50 billion ways to be a hypocrite

Letter - The Regional

October 7, 2009

Last week the Ontario Government announced it was suing tobacco companies to the tune of $50 billion. The main reason for the suit was to recoup monies to cover the staggering health care costs association with smoking.

Notwithstanding the fact the government rakes in billions in tobacco taxes, which leads to the obvious question of where does all this money go if not to cover health care costs, this lawsuit is a monumental act of hypocrisy.

I read through the 47 page Statement of Claim, and not because I wanted to get some sleep, but I wanted to find out which tobacco companies were in fact being sued. Of the 14 defendants named all are Canadian, American and British companies, but not one single aboriginal run company.

Some of the reasons for the suit are the tobacco companies produce a product that is addictive, contains harmful ingredients, is advertised in a way to entice and encourage smoking. So the fact that no aboriginal tobacco company is named must mean that cigarettes produced by those companies are not addictive, do not contain harmful ingredients, and, of course, no advertising is done offering cheap cigarettes that would indeed entice and encourage smoking.

And if this isn't enough, let's now add insult to injury. One of the defendants is  being sued for active participation in smuggling, aka, participating in the distribution of cigarettes for which taxes have, wait for it, NOT BEEN PAID! The claim is JTI-Macdonald, formerly known as RJR Macdonald Inc. "knowingly used illegal distribution channels to enable persons to possess and sell its tobacco products in Ontario at prices which did not include duties and taxes. " ...  "In this manner, JTI acted to avoid paying the required taxes under the Ontario Tobacco Tax Act, R.S.O 1990, C.T.10 and breached the Criminal Code of Canada. "

According to the Statement of Claim the "Crown has incurred and will continue to incur health care costs for decades relating to the treatment of smokers in Ontario who became addicted to cigarettes as a direct result of the unlawful smuggling activities..."

Let's not forget that the latest statistics indicate that in Ontario approximately 50% of cigarettes purchased by the smoking public are contraband. But, of course, only contraband cigarettes sold by non-aboriginal tobacco companies will cause the government to incur health care costs for decades, etc, etc.

How dumb does the government think we are?

By all means go after the "big" tobacco companies, but do not turn a blind eye to the burgeoning sale of contraband tobacco, from which no taxes are collected, which will result in no funding for ever increasing health care costs due to smoking related diseases.  Do the math! We all lose big time!

Christine McHale

Binbrook, Ontario