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IHAVEANIDEA.ORG > articles >  Apparently, Tobacco Is Good For Some

Apparently, Tobacco Is Good For Some

Posted on July 31, 2004 and read 11,188 times

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Much controversy surrounds the topic of tobacco advertising, but to what extent, and how far, can this health versus wealth fight go? The tobacco companies have been around for some time now and thus its no wonder the outcry from regular citizens voicing their disapproval in incidents that happened back in 1994. Of those who did speak their opinion loudly, some even went further as to undermine the government, and the tax issue that was at hand. Some people turned to smuggling from our United States counterparts, and then bootlegging the cigarettes to those wanting to avoid the enormous price increases, but at the same time were unquestionably addicted to this substance called tobacco. All of this controversy, all of this debate and argument, all of this intrusion from the government, to what avail?

The government seems to almost have their arms tied when it comes to the debate of anti-smoking legislation. On the one side are the smokers who vote, and they have to keep them content while they are in Parliament, otherwise they will loose votes from the smokers in the next election. On the other side are the non-smokers who also vote, and the government has to keep them content at the same time, or again face loosing votes. All of this is to try and stop teenagers from beginning smoking, and do so carefully trying not to step on the wrong peoples shoes. Studies say that of those who begin smoking while they are in their teens, they will more than likely smoke for their entire life. In fact, “until they finally introduced an anti-tobacco package, some people were asking whether the Liberals have put their political longevity ahead of the heath of Canadians.” The governments have tried their attempts at curtailing the consumption of tobacco, however, most of it seemingly were discouraging in that the results were highly unfavourable. In 1994, for example, the government decided to increase the price for cartons of cigarettes, in hopes of deterring people away from the consumption of tobacco. This was a complete disaster. “By 1994 tobacco smuggling had become a 5-billion-a-year business, with more that 2 million Canadians buying cigarettes smuggled here from the US.” The government also did its best to not allow tobacco companies to advertise in any way in Canada. “Tobacco trademarks were banned on promotional material such as T-shirts, and tobacco companies were required to put prominent health warnings on cigarette packs. However, the Supreme Court decided that this constituted a violation of tobacco companies’ right to freedom of speech.” The tobacco manufacturers know how the government works, they know how the system works, and they play it like a fiddle when it comes to playing hardball with the government. The reason for this is because of whom the tobacco companies have on their side of this battle of heath versus wealth. “Two chiefs of staff to former Prime ministers are on its payroll, as are veteran Liberal organizers and three senators. The head of the Canadian Tobacco Manufacturers Council is Rob Parker, a former Member of Parliament and one of Ottawa’s best-known faces. Its communications director is Marie-Josee Lapointe, Brian Mulroney’s former press secretary.” These people understand how the system works, how policies are developed and how they can counterbalance what gets implemented in the process. But, are these people on the tobacco company’s side morally and ethically right? After hearing, reading, or seeing the following statistics, they must have to hold on tight to the clumps of money they must get for doing what they do. “Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada says thousands of episodes of childhood illness are caused by smoking and each year 120,000 young Canadians join the ranks of `new smokers.’ Ontario’s chief medical officer of health says the province spends more than $1 billion a year treating diseases linked to tobacco.”

The government that stated that tobacco companies were not allowed to advertise also told the tobacco companies they were not able to sponsor any more events. This being car races, music festivals, fireworks displays, sporting events including tennis, golf, or any other such activity where the tobacco companies previously did sponsor. Partly because of pressure from the public, this action took place. However, its is interesting to note that prior to this, the government was careful as to not alienate its ‘generous` donors. “Imasco, Imperial Tobacco’s parent company, donated $63,447 to the Liberals in 1995, and $92,053 the year before. Many ministers have also received individual contributions from industry executives.” As sated above, the Tobacco Companies really do know how to play politics; anything from donations, to saying that by jeopardizing tobacco sales; they are jeopardizing jobs, of thousands of Canadians.

Imagine the amount of money the government makes on cigarettes, I mean really. The government has to make money, but they should also reinvest the money made through the tobacco sales. For example, “Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada calculates that the government currently receives $90 million in tax revenue from illegal sales to children alone out of the $2.2 billion it receives annually through tobacco sales, but it is only allocating $10 million annually to enforcement and prevention.” Perhaps cutting smokers is really not in the interest of the government quite as much as it is for regular everyday Canadian citizens. However, “a government could gradually reduce the concentration of nicotine in cigarettes, for instance, and even eliminating the addiction overtime. Or it could increase the pH level of smoke, making it more obnoxious and thus discouraging adolescent smokers.” But when the government is pulling down 2.2 billion dollars, do you think that is a prime concern for them?

But how do such gigantic tobacco companies defend such accusations relating to effects suffered as a direct result of having smoked, or being around smokers? Unquestionably, tobacco kills. It allows for cancer of the lungs, throat and many other places. It decreases your breathing capacity, wherein it becomes much more difficult to breathe on a regular basis. Simple actives such as running or walking become increasingly more strenuous. The government even now has pictures and warnings posted on cigarette packages about the dangers of tobacco products. Examples of the warnings include “cigarettes hurt babies”, “cigarettes cause lung cancer”, “tobacco use can make you impotent”, “cigarettes cause cancer” “smoking can kill you”, “cigarettes are addictive”, “you’re not the only one smoking the cigarette”, “where there is smoke there is hydrogen cyanide”, “don’t poison us”, “idle but deadly”. Now obviously the facts are true, obviously people know about them, but obviously the tobacco companies will not admit to anything and turn the attention from health to wealth. “In a country worried stiff about national unity and job losses, it made survival of the tobacco industry a national-unity issue by pointing out that most of Canada’s cigarettes are made in Quebec.” They also discredit the government because of its sometimes flagrantly stupidity, and wasting of money. The tobacco companies are quick to point out that since the ‘tax roll-back’ of 1994, cigarette smoking has clearly decreased across all age groups. The government also pointed the finger at the tobacco companies claiming that they have been ‘spiking’ their cigarettes with more nicotine. Unfortunately for the government however, after pressuring Health Canada into a $300,000 study into this accusation, they results were the complete opposite. They indicated that the about of nicotine in cigarettes had actually decreased by 20% by Canadian brands. The tobacco companies also point out that any way in which the government has tried to reduce the consumption of cigarettes smoking has been an abysmal failure. The taxes increase obviously failed as mentioned above. However, “bans on advertising and promotions did nothing but reduce competition, and increase brand concentration. TV anti-smoking ads were laughed at by their intended audiences, and were pulled as ineffective, not withstanding the enormous amount of money spent on them. And the general attitude fostered by government policies and the anti-tobacco lobby enhanced the attraction of smoking to those who wish to visibly express their rebellious sentiments.”

“Tobacco companies should thank the government. Ottawa wants to ban them from sponsoring tournaments and concerts. This will save the companies tens of millions of dollars each year. Some savings will also go to smokers. The only people that will not benefit are the sporting event fans, and concertgoers who helped to push the law. When in reality, there will be huge losses of events and tournaments, and no one will stop smoking.” All of this politicking, all of these arguments, all of this upset, for what? Who really wins? The non-smokers certainly don’t, but the smokers will be a little angry, and the governments and the tobacco companies will be all the richer. The government seems to be going to far, stretching our Liberal country, into one with almost fascist and dictatorship rulings. “The Common Sense Revolution tapped into a well-spring of public resentment against big interventionists, intrusive and profligate government; and a wish for return to more personal responsibility and personal liberty.” Perhaps newer more inventive and creative ways will be developed to cater more to the regular everyday Canadian citizen. Perhaps there will be a day where massive companies like tobacco companies will not have so much leverage and power. And perhaps, everyone in the entire world will wake up and realize what smoking is really doing to them, and how their health afflictions affect the big corporate company profits, but it’s doubtful. Some people just don’t get it. However, the Rothmans speaker brings up an excellent point. “Their (the tobacco lobbyists), livelihoods depend on tobacco, just as mine does. However, I earn my money by selling people something that they want; they extract tax dollars to try to prevent people from doing what they want. In the long run, I think my livelihood has more secure foundation.”

Jeff Hanson currently attends IAOD in Toronto and is in his last semester. He aspires to be a Copywriter at an idea driven agency, and is very passionate about advertising.




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