Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Quebec Gov's Sad Tobacco Ploy

A bill that would allow the province to sue tobacco companies to recover health-care costs related to diseases caused by smoking is to be introduced in the National Assembly today.
A Quebec health department study estimates the direct and indirect costs of smoking in the province at $4 billion a year.... Montreal Gazette

The announcement reminds me of the great scene in Casablanca where Captain Renault closes down Rick's Cafe because, as he is quoted.
"I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!"...just as a clerk hands him his gambling winnings.

The whole affair smacks of a cynical government attempt to deflect attention away from the current batch of problems it faces with a manufactured issue that is sure to fill newspapers pages and squeeze out negative reporting on issues like the Caisse de Depot.

For over seventy years, the Quebec government has been taking in billions of dollars in tobacco tax and to now proclaim that the tobacco industry should pay for related health care costs is disingenuous.

The saddest part of it all, is that the government has no case.
While smoking leads to premature death and is the cause of much illness and suffering, the lifetime health care costs borne by the government is actually smaller for smokers than for healthy people. That's right, lower.
Incidentally, that also goes for obese people too.

I know it sounds crazy, but for a variety of reasons (mainly that life expectancy is reduced), it costs the government more to provide health care to healthy people, because they live longer.
Here is a translated chart from the excellent blog Republique de Bananes which discusses the different lifetime costs to the public health care system for healthy people, the obese and smokers.

If you'd like to read the detailed study here is a link.

Once the government is calculating costs, they should also consider that the tobacco companies knock off about eight years of life expectancy of their customers, saving the government over a hundred thousand dollars in old age pension money.
I know it's ghoulish, but when you're calculating damages, mitigating factors are to be considered.

Let's remember that car companies also provide a product that is much more harmful than tobacco, should we sue then too?

Tobacco companies have been forced to pay up by American courts, but we should not expect a similar result here. In America, courts are political and activist. Here in Canada a judge will look at the cold hard facts and likely rule against the government.

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