Volume 92, Issue 51

Thursday, December 3, 1998

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Smoke screen

A recent University of Toronto study has concluded that raising the price of cigarettes may deter Ontario's children from starting to smoke.

The truth of the matter is, however, that they'll start to smoke whether a pack costs $3 or $4 out of their weekly allowance. Usually smokers start off with a few a day, maybe a pack a week. The most that could happen with a raise in price is the kid who's graduated to a couple packs a week might cut down to save more quarters for video games.

Regardless of whether or not they decide to increase prices, the government needs to come clean about the cigarette issue.

They must realize that raising the cost of cigarettes will only affect the older, more seasoned smokers, who buy a dozen packs a week. And while adult smokers will be shelling out more money and grumbling about it – they'll still continue to buy cigarettes. The government knows they can and will get more money from smokers by raising taxes.

A few years ago, a similar move caused an increase in the number of cigarette smugglers from the United States. With the dollar at an all-time incredible low, however, the $1 increase proposed by the study will only equal out the costs between the two countries. Smokers will just have no choice but to quit – not a likely scenario.

If the prices were to be raised, what would the government do with all the cash they acquired?

Funding should be increased to programs to help people stop smoking. If children aren't going to be affected by the increase, then something else needs to be done. Stop the problems before they start. Just like drug and sex education needs to be done in schools earlier than it has been in the past, health education about the effects of smoking cigarettes needs to be taught to younger children.

This is not a happy little world where children are all sugar and spice. There are some very true dangers which are pushed in their faces every day in the school yard.

The numbers of young women starting to smoke are increasing at an alarming rate. Educating them about the effects of smoking on their bodies and providing positive role models will raise their self-esteem so that they feel good about themselves – without succumbing to peer pressures.

The "cool" image of smoking for both young men and women is something which is difficult to eradicate in high school, but if a campaign targeted younger children, perhaps the message will be more easily impressed.

The government knows raising prices won't stop people from buying substances like beer or cigarettes. It's time to stop the illusion of raising taxes for the betterment of the province's health and come clean. Admit the tax increases are only to help out the government's cash flow and then put the money where it belongs – educating children so they can stop before they start.

To Contact The Editorial Department: gazette.editor@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright The Gazette 1998