Opinion Column

Tobacco tax rise a lifesaving measure 0

Bill Tieleman

By Bill Tieleman, News, Views, and Attitude – 24 hours

A man smokes along a street in central Moscow October 16, 2012. Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev launched a crackdown on smoking on Tuesday with a bill to ban tobacco advertising and raise taxes on cigarettes in the world's second largest tobacco market after China. (REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov)

A man smokes along a street in central Moscow October 16, 2012. Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev launched a crackdown on smoking on Tuesday with a bill to ban tobacco advertising and raise taxes on cigarettes in the world's second largest tobacco market after China. (REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov)

Smoking is the only honourable form of suicide. — Kurt Vonnegut, U.S. author 1922-2007

Should tobacco be a controlled substance, with prison time and fines for those caught illegally possessing it without a doctor’s prescription?

That’s one proposal from an Oregon legislator to deal with the devastating scourge of cancer and other illnesses caused by cigarettes.

Last week a Canadian-led medical study proposed tripling tobacco tax to prevent 200 million premature deaths this century caused by smoking.

But making tobacco a prescription-only controlled drug is an even better idea to start eliminating this deadly substance entirely.

The tripling of tobacco taxes proposed by the Centre for Global Health Research at Toronto’s St. Michael’s Hospital argues convincingly that dramatically increasing the levy deeply reduces consumption.

France and South Africa both cut smoking rates in half in less than 15 years by increasing the tax that much.

But a more effective way to save the lives and reduce the misery caused by tobacco-related cancer and other illnesses is to make cigarettes, cigars, pipe and chewing tobacco a controlled substance only available with a doctor’s prescription to current nicotine addicts.

And those who currently smoke would need to get a prescription from a doctor — who could also counsel them on ways to quit this terrible, deadly addiction.

Sound far-fetched? Not really.

Oregon State Rep. Mitch Greenlick has put forward a bill that would make tobacco a controlled substance, with possession of more than 0.1 milligrams punishable by a year in prison or a $6,250 fine — unless you have a doctor’s prescription.

Iceland is also considering making tobacco a prescription-only restricted drug.

In the meantime, the country increased its tobacco tax by 20% in 2012, a move that resulted in cigarette sales dropping 10% through Sept. 2013.

For those who think this way of taking on tobacco addiction is too extreme, here’s my reply: I watched my mom Pat die painfully from lung cancer in 2010, more than 20 years after she had quit smoking.

She took up cigarettes — despite being a registered nurse — in her earlier days because it wasn’t known how toxic smoking was.

Today we have no such excuse — it’s time to save lives by making tobacco prescription-only and start jacking the tax.

Bill Tieleman is a former NDP strategist. Read more at billtieleman.blogspot.com Email: weststar@telus.net Twitter: @BillTieleman

 

 

Poll

Do you think tobacco should be a prescription-only controlled substance?

Reader's comments »

By adding a comment on the site, you accept our terms and conditions and our netiquette rules.


Featured Businesses

Go to the Marketplace »