Biting the yellowed hand that feeds you

I always find lawsuits entertaining. If it’s not somebody trying to sue a company it’s somebody trying to sue the government. But it is comical to hear when the government plans to sue – especially when the government is on the receiving end of millions of tax dollars prior to the legal fight.

It was announced a couple weeks ago that six Canadian provinces – Manitoba, Saskatchewan, B.C., New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and P.E.I. – are co-ordinating efforts to sue the major tobacco companies to recover the costs of having to treat patients with tobacco-related illnesses. Last month the Alberta government announced its attempt at reclaiming $10 billion in healthcare costs dating back to the 1950s.

Is this biting the hand that feeds you? Aren’t governments scoring millions of tax dollars from the hiked-up price of cigarettes? Where does that money go? Are the feds and the provinces splitting it?

Whenever stories about smoking/tobacco issues come up we always see the TV news reporters chatting with someone puffing away on a cigarette. I laugh when they talk with a minor who shouldn’t be smoking anyway and get their opinion on the cost of cigarettes. There is something striking about those clips: the kids often talk about how easy it is to buy cigarettes in stores.

The kids aren’t turned off by the gruesome packaging Ottawa recently forced on cigarette labels – a campaign that I’m sure cost millions of our tax dollars. OK, so maybe failed education promos is where those cigarette tax dollars go. Maybe we answered one question today.

But it all comes back to the question: If cigarettes are so bad for people, why are they legal in Canada? The answer is because they are good for the economy. And then there’s that big “but”… they are bad for you and cost the healthcare system millions every year.

Can governments have it both ways? Can they benefit from tax money from something while suing the makers to get even more cash? And if the governments win, what will happen to the price of cigarettes to recoup those lawsuit costs and how much more in tax will the governments get from the sale of the tobacco products if the prices increase more? A vicious but financially lucrative circle for the provinces, hey?

And one more thing: how are kids not ID’ed for cigarettes but a 29-year-old like me is still carded when trying to buy lottery tickets for his grandma’s birthday?

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