Listen or Download:

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Ukraine - smoking is hazardous to your health!

I was appalled to read this article about oligarchs pressuring the Ukrainian prez to back off on tobacco taxes.

The Ukrainian League of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs has called on President Viktor Yushchenko to veto the law that provides for raising the rate of the excise duty on tobacco goods.

Interestingly, the president of the Ukrainian League of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs just happens to be Party of Regions MP Anatoliy Kinakh, who is also shadow minister of industrial policy. Nothing like transparency in politics. (What conflict of interest?)

Kinakh argued that the Ukrainian tobacco industry would become uncompetitive if the law came into effect. He says a 2.5-fold increase of the rate of the excise duty on tobacco goods will «have a negative effect on formation the prices of tobacco goods.»

Being a life-long non-smoker, who grew up with parents that smoked (and have thankfully since quit), I tend to agree with the author of this article.

I've no sympathy for the tobacco companies. There's a legacy of deception that makes them responsible for the deaths of millions of people despite government warnings about the harmful effects of smoking. They should have to pay compensation to people who took up and kept up the habit during the years when Big Tobacco cynically questioned the link between smoking and disease.

Lest anyone should still believe the fiction that tobacco is a harmless, personal lifestyle choice, a factsheet put out by New Zealand's Ministry of Health tells the real story:

Of the more than 4,000 chemicals present in cigarette smoke, more than 60 have been identified as cancer causing chemicals, 11 of which are known to cause cancer in humans and eight that probably cause cancer in humans. ...

Approximately one non-smoker dies due to second-hand smoke exposure for every eight smokers who die of smoking related disease. Second-hand smoke has been designated a known human carcinogen (cancer-causing agent).

Tobacco is a proven poison ... and who would better know about poison than President Yushchenko? This progressive law he is trying to introduce would be a first step in improving the health of Ukrainian citizens as well as potentially the Ukrainian economy. But, vested interests see things differently.

It's too bad those vested interests are such neanderthals.


Ukrainian Canadian said...

Taxes an addiction does not deter it.

Ukrainian Canadian said...

I mean Taxes on addiction.. :)

Pawlina said...

Actually, with all due respect, I beg to differ.

Taxing tobacco makes it harder for companies to profit from peddling poison. As for smokers, making tobacco a more expensive vice does deter addiction ... it can't do anything but. It won't eradicate it from the face of the earth, but it does force people to make a more conscious choice about what they spend their money on. If it's too expensive, some may choose to quit, or not start in the first place.

And that is progress in the right direction!

We have pretty progressive laws in Canada but there are still too many people smoking, IMO. Actually, one is too many. I recently lost a friend to lung cancer (due to smoking) so I'm even more rabidly anti-smoking.

In addition to taxing tobacco companies, prez Yush should launch an education campaign with those tax revenues. We have a good one here in BC. If you have an "in" with him, please direct him to it here.

Orest said...

They are strictly interested in their own machinations and nothing else!

Ukrainian Canadian said...

I don't agree. It's hard to tell whether we're really winning the war on smoking because with the baby boomers retiring and smaller demographics it appears less people are smoking but we usually forget there are actually less people to smoke - it's a hollow victory.

I've also never come across any data that suggests increasing the price of a vice actually does stop people from using it. There's a reason why we have so many treatment programs for smoking - because it's too hard for most people to quit cold turkey. Price is not a deterrent. What has resulted from these price increases is a black market for cigarettes. You can get unregulated bags of smokes from native reserves for a fraction of the price that you would pay at the store.

These tactics do not help the average smoker, but just line the pockets of governments. If our (or any) government was really concerned about the welfare of it's people it would ban the sale of them, not just tax them and stop people from smoking on various properties.

And you can see this tactic outside the smoking arena, in Ontario the LCBO raised prices during the onset of the recession for the safety of its people, but really raised the minimum price to tackle buck-a-beers outside the Labatt/Molson owned monopoly. Also this month the US raised it's tobacco prices up a dollar via a tax. Is this really for people's benefits, or is this just recession busting?

In conclusion, I don't praise Yushchenko's move to tax, but I don't condemn it because what else can a politician do who's nation's GDP has dropped 30%? There probably is wiggle room in people's budgets to tax cigarettes because they are really cheap there, little old ladies sell them on the street corner and you can get them individually (which is illegal in Canada).

So my official answer is good for government, no change for tobacco companies and higher prices for people.

Pawlina said...

Orest, if we're honest with ourselves, everyone is interested in their own machinations. :-)

As for politicians, some actually have a streak of altruism going into office, and a few even manage to retain it while in office.

I believe that, for all his faults, Yushchenko is one of those few.

But, that's just me.

Pawlina said...

Ukainian (is the typo deliberate??)...

What on God's green Earth does baby boomer retirement have to do with smoking?? Or demographics for that matter? Until they die they'll still be around. But that's another story.

As for this one, according to the Centres for Disease Control:

Research has proven that raising cigarette prices, through excise taxes or other methods, increases the quit rate among adult smokers and is especially effective in discouraging children and young people from ever starting to smoke.

Your arguments give me a very distinct sense of déja vu ... they're so similar to those the anti-smoking movement heard here in the 1960s and 70s. (Hence the "neanderthal" reference.)

I really hope the tobacco peddling oligarchs lose their death grip on Ukraine. But it's a faint hope. It won't happen until enough citizens in Ukraine become progressive enough themselves to support politicians trying to bring in policies from more advanced democracies. That likely will take another generation, or two.

Featured Post

Giving Tuesday - Worthy Ukrainian (and other) causes to support

After the excitement of Black Friday and Cyber Monday subsides, along comes Giving Tuesday. Also known as the Global Day of Giving, or in Uk...