Smoking is becoming more expensive and advertising of tobacco products is becoming less acceptable, thanks to new laws that go into effect in California and Canada this month. Both are welcome steps toward encouraging a smokeless - and healthier - society
Californians, thanks to a voter-approved ballot proposition, will pay an extra 15 cents per pack for cigarettes and 40 percent more for other tobacco products under a new excise tax. Officials estimate the new economic disincentive will convince 200,000 smokers to kick the habit, while at the same time raising some $600 million annually for medical and environmental programs.Meanwhile, Canadians are imposing a tough new law banning tobacco advertising in newspapers and magazines, an extension of a pre-existing ban on tobacco ads on electronic media. In addition, billboard and in-store advertising is to be phased out in three years.
Such actions are not, of course, without their detractors. The powerful tobacco industry recruits platoons of lobbyists armed with scientific studies (frequently underwritten by the tobacco producers) that supposedly cast doubt on the link between tobacco and health problems. And smokers themselves, of course, will complain that they are fast becoming a persecuted minority who ask only to be left to their own, albeit deadly, devices.
And there will be those on the other side who complain that the actions don't go far enough. In Canada, for instance, health workers claim the portion of the law requiring warning labels on tobacco products should be much stronger. Instead of the proposed, "Warning: Damage to health increases with amount smoked - avoid inhaling," health groups want the unequivocal "Smoking kills."
Overall, however, there is remarkably unanimity on the need to discourage tobacco consumption.