The Saskatchewan government chose to celebrate May 31 as World No Tobacco Day, joining the gang of other provinces suing the tobacco industry for all smoking-related health-care costs.
If the case goes the way it went in the U.S., where 46 states were able to extract $206 billion from seven tobacco companies, the payoff should be pretty big.
You could argue that the payoff is already pretty big. In 2010-11, the Saskatchewan government hauled in $235.1 million in tax revenues from tobacco sales, and the entire take, federal and provincial, was $7.538 billion.
Oh, by the way, tobacco kills. Approximately 40,000 Canadians fall to smoking-related deaths each year, which surpasses the total number of murders, alcohol-related deaths, car accidents and suicides.
Tobacco killed 100-million people in the 20th century, rivalling Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot as the century’s biggest murderer.
So here you have the foremost beneficiaries of the world’s most dangerous substance suing their suppliers while they continue to reap the benefits over the dead bodies of their citizens.
To make the situation even more ludicrous, these same sin-tax junkies continue to vigorously prosecute the outlaw suppliers of relatively benign substances such as ecstasy and marijuana, while continuing to rake in the revenues from tobacco and alcohol, arguably the world’s second most dangerous substance.
I don’t pretend to understand any of this. While there is no doubt the tobacco companies knew that tobacco is a potent poison, they did their best to obscure and twist the evidence throughout the period outlined in the suit. Who’s going to sue the government, which is a whole lot more responsible for the well-being of its people than the tobacco companies? Big Tobacco is just a big fat pathological liar; we elect governments to protect us from big fat pathological liars.
Tobacco has cut a huge swath through my family, including my own father and grandfather, both sons of Saskatchewan. I smoked myself until Easter Sunday 1977 when I resurrected myself, as no one else was going to. I still battle the effects of my adventure with tobacco that ended 35 years ago.
The trouble is that all of us knew what we were doing. Like the tobacco companies, the government, my granddad and father, I knew that smoking caused cancer. James I of England knew that smoking was bad for your health in 1604.
We all knew, but we went ahead anyway. So, if the government really cares about the people of Saskatchewan, they’ll stop it now. Because someone in this country still dies every 12 minutes from smoking, no matter how much blood money we get from the tobacco companies.