Thursday, January 09, 2014

Jack the Tax on Tobacco, but Make It Prescription-Only Too – a Controlled Substance

Should prison time and fines by the penalty for possession of poisonous tobacco without a prescription for nicotine addicts? 
The poisonous, cancerous impact of smoking tobacco
Bill Tieleman’s 24 Hours Vancouver / The Tyee column
Tuesday January 7, 2014
By Bill Tieleman
"Smoking is the only honourable form of suicide."
Should tobacco be a controlled substance, with prison time and fines for those caught illegally possessing it without a doctor's prescription?
That's one proposal from an Oregon legislator to deal with the devastating scourge of cancer and other illnesses caused by cigarettes.
Last week, a Canadian-led medical study proposed tripling the tax on tobacco in order to prevent the 200 million premature deaths this century caused by smoking.
But making tobacco a prescription-only controlled drug is an even better idea to start eliminating the deadly substance entirely.
A public health silver bullet
The tripling of cigarette taxes, proposed in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine by the Centre for Global Health Research at Toronto's St. Michael's Hospital, argues convincingly that dramatically increasing the tax deeply reduces consumption.
"Our evidence suggests that, even in Canada, a big increase in the federal excise tax could get about one million smokers to quit and save about 5,000 lives a year," says study leader Dr. Prabhat Jha.
"There are no magic bullets in public health. But tobacco taxes are as close to a silver bullet as you can think of," Jha told CBC News.
France and South Africa both cut smoking rates in half in less than 15 years by increasing the tax that much.
In Canada, the two provinces with the lowest cigarette taxes by far -- Quebec and Ontario -- have the most smokers and lowest tax revenue per smoker, according to a fact sheet by Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada.
But a more effective way to save lives and reduce the misery caused by tobacco-related cancer and other illnesses is to make tobacco a controlled substance, only available with a doctor's prescription to current nicotine addicts.
No more sales of cigarettes, cigars, pipes, or chewing tobacco in stores, bars or anywhere else.
Far fetched?
Sound far fetched? Not really.
Portland, Oregon State Representative Mitch Greenlick has put forward a bill that would make tobacco a controlled substance, with possession of more than 0.1 milligrams punishable by a year in prison or a $6,250 fine -- unless the user has a doctor's prescription.
Of course, right-wing zealots like radio host Rush Limbaugh immediately denounced Greenlick's bill.
"These are the liberals. We've been nice. We've tried every which way we know to get you to stop smoking, and you won't. You keep smoking. And so now you're going to need a prescription for it. If you don't have a prescription, if this bill passes in Oregon, you go to jail for a year if you're caught with a pack of cigarettes. Because you can't be trusted to do the right thing," Limbaugh wrote.
Greenlick isn't fazed by rants from Limbaugh and others. In a newsletter last February, he wrote: "I have received hundreds of emails on the topic, most providing a coherent argument, such as 'You suck, you liberal moron.'"
Iceland is also considering making tobacco a prescription-only restricted drug. The country's former health minister and doctors are promoting a proposal similar to Greenlick's that would make cigarettes only available in pharmacies, with the cost increased by 10 per cent every year. Eventually cigarettes would be prescription-only, with the cost reduced for those too addicted to quit.
In the meantime, Iceland increased its tobacco tax by 20 per cent in 2012 and saw cigarette sales drop 10 per cent through Sept. 2013.
No more excuses
For those who think this way of taking on tobacco addiction is too extreme, here's my reply: I watched my mom Pat die painfully from lung cancer in 2010, more than 20 years after she had quit smoking.
She took up cigarettes -- despite being a registered nurse -- in her earlier days, because it wasn't known how toxic smoking was.
Today, we have no such excuse. It's time to save lives by making tobacco prescription-only and start jacking the tax.



Chris Freimond said...

This is an interesting concept Bill and I am all in favour of any moves to help smokers quit. But wouldn't it just create a new problem of an illegal trade in cigarettes leading to another "war" that cannot be won? The same could said for hiking taxes; it would be a boon for the black marketeers even if it does reduce smoking rates. It seems to me that the most effective way to counter smoking is to (a) make it totally socially unacceptable and (b) an even more concerted effort by governments and private sector employers to provide all-out support to smokers who want to quit.

Vanstar said...

So, a new career for Bill, since his "pundit" days are clearly numbered. I mean, what could be a better cause than railing against smoking? It true NDP-Glen Clark style, it involves much more government control. It would take a lot of PR to make it work...a perfect job for Weststar Communications!

And of course, the doctors will love all the business they can bill MSP.

We can also hire thousands of border guards and cops in a vain attempt to control smuggling.

But it's nice to see Bill move on to something other than BC Rail, now that his pundit days are done.

Anonymous said...

No wonder the NDP blew the election ! With thinking like this, they may as well pack their bags and disappear.

Anonymous said...

Agree with idiotic thought like this, who would want the NDP?

But the complainers and whiners would not use the term "police state" as they would if such a scheme was put together by a conservative or liberal government.

It is refreshing to see new subjects on Bill's "blog" to start a new year getting away from the nauseating over and over again BC Rail.

Anonymous said...

If under this silly proposal, that high taxes and jail time are there for smoking cigarettes without a prescription, it would only seen natural that the same thing be applied to marijuana should marijuana be decriminalized.

But there is a paradox. Bill here wants cigarettes to be noted to be a dangerous drug available only by prescription and yet many of the complainers and whiners here want marijuana decriminalized.

So magically there is this health evil from cigarettes, but not from marijuana?

Anonymous said...

I've got a really novel idea - how about the government and everybody else stays the hell out of what I put in my body as long as I'm only hurting myself?

Anonymous said...

"I've got a really novel idea - how about the government and everybody else stays the hell out of what I put in my body as long as I'm only hurting myself?"

No problems... and you'll not bother making the public pay for your treatments when you get cancer, right? I'm all for making smokers pay for their sins in the form of taxes, but making tobacco a prescription drug? Sure, doctors have all sorts of time for that kind if BS.

e.a.f. said...

Not a good idea. we have enough people in jail. people have smoked since about day 2 and they will continue to do so. Increasing taxes, perhaps, but not too much or we will see an increase in illegal imports.

Doctors have enough to do. let the smokers smoke, just ensure they aren't sold to minors. its a person's choice to take it up and quite frankly if they want to die young, that is there business. yes I know it increases the cost of health care but so does eating too much fat and drinking too much pop, driving too fast, etc.

I'm much more concerned about the poverty level of children in this province than those who smoke. they can at least afford it.

Anonymous said...

Um,the canard of smokers being refused treatment is pretty frayed and lacking. Smokers already pay ahead with the heap of taxes (22 cents per cigarette on the product they use.Where will government feed the public purse if that source dries up? Try again as that one won't fly.

Christopher said...

I do confess I was a smoker and for sure my quitting was a direct result of price . my breaking point was around $ 5.25 a pack , so it's been a few years for sure about six or more I think . When I think back about six or seven years ago it was easier to spot the non-smokers , nowadays it's very easy to spot the one or two that still smoke when out in gatherings , parties , groups ect.. I think now it's high time we start focusing on all the other toxins was are forced to consume on a daily bases . It is very shocking how many carcinogenic chemicals we are unknowingly exposed too that compose our daily use products . So when faced with skyrocketing healthcare cost it would seem a like like Bull Shit not to tackle all the problems society are subjected to buy lazy ineffective government garbage .

Anonymous said...

Good let's do the same thing for pot smokers too, before that gets out of hand.

There's enough trouble with people who can't or won't hold their liquor. Ask any family that has had a severe injury or fatality within.