Secondhand smoke, costs hurt non-smokers

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

To the editor:
In the ongoing discussion over the sale of cigarettes at Mustang Alley, many important issues have been overlooked.

Leave The Pack Behind, a youth tobacco initiative for postsecondary students, attempted to address these issues in support of the ‘No’ campaign, but faced several political obstacles in doing so.

What some people don’t realize is that smoking is not simply a “personal decision.” It is not a personal decision for the 425 non-smokers in Ontario who die from secondhand smoke every year, or for the addicted smokers who want to quit and need support, or for the Ontario taxpayers who pay as much as $7.6 billion annually in health care and lost productivity costs because of smoking.

Some people have compared a ban of tobacco sales to bans of other potentially unhealthy substances such as alcohol, caffeine or fast food. The difference is that smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in Canada; it is associated with several immediate health risks.

Nicotine has a greater dependence potential than alcohol, cocaine and heroin. No major health agency believes there is any safe level of tobacco use, but most health professionals concede that alcohol, caffeine and fast food are safe in moderation.

It should also be noted that the University Students’ Council doesn’t only profit from the sale of tobacco, but also from the advertisement of it. Western is one of only three university campuses in Ontario with a “power wall,” [a tobacco industry advertising tactic that bombards consumers with cigarette packs around the cash registers of retail outlets.] This advertising strategy will be illegal in Ontario by the end of the month.

Brock, Guelph, Lakehead, Laurentian, McMaster, Trent, Wilfrid Laurier, Windsor universities and the University of Toronto do not sell tobacco on their campuses. The Alberta government recently passed legislation that will similarly ban the sale of tobacco on its postsecondary campuses.

Western students have now spoken as well. I disagree that the vote would have been different if the USC’s position was better understood; its position was always clear. The only reason the vote was remotely close was because the ‘No’ side wasn’t given the same opportunities as the ‘Yes’ side.
"Chris Walsh
Campus Program Co-ordinator
Leave The Pack Behind
Health Education Co-ordinator

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