any circumstances, admit they have a problem.

"How can we be the one's with a problem?" they will say, using the logic worthy of a
Colombian drug lord - - "Look," they will say, "the product netted us $170 million last year, our customers are hooked, and our new tax increase will net us $9 million more this year! What can be wrong with that?"

Err, ... ah yes, that's all true. Except for the small fact that, ah, ... ahem, ... you are benefiting from the sale of "the only consumer product that causes disease, disability and death when used exactly as intended." Otherwise, your reasoning is sound!

To be clear, as a smoker I don't like the tax increase. But I do fundamentally agree that it is Mr. Doer's right to raise the taxes on
my cigarettes (yet again). Money is money. If Mr. Doer can squeeze millions more out of we existing addicts - so be it. In a province that collects upwards of $700 MILLION per year by virtue of its gambling, booze, and tobacco policies [see 2008's Budget p.6], it should come as no surprise in today's economy that the Premier would opt to raise the tobacco levy. After all, it's just what any good drug dealer would do in hard times if faced with the prospect of easy money from captive customers who were irrevocably hooked. Again, so be it.

But, Mr. Doer, what about those not yet fully hooked? What about your crop of emerging addicts... err, taxpayers? You know, like the 20-25 kids outside my local high-school at noon yesterday who were all huddled and sharing
cig's in the blowing wind? What about them? Did you factor their ongoing contribution to your new $9 million tax windfall? Do you have any idea of how many of the roughly 1 BILLION cigarettes to be consumed in Manitoba this year will be smoked by minors? Have you budgeted for the cost of their long-term health needs?

To see a government profit from ongoing tobacco sales while it "consistently has one of the highest youth smoking rates in Canada" is, to say the least, unsettling. To then realize it is not doing its utmost to ensure that the cancerous revenues don't continue to accrue into the future is even worse. Seeing a regime's
treasury benefit from high levels of teenage tobacco consumption at the same time it avers the central focus of its Tobacco Reduction Strategy is to prevent youth smoking by 'reducing their access' is troubling. To then see that the regime is not taking all the steps needed to deliver on this anti-smoking strategy, well, that just duplicitous!

Today's twenty-four year old smokers were fifteen when Mr. Doer came to power. Wonder how many of them could have spent the last decade smoke-free if "access" had really been "reduced" back in 1999? Guess we'll never know. But one thing we do know is that (thanks to the policies of Premier Doer, Health Minister
Ozwon't, et. al.) there's bound to be a new crop of teen smokers in Manitoba this year.

So, is Doer's lack of action on this file owing to the fact there is money to be made? No, probably not - but the optics are bad. Is it due to a lack of political will? The kind needed to re-classify the product in order to bar its sale in the Mom &
Pop operations and the gas station chains? Probably yes. We all know how wary Doer is of pissing off the vocal small business community in this province. Too bad, cause in the meantime, the kids I saw yesterday will continue having more access to tobacco than they should. Many will keep smoking, until one day, thanks partly to Doer's inaction, they will be hooked.

Mr. Doer, on your watch Manitoba's rates of teen smoking have continued to be unacceptable. Yes, I know you will say that "denormalization" (stigma) is also part of your strategy; but really, by the time that long-term tactic takes hold (15 more years?) how many new tobacco clients will your treasury have? The time has arrived for you to live up to your commitment to truly limit youth access to cigarettes in this province. To treat the sale of cigarettes in Manitoba exactly the same way alcohol is treated. To move the sale of tobacco products to those approved outlets that exclusively serve the 18+ crowd. It's time Mr. Doer that you took ownership of more than just the tax revenue tobacco sales generate - it's time you took ownership of the whole problem. Move cigarettes to where they belong. Don't just put them out of sight and under the counters of the Mac's & 7-Eleven's. Put them truly out of the reach of the average youth smoker by moving them to the Liquor Commission, etc.,

Mr. Doer, for your government to amass $180 million this coming year from the sale of tobacco, all the while failing to do its level best to stop our teens from starting to smoke, well that's just... [insert childish dirty word here]!

Mr. Doer, as your own Tobacco Reduction fact-sheet says: "The good news is that those who make it to adulthood without using tobacco will probably stay tobacco-free for life!" So sir, with the foregoing in mind, and with respect: Isn't it about time you grew a pair and acted on this file?


  1. I think our Premier has been doing a wonderful job. People who smoke use the health care system more than non-smokers and they should pay. The increase will also deter our children from using tobacco.

  2. @ NDP Convert,

    Maybe Doer is doing a 'wonderful job' on other files? However, on the Youth anti-smoking front he is not doing enough.

    As a smoker I realize we should be paying more for our vice. Have no deep philosophical problem with the government right to levy deterrence taxes on the product. But for it to accrue revenue from tobacco sales while not doing its utmost to keep the killer-weed out of the hands of our youth - well, that's just poor form and weak leadership.

  3. //But I do fundamentally agree that it is Mr. Doer's right to raise the taxes on my cigarettes (yet again).//