High tobacco taxes discourage smoking

The Central Alberta Tobacco Reduction Action Coalition wishes to respond to some extremely uninformed and misleading responses published in the Internet comments (Readers say) section of the Red Deer Advocate on Dec. 8.

The Central Alberta Tobacco Reduction Action Coalition wishes to respond to some extremely uninformed and misleading responses published in the Internet comments (Readers say) section of the Red Deer Advocate on Dec. 8.

We appreciate and echo the comments from Terry Jones. However, various writers and in particular, freelance columnist Bill Greenwood, have the facts wrong when they state that high tobacco taxes don’t influence tobacco users to reduce or to stop their tobacco use. Evidence is extremely strong in this regard that increases in tobacco price result in significant and measurable decreases in consumption.

While governments do collect taxes and therefore revenue from the sale of tobacco products, the amount generated does not approach the costs incurred to our society of the personal suffering, preventable premature death and disease caused by the product.

Governments do have a vested interest therefore in reducing consumption. Experience with the prohibition of alcohol has taught us that outright bans on products that have been widely available over long periods of time are not effective.

However, measures to make harmful products such as tobacco less attractive to users do work to reduce their use. We have experienced this in Canada.

Presently about 20 per cent of Albertans smoke.

The number used to be closer to 65 per cent years ago when the cost of cigarettes and other tobacco products were much cheaper than today and before smoke-free laws came into effect.

Greenwood has his thinking cap on backwards in demonizing public health advocates for attempting to protect health (a nefarious goal indeed) by exposing the dirty tricks used by the tobacco industry to addict Canadians.

The tobacco industry’s own documents reveal their agenda and callousness.

“Let’s face it. We are interested in evidence which we believe denies the allegation that cigarette) smoking causes disease.” — Philip Morris, 1970.

“What do these health claims, the heightened public sentiment for smoking restrictions . . . mean for this industry? Lower sales, of course.” — U.S. Tobacco Institute, 1985.

Tobacco is the only product on the market today that will kill 50 per cent of its users when used exactly as intended by the manufacturer.

If Greenwood or other nay-sayers are interested in scientific proof, he is welcome to contact us directly.

Tobacco has no value to the general well-being of society and can cause terrible hardship to families, not only financial but through addiction, disease and death.

The tobacco industry has targeted children for generations to replace the ‘customers’ they lose to quitting or death.

Let’s lay blame where blame is due and stop being tobacco industry apologists.

Joey Leslie

Central Alberta Tobacco Reduction Action Coalition

Editor’s note: In fairness to Greenwood, he never stated what the letter writer claims he stated (that high tobacco taxes don’t influence tobacco users to reduce or to stop their tobacco use). Instead, he pointed out that the government collects tobacco taxes from all smokers, even though not all smokers will become sick from smoking.

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