Taxes on tobacco are not too high

Re. the letter from Lea Johnston, headlined Alberta charging too much tax on tobacco: When I first read Johnston’s letter complaining about the high tax placed on tobacco products, I couldn’t believe what I was reading.

Re. the letter from Lea Johnston, headlined Alberta charging too much tax on tobacco:

When I first read Johnston’s letter complaining about the high tax placed on tobacco products, I couldn’t believe what I was reading.

Since when did smoking a cigarette take precedence over a child’s need for food, shelter and clothing? Her letter was wrong on so many levels.

First, smoking is not a basic human right. It is a luxury (and not a very good one at that).

Johnston claims that “the Alberta Tobacco Tax Act is keeping families is poverty.” No, the tobacco tax is designed to make smoking as financially unattractive as possible so that people will not start smoking in the first place.

Which brings me to my second point. People smoke for one of two reasons:

l They want or choose to smoke;

l They “need” to smoke because they have developed an addiction to smoking.

I’m willing to give Johnston the benefit of the doubt here and assume her smoking habit is based on addiction as opposed to a simple want.

To knowingly risk depriving a child of the basic necessities of life over a simple want (the end result of which is a pile of ashes) is reprehensible.

If her smoking habit is based on addiction, then one might be able to muster up some compassion for Johnston because an addiction of any sort can be all-consuming.

A person with an addiction doesn’t care how they satisfy the addiction, they just need to, even at the expense of another’s well-being.

Programs to quit smoking do cost money and someone on a low-income might not be able to pay. However, that is not what her letter is about.

Nowhere is it stated that she can’t afford to pay for the cost of a program to quit smoking. The letter does not make the case for the government to fund treatment programs to help the poor quit smoking.

No, her complaint was the tax is too high on a product she had no intention of giving up. The feeling I got is that she believes that the government should lower or remove the tax on cigarettes so she can keep right on smoking.

She then goes on to complain about the government’s move to forego health-care premiums.

I’m a little lost on this statement. Does she mean she would rather pay the health-care premiums, thus increasing the strain on her finances?

Her statement about the tax on tobacco being used to cover the cost of the H1N1 vaccine is ludicrous. The H1N1 pandemic would have occurred regardless of any tax the Alberta government imposed on tobacco products.

If it comes down to choosing to pay for an H1N1 vaccine (which helps save lives) or pay to someone’s smoking habit (which helps take lives through cancer), I choose the vaccination program.

Her last statement about non-smokers being “more of a drain on the health system than smokers” is absurd. She even goes so far as to ask to see the statistics on the matter.

I admit, I do not possess the statistics for that (I’ll leave that to the medical professionals out there), but I would rather see the health-care system look for way to help the poor stop smoking rather that look for ways to justify their continuing to smoke.

Terry Jones

Red Deer

Editor’s note: In fairness to Johnston, she never stated that non-smokers are more of a drain on the health-care system than smokers. She simply said it would be interesting to see if statistics support the notion that smokers are more of a drain on the health system than non-smokers (once the taxes they pay are taken into consideration).

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