"Smoking is an ugly, vile vice. I should know, because I smoke. I am currently in between quitting and, God willing, one day I'll run out of excuses to light up.
With that in mind, perhaps I have a tarnished view on the whole idea of allowing governments to sue tobacco companies to recoup health care costs.
Because, the way I see it, smokers have already paid.
Since 1970, federal and provincial governments have collected an estimated $150 billion in tobacco taxes.
As much as 75% of the price of a pack of smokes goes directly to some form of government.
The federal Health Department estimates the cost of treating tobacco-related disease at $4 billion a year.
[Edit:"straight-line Math" would make that 140 Billion, btw, and that doesn't take into account Inflation and Increases in HealthCare costs - I'm Damn sure it wasn't 4 Billion in 1970....]
So, if you do the math, smokers pay for their expanded health needs and still drop an extra $285 million a year in taxes into government bank accounts.
[Further edit: so, BITE ME! - anyone who says smokers should pay extra for Health Insurance, or have limited coverage!]
For governments, suing tobacco companies isn't so much about recovering health costs, but rather washing their own hands.
It's a convenient way for politicos to sweep aside their own complicity in the health fallout from smoking.
If tobacco companies prosper, which they obviously do, they do so because Canadian parliamentarians and lawmakers have created an environment in which they can operate.
Not once did any governments say "this product is deadly, and based on our principles, we refuse to take any blood money in the way of taxes."
Not once did governments move to outlaw smoking.
Instead, they choose to continually hike taxes and take a bigger chunk of the profits. Call it the political equivalent of a guilty pleasure.
It's a bit like allowing your kids to play on a playground of broken glass and then acting surprised when they cut themselves.
It's irresponsible and hypocritical.
And the precedent set with any successful lawsuit against tobacco companies will only open the floodgates for a bunch of other don't-blame-me-style actions.
Who do we sue next?
Fast-food joints for our clogged arteries, cottage cheese thighs and fat children?
Breweries for creating alcoholics, drunk drivers and regrettable one night stands?
Perhaps it'll be motorcycle makers who produce vehicles that have proven unsafe in collisions with semi trailers and trains.
For anyone willing to shirk responsibility for their own actions, the opportunities are endless.
If you look hard enough, you'll always find someone else to blame for your poor decisions.
Now, I am not an apologist for big tobacco.
They have a long list of well-paid, well-placed lobbyists to do that.
And this column is not in any way meant to garner sympathy for smokers -- we have no one to blame for our addiction but ourselves.
But if tobacco companies are to blame for smoking deaths, then governments are at the very least equal accomplices.
The overwhelming responsibility for a smoking-related illnesses, however, rests with smokers.
To butcher a line from the U.S. gun lobby: Tobacco companies don't kill people, people kill people.
So if I die, don't blame the tobacco companies, don't blame the government and please don't launch a lawsuit in my memory.
I've already paid my tab.
If I die a smoker, blame me."
YUP! If I stand at the top rung of a Step-Ladder, that's my problem, not the Ladder's - and if I am willing to pay a huge chunk of money to mitigate such Foolishness, and someone willingly takes it...... ? ? ? ?
Well, I can't say it here, but it rhymes with "Duck Poo".