B.C. Health Minister Mike de Jong was floating another taxation trial balloon last week, a suggestion to place a Medical Services Plan surchage on a pack of cigarettes.
While de Jong acknowledged that smokers will likely be upset to be singled out, he added that “we want them to be upset because they are engaged in a behaviour that is costing the rest of society billions of dollars.” The need to consider this option comes from the reality that we as a society are already taxed to death, while health care costs continue to spiral upwards. Smokers are in de Jong’s firing line here because it’s good politics to beat up on smokers.
It’s a nasty habit and while we may lack the research to pinpoint the number exactly, it’s fair to say it’s one of many burdens on our current health care system.
But this idea smacks similar to the government’s previous idea to add another gas surtax to pay for expansion of the transit line in the Lower Mainland. In effect, Victoria was saying you have no other option but to use your car, and we are going to blame you for that.
That didn’t wash with drivers, but the hit on smokers may appear to be an easier target.
But the reality is our health care costs are not spiraling out of control just because of smokers. There are a myriad of other issues that the politicians don’t want to address head-on because they are not safe political options. How about adding a surcharge on the sale of fast food. How about doing more to educate both youth and adults about obesity, that a pop, chips and corn dog doesn’t constitute a healthy meal. How about reinvigorating our health care system to be pro-active rather than reactive to health care issues.
Smokers are just an easy target. If smoking is so bad, why don’t we just ban it outright?
As with many of these health care issues, just follow the money and you usually find the answers.