Smoking is responsible for more deaths than obesity, physical inactivity or high blood pressure. There is no other legal product in our society that, used as it is intended to be used, does more harm to more people than smoking. So why is it legal?
Banning cigarette smoking would make it more difficult for new smokers to try smoking and to become addicted. For the 20% of Canadians who already smoke occasionally or frequently, a ban would compel many to quit.
It would be the ultimate deterrent.
Further along in his column Warren breezily dismisses the possible emergence of a huge black market in contraband cigarettes. Apparently he doesn't think this is a big a deal because a black market already exists.
A product of high tobacco taxes, the estimated $1.5 billion illegal smokes market would inevitably explode in the wake of a total ban. Bizarrely this doesn't trouble Warren, who seems to believe that government exacerbating a problem it created in the first place is entirely sensible.
It's been known for decades that smoking is bad for your health. We don't need a former McGuinty flack to tell us that. What's remarkable is the instinct so many modern Liberals have for banning what they don't like.
During the McGuinty years the Ontario provincial government famously banned pit bulls and fought against the right of consumers to buy raw milk. It's not surprising that given enough time Liberal logic would also demand that cigarettes be banned as well.
The legislate first, think second approach to government has caused untold pain and suffering throughout history. Alcohol prohibition in the United States nearly a century ago became one of the great public policy fiascos of all time.
Decades worth of efforts to stamp out marijuana usage have done little to prevent the banned weed from being cheap and easily available. What makes Jim Warren think that tobacco, which has been widely used in Western societies for half a millennia, will be any easier to ban?
As with other efforts to solve society's ills through Big Government there are always unintended consequences. The thirty year campaign by federal and provincial governments to drive down smoking through sky-high tobacco taxes has turned some native reserves into conduits for cross border smuggling. Those reserves have in turn become havens for organized crime and money laundering. Aboriginals, a group many Canadian progressives weep crocodile tears over, would be disproportionately impacted by a total ban on cigarettes.
Smoking is a major social problem which has seen significant improvement over time. Today nearly 20% of Canadians smoke, that's down dramatically from the nearly 50% of Canadians who did back in 1965. While governments have been quick to take credit for this fall, the percentage of Canadians who smoked was already declining before tobacco tax started to rise sharply in the 1980s.
In other words millions of ordinary Canadians had come to the conclusion that smoking was unhealthy and choose to quit. They didn't need nanny statists like Jim Warren telling them what to do.
Great social problems are rarely overcome through legislation or taxation. They are successfully fought by persuading people on the best course of action. That's the essence of what makes a free society work and why paternalistic governments are doomed to fail.
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