The Canadian Medical Association, which has all our best interests at, um, heart, wants government to start paying people to quit smoking.
At first glance, you’re probably thinking, ‘Good idea!’ People who quit smoking gain an average of four years back on their lives, and CMA Journal authors calculate we could save 1.9 million life years or $220 for every “life year” gained, a total of nearly half a billion dollars.
Not a bad payback for a few Nicorettes. And that doesn’t include the millions spent treating people who have systematically trashed their lungs and the lungs of their loved ones with secondary smoke.
A no-brainer, right?
Not when you think about it.
For example, do you really think government funding will give people more willpower? Has that ever happened? What happens instead is that people get addicted to government handouts as well as whatever else they’re addicted to.
How about all those people who quit smoking without government assistance? Shouldn’t they get a retroactive rebate for all the money they’ve saved the system? For example, I quit smoking on Easter Sunday, 1977. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I was a drooling lunatic for six months, but I did it. So I’m expecting a government cheque in the mail for at least $880.
And if we’re going to give money to help people to quit smoking, how about all the other stupid things they do to ruin their health? Let’s put everyone on a government-funded diet to prevent them from eating too much crap. Or have the government buy everyone driving lessons so they’ll learn to look and signal when they change lanes or stop trying to beat the amber light. Maybe we should pay guys to stop beating their wives. Nothing else seems to work.
Of course, I’m aware how this makes me sound — the opposite of those sober, socially progressive outfits like the Edmonton Journal, which climbed all over this one like a hungry puppy. The Journal is puzzled that 5.5 million Canadians are still killing themselves one coffin nail at a time “notwithstanding the veritable mountain range of evidence pointing to a vast array of horrible consequences.” Don’t you wish you could write like that?
If those pictures of braised lungs and stern warnings don’t do it (“Smoking Will Kill You.” Right on the Pack! Would you buy drinking arsenic?), let’s try a little government funding. It’s always worked before…
Paul Sullivan is a Vancouver-based journalist and owner of Sullivan Media Consulting;