Friday, January 9, 2009

Smoking Addendum

So, today, on the CBC, in response to this story, one gentleman wrote

Why do non-smokers care?
I don't smoke, and as long as there isn't a cloud of smoke hanging in the air (bad for me or not) what's the difference?
Let people smoke so long as it doesn't affect others.

Now, as you may recall, I had some things to say about smokers. So I couldn't very well let this go by unchallenged:

Well, ordinarily, I'd agree with you, except that in Canada, we've got universal health care. Studies have shown that anywhere from 8-10% of all hospital funding goes to care for individuals with smoking-induced chronic illnesses (emphysema, lung/throat cancer, bronchitis, pneumonia complications, etc.) Now, the two LARGER drains on healthcare are obesity and age. Age... we can't really do anything about. Everyone ages. Obesity, we can work against to some extent, but people can be genetically predisposed to gain weight (granted, not to the extent that some people DO gain weight, but the point stands).

However, there is no reason in the world why anyone should start smoking. Its limited beneficial mental effects are entirely canceled out by the detriment of addiction, and everything else it does is toxic. It creates the concept of the "smoking break", which takes employees away from their desks as often as twice an hour, in some places I've worked. It poisons the user and the air around them as they pass others. It destroys their skin, their clothes, and even any building in which they smoke. Alcohol, in limited doses (particularly red wine) has been shown to have a salutary effect on the health of the imbiber. No such effect has been shown of nicotine - let alone all the other chemicals in cigarette smoke.

So, my stance is this. Smokers can continue to smoke as much as they want, at the cost to their health and their finances - but it has to be out of the public venue, and they have to turn in their health cards. If they're willing to pay for the treatments for the damage they're doing to themselves, damage which is entirely without merit, they can go on smoking. But not on my dollar.

Now, I'm as much for human rights as the next guy - perhaps moreso, depending on who the next guy is. However, I firmly believe that your rights end where my nose begins, and the above was my expression of that. This, of course, led to some angry people shouting back:

I suppose you don't subject yourself to the dangers of automobile travel? Ever flown in an airplane.
Play Hockey

And I bet you eat commercial food laden with sodium and other additives.

If you can truthfully say you don't have any lifestyle issues that may have connections to health costs, then you can speak on this issue.

However, if you are like most smoke nazi's, the term hypocrite may fit.

{name removed}- a proud Ex- smoker


you say that if people smoke they should hand in their health cards...

Do you even know how much money is taken in from cigarette taxes? These taxes fund the province's health-care system, and infrastructure such as roads, water and sewage systems.

IF cigarettes were causing the government to LOSE money, they would ban it, stop selling it.

"The Auditor General (of Ontario) says the province is losing half a billion dollars in tax revenue to the contraband tobacco trade, but we think it's more like $1 billion," said Steve Tennant, vice-president of the Canadian Convenience Stores Association."

So before you want to start taking rights away of those who smoke, maybe you should consider taking a good look at our government. They are making WAY too much money to stop selling them, yet at the same time spend a bunch of money to produce these "quit smoking" programs.

Does anyone here see the contradiction?

Taxes from tobacco pays for the health care portion of those sick and still has left over monies for other things. Its not a question of to smoke or not to smoke. Its a question of "if people stop smoking, what will the government tax next that will produce the revenue tobacco has"?

I do not advocate smoking, nor do I smoke. I just hate when people make comments like "smokers should have no right"....

Soon it will be, "Fat people shouldn't allowed to eat whatever they want, its costing us all TOO MUCH!"

Now, in short response to the first (longer response to follow) - this is a bit of an ad hominem attack, as my own status is immaterial to the argument I put forth. Notwithstanding, I make efforts to keep myself healthy and do not engage in unnecessarily risky activities.

In response to the second, well, yes, I do know what money is brought in through cigarette taxes. I also know that a 2002 study indicates that the cost to Canada of tobacco use is $17B. To say that this overshadows money brought in by taxation is to understate the fact.

But enough of that - my longer response:

The issue in my mind is not danger - leaving your house is dangerous. It's just that applying your examples to cigarette smoking is a false analogy.

I don't drive for the sake of driving - I drive (sparingly, I might note) to get from one location to another, or to move heavy objects that I cannot carry with me on public transit. I drive as little as possible since I want to minimize my contribution to the pollution that engenders the same chronic lung conditions to which smokers voluntarily expose themselves.

Airplane crashes and skydiving accidents seldom run up hospital bills. Usually, they have one bill. Funerary.

I cook everything I eat at home, and watch my calorie count, weight, and general fitness.

Skiing, playing soccer, etc, can result in injury - but they also promote fitness, which will likely stave off or mitigate the eventual effects of aging. Possibly still a net detriment, but I think that one would have to be called by an actuary. Myself, I prefer cross-country skiing to downhill, so my chance of injury for my preferred method of strapping large planks of pseudo-wood to my feet is somewhat limited.

Now. I do work as a software developer, and therefore my workday is largely sedentary (that is to say, I spend most of it sitting). This, naturally, detracts from my overall health, and may, one day, contribute to the hospital bill my aging self will run up. However, I do my best in my day-to-day life to mitigate the effects of the workday... and while I'm at work, I try to have a good stretch and a brief walk every few hours, when I'm in a lull (as I am now.)

My assertion, however, was not that I am perfect - no one is - but rather that there is NOTHING that can make smoking generally beneficial. The biggest contribution to my eventual demands on the health care system is my job - the means by which I earn the money that I contribute to our health care system. What similar defense can be offered of the insidious cigarette? (Taxation on the purchase of cigarettes, by the way, is orders of magnitude smaller than the costs associated with caring for their victims.)

So yes, I could be better - but I live my life doing my best to contribute to society, rather than take from it. I am acutely aware of hypocrisy, and do my best never to practice it. And I think I am, in fact, entitled to make a comment on those who poison themselves recreationally at the expense of our beleaguered health care system.

Now, in addition to that, there are other costs. The financial cost to a smoker is severalfold: capital loss on the resale value of their house, increased cost of insurance, loss of revenue due to increased recovery time from any injury, and of course, the cost of the cigarettes themselves. This reduction in available funds corresponds directly to decreased taxation on these individuals, further increasing the drain they represent on our economy.

I don't think it's a matter of contention - smoking is an evil that should be forbidden. I think that simply withdrawing health care from those who indulge in it is far too little to do, rather than an overreaction.

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