Smoking Hot


Canadians are trapped in an immoral system in which an economic good—medical care—is supplied exclusively by government. Canadians are not permitted to participate in any domestic market for medical care, even as they are constrained by the economically predictable shortages and rationing of care that result from bureaucratic supply.

It should not be surprising that under such a system there are elevated levels of stress and conflict. The politicians and bureaucrats charged with “managing” the system are constantly and futilely attempting to get their annually escalating budgets under control. They have their own ways of dealing with conflict. It usually comes at the point of a gun.

Some ordinary Canadians deal with their everyday stresses by engaging in the use of tobacco products. They may be “smoking hot” about their situation but can still enjoy the relatively affordable periodic break accompanied by a cigarette.

Smoking Costs and Risks

There are of course risks to health associated with smoking, despite which smokers have carried on. They have in the face of punitive taxation and regulation by government maintained their habit.

In the last decade, black-market supplies from the Kahnawake and other “First Nations” reserves have helped to bring down costs for smokers able to access the network of illegal goods. Anti-smoking advocates have even alleged that the actions of “First Nations” manufacturers have contributed to an escalation of the rate of smoking among young Canadians. It seems these advocates are “smoking hot” about that situation too.

Conflict and Lawsuits

A particularly conflict-laden scenario has evolved in which several provinces have launched a lawsuit against tobacco companies for “past, present and future health care costs associated with tobacco use”. For example, the province of Ontario is seeking to get $50 Billion from Imperial Tobacco. Other provinces in Canada are planning to follow suit. Do you think any of them will name the “First Nations” cigarette enterprises in their lawsuit?

To continue with this story of conflict, the defendant tobacco companies had argued that the Federal Government was a liable third party in the case because it obtains significant financial benefit from the taxation of tobacco. The British Columbia Court of Appeals agreed. Today, the Supreme Court of Canada did not. It ruled that only the tobacco companies should be named.

Taxpayers and Individuals Pay

Taxpayers are paying for all of this nonsense. In addition to British Columbia and Ontario, the provinces of New Brunswick and Newfoundland/Labrador are party to the conflict. When other provinces join in virtually all taxpayers will be on the hook. To what end?

Socialized medicine doesn’t work. Attempting to force people to change behaviour doesn’t work. Establishing a structure that allows individuals to bear the direct costs of their actions does work. The institutions of markets and other forms of spontaneous order allow for such concepts as risk management. Do you remember insurance, that marvellous market invention that spreads risk over populations with an affordable premium for the individual insured?

©Copyright 2011 Edward Podritske

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