Pubdate: Thu, 18 May 2006
Source: Toronto Sun (CN ON)
Copyright: 2006, Canoe Limited Partnership.
Author: Christina Blizzard


Talk about supreme irony.

News item 1. The government is poised to bring tough new laws 
outlawing the smoking of a legal product - tobacco.

Item 2. Two weeks ago, thousands of people camped out on the lawn of 
the legislature and smoked an illegal product -- marijuana. And no 
one was arrested.

Not just that, the government rakes in billions every year from the 
sale of another addictive product -- alcohol. Yet you don't see a 
tightening of licensing laws. If anything, it's the opposite.

Childhood obesity rates are reaching an epidemic. Sure, Dalton 
McGuinty's government has banned junk food in schools. But do you see 
a tax on fat?

Yet just 13 days from now, the government will implement a 
province-wide ban on smoking. You will be able to munch away on 
double-glazed chocolate doughnuts in public with impunity. Sure, no 
one's died from inhaling second-hand cupcake crumbs. That isn't the point.

What about the example it sets to young people when they see adults 
chowing down in public places on cream puffs and custard slices? How 
can you expect them to take nutrition seriously when people are 
openly indulging in high sodium, high caloric treats like potato 
chips? But smokers? Wicked, wicked. Let's pick on them. The 
nico-nazis ban cigarettes, but turn a blind eye to pot. Go figure. If 
you think pot isn't as harmful as nicotine, think again.

"The reality is you are lighting something on fire and putting it in 
your mouth and it's just not a good thing to do in any case," says 
Dr. Atul Kapur, an Ottawa ER doctor and president of Physicians for a 
Smoke-Free Canada.

He says the effects of smoking a little cannabis are the same as 
smoking a lot of nicotine.

"They don't have 20 joints a day, but they inhale deeper and they 
keep it in their lungs longer, so the estimates are that three or 
four joints a day may have the same harmful effect to your lungs as a 
pack a day of regular smokes," said Kapur.

The wages of legalized sin are big bucks. Government gets $1.7 
billion from gaming, $1.2 billion in taxes from booze. They got $1.4 
billion in the last fiscal year from smokes. That's forecast to rise 
to $1.7 billion with the recent hike in taxes -- the same amount it's 
estimated smoking costs the health system.

Obese people put a huge strain on government services over a long 
time span, not just for healthcare but for social services. Extremely 
fat people are unable to work.

What about booze? We all know the deadly diseases, drunk driving and 
social problems associated with drinking. Yet this province is the 
enabler when it comes to feeding the addiction of alcoholics. The 
more they drink, the more money the government rakes in. Ditto for 
gambling, which is basically a tax on people who can't do math.

So the government makes a big song and dance about getting smokers to 
quit, but it shakes them down for even more tax cash as it does so. 
Yet it encourages gambling with fancy casinos and it recently 
announced it would be opening more liquor stores. Why? Because that's 
how you make money from booze and gaming. The government acts as an 
enabler with obesity as well. Instead of telling fat people to put 
down the fork, it pays for bariatric surgery, or stomach stapling, 
for the morbidly obese.

As for the hypocrisy of potheads flouting the law on the lawns of 
Queen's Park, Health Promotion Minister Jim Watson says there is 
nothing he can do because it's not his job to direct police.

"I don't condone that kind of behaviour because (a) possession of 
marijuana is illegal and (b) you are smoking it, which is also 
harmful for your health and (c) consuming marijuana is also harmful 
to your health," he said. Watson said 16,000 people die annually as a 
result of smoking, 2,000-3,000 of those are due to second-hand smoke.

Meanwhile, Health Minister George Smitherman, who admits to having 
had a drug habit, is now telling us to stop smoking a legal product.

It's enough to drive you to booze.
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MAP posted-by: Beth Wehrman