Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Cigerette Smoking in Public Spaces

I really thought that this subject was no longer a 'hot topic', that is until yesterday when I visited a couple of restaurants in the Burlington area and got an earful about the infringement of rights forced upon the owners with respects to no smoking in their establishments.

The Ontario Government recently passed legislation banning smoking within public enclosed spaces, whether they are partially enclosed or fully enclosed. Contained within there breifing on the law, they state that their "commitment to reduce tobacco consumption by 20% before the end of 2007 was achieved ahead of schedule." In addition, "Between 2003 and 2006, there was a 31.8 per cent decline in tobacco consumption indicating that approximately 4.6 billion fewer cigarettes were sold."

I'm not exactly sure how they measure their statistics, but according to Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada, their numbers seem to contradict the above information. Tax Revenues from Tobacco Sales from 1999 to 2008 show a completely different story. According to the figures presented, the 3-year period immediately preceding 2003 shows a combined revenue of $2,379,380,568 (2000-2001 to 2002-2003 Figures are shown in combined years versus calendar years.) Conversely, for the same time frame (2003-2004 to 2005-2006) $4,182,000,000 of tax revenue was collected, an increase of over 40%.

Continued efforts are being made on almost every governmental level to reduce smoking in places beyond the current Provincial legislation. Everything from cars, to apartments, to venues regardless of enclosure restrictions. The intent is to protect those who are either sensitive to second-hand smoke, or as a measure to reduce the impact of smoking related illnesses on our health care system. All in all, there is no argument against legislative protectionism on those who choose not to smoke or be around those who choose to smoke. The question arises on those who do choose to smoke, and those who wish to provide a place to enjoy that choice.

No one will argue that smoking is detrimental to one's health. Yet, the Government condones smoking through their administration of taxing the sales of tobacco products. Understanding that measures are required to restrict the availability and promotion of tobacco products to minors, continued efforts must be maintained to ensure that this doesn't stop short of its intended audience.

Currently the Government monitors and creates measures with respects to the sale and consumption of alcohol. Why then can't the Government create similar measures for the sale and consumption of tobacco? Ideally, tobacco products shouldn't be available for sale in convenience stores and gas stations. For the same reasons that alcohol isn't available (in Ontario anyway)...for the argument of protecting youth from accessing the product in question. No one under 19 is allowed to purchase tobacco products, so let's put that product in places where one has to be 19 to enter. Now let's go one step further...allow these establishments to become 'smoking' or 'non-smoking' only. Forget trying to split the seating arrangements to 'smoking' or 'non-smoking', because we know this doesn't work for those who don't smoke.

With the restriction of the availability of tobacco products for purchase, you can bet that the number of 'smoking' only establishments will be limited, and those who enter will be above the age of 19, thereby restricting the purchase of tobacco products by minors. Today, tax revenues from tobacco sales are close to $1,000,000,000 which would lead one to wonder that if those tax revenues were no longer feeding government programs, what would we be willing to cut from our service programs.

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