Text of oral submission presented at:
Panel members, and hearing attendees,
I am speaking to you tonight as the founder of the Canadian Union of Nicotine and Tobacco Sellers. That name is a mouthful to keep repeating so I will just spell its acronym -- C.U.N.T.S. - but don't try say that acronym because it spells a vulgar, sexist term that some say describes us for being in the business that we are in.
Our members are proud to be in the business of selling cigarettes and other tobacco products. So naturally, we are opposed to the proposed amendments.
The C.U.N.T.S. members would like to remind the panel that even though our products are addictive and even though one out every two of our customers die from using our big ticket item - cigarettes; that it is still quite legal to sell and use tobacco in this country.
Tobacco is one of a few substances that have special status in our laws. It is known that it is addictive and it is known that it kills its users. There is even a federal act especially for dealing with tobacco - The Tobacco Act. In subsection 4(a) of The Tobacco Act, it states that there is, and I quote, "conclusive evidence implicating tobacco use in the incidence of numerous debilitating and fatal diseases" unquote. I will read quote again. It says in the Tobacco Act that there is ""conclusive evidence implicating tobacco use in the incidence of numerous debilitating and fatal diseases." Obviously our current tobacco laws make a mockery out of our Department of Health Act. Its intent is to protect our health, safety, and well being.
We can only conclude that we, at the federal level of our country, have endorsed and sanctioned tobacco use and granted C.U.N.T.S. members license to kill. This is despite the fact that both suicide and euthanasia are illegal in Canada.
The public has been warned for many years about the ill effects of tobacco smoke. When I was in high school in 1964, (yes, I was born before the middle of the previous century), I undertook a science project on the effects of smoking; I could go into the school library then and find books with pictures of blackened lungs of smokers -- and data supporting that smoking causes cancer.
My point is that death-by-cigarette is acceptable and excusable in our society. We all get to exercise some discretion in our lives as to how we could possibly die. Some people race cars for a living. Others knowingly over-eat and don't exercise, and so on.
Now apparently death-by-cigarette only shortens a smoker's life by 15 years on the average. O.K., I admit, that first there is a long erosion of quality of life, often with great financial burden, emotional misery, and physical pain. I am sure that many of us here tonight have witnessed someone in our personal lives die from the effects of tobacco smoke - from lung cancer or breast cancer perhaps. Death caused from cigarettes has become very familiar to us. If cancer doesn't get you then perhaps you will die in a house fire where someone has fallen asleep while smoking - this happens often. Our C.U.N.T.S. members would like nothing more than to see our industry grow to the point where most people expect that the cigarette will eventually do them in. That kind of growth would certainly be welcomed by our members -- after all that's their livelihood.
It is said that a fish is not aware of the water that it lives in until it is taken out of the water and left gasping the air. Well, we would like our business to continue to increase so much that it becomes taken-for-granted that death-by-cigarette is the expected and desired way to butt out of life. Eventually people would not be aware of the indoor tobacco smoke that they are breathing. I don't know where I am going with this analogy, but -- why put the fish back in the water? It expects to die anyway?
Right now I'm feeling a bit like Arlo Guthrie in his famous 25 minute song, Alice's Restaurant, where he is being tested for the draft during the Tobacco war, I mean the Viet Nam war. In one scene he barges into the psychiatrist's office and jumps up and down yelling "I wanna kill, kill; I wanna kill." The shrink starts jumping and yelling with him and says "son, you're our man."
O.K., enough reminiscing, -- back to the proposed amendments.
We know in the industry why people smoke. Some say that smoking serves no useful purpose - but if you are a smoker -- then you know all about the useful purpose it serves. People smoke because they enjoy it - it gives them joy - it represents good times, the day's highlights and finest moments.
We also know that nicotine, as strong an addiction as it is, is still only a weak factor in keeping a person continuing to smoke. Nicotine supplements, such as gums, patches, and nasal sprays only succeed for 1 in 5 smokers that try to quit by using them. Usually only those who no longer enjoy smoking actually succeed in quitting.
Most smokers start during their early adolescence. When a young person first starts, -- smoking represents danger -- something adventurous to do. Well that's the start of them developing an association of smoking with having good times. Early in their smoking life students smoke during their lunch hour, socializing in the smoking pit where the exciting conversation is - not during a laborious math class.
Our members are concerned that if smoking is banned from restaurants and pubs and places of entertainment, it will prevent people from associating good times with our products. These places are often frequented by young people who are still in the process of developing and enforcing this association of smoking with having good times. We are very concerned about this. This will affect our sales.
Of course all smokers have to do is step outside. Even on cold, wet windy days you can see suckers-of-cigarettes, standing like groups of penguins, voluntarily participating in death-by-cigarette. But while standing in their favourite place to chill, these smokers are discussing their efforts at quitting smoking. They are telling each other that the key to quitting is to have such a good time that they simply forget to smoke. They are telling each other that deliberately circumventing their smoking rituals works as well.
These new WCB Regulation amendments could - if you will pardon the pun -- be the straw that breaks the Camel's back. We're afraid that forcing smokers to stand outside building entrances may bring some of our customers to think about why there are such laws. It's like they're having to serve a detention for being naughty. There could be serious ramifications from the stroking-out of these few exceptions of the smoking ban.
Now on the other hand we love it when another government body joins in on the business, by taking a cut of the action. The WCB will need to employ people to enforce the regulations and the monies collected from fines will become part of their operating budget, etc. It serves to establish our business even more so.
The federal government collects 2.5 billion dollars annually in taxes. Then there is the excise surcharge on exports. The federal government also collects GST. The provincial government also has a Tobacco Act and collects taxes and PST. The city collects fines for bylaw infractions, and so on. All this money is coming directly out of the pockets of our customers. This all means less disposable income coming our way.
May we suggest that people that die from smoking die honourably. For they contributed to the lives of many. We would like to remind the panel how many people benefit from the sale of tobacco. Tobacco farmers, tobacco product manufacturers, pharmacies, food stores, smoke shops, gas stations, and other retail outlets all earn some or all of their revenue from the sale of tobacco products.
Not to mention that so many people become so sick in so many ways from environmental tobacco smoke as well as the smokers themselves that a significant number of people earn their income working in hospitals and medical offices and supporting cessation programs. Many more are government employees needed to collect the taxes, control the distribution and sale of tobacco products, and enforce tobacco by-laws. Yes indeed, suckers-of-cigarettes play an important roll in our society as well as having such a positive effect the G.N.P.
One final note before I'm done. Health Canada has found that a year after smoking is banned from a workplace, 13 percent of the employees have quit smoking.
So I hope that I shown that the simple matter of preventing people from smoking while drinking, dining and gaming could have a devastating effect on our business as well as disrupt the whole economy.
And since the Tobacco Act grants us our right to conduct our business, we ask that you guide yourselves cautiously when making your final decision.
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