Blowing Smoke: The Government of Ontario v. Big Tobacco

Posted on Thursday, October 1st, 2009 at 12:49 pm by bryna

stop-smoking1There isn’t much doubt (once you know me) that I love politics. I don’t know why. It’s certainly not genetic. I also love public relations.

Yesterday a friend emailed me an article he thought might be of interest to me as it broched both of these subjects. Let me explain:

According to the CBC News on Tuesday, the Government of Ontario is sueing big tobacco “for past and ongoing health-care costs linked to tobacco-related illness.” This, the Government of Ontario has decided, is unfair to tax payers. How dare big tobacco ruin lives, and make citizens (many of whom do not smoke) pay the price!

So Ontario decided to do something about it. The provincial government set the framework for said lawsuit through legislation it passed this year. That means that the governement created a law that let them sue big tobacco…and let them set the amount they could sue for…and then they sued…

Let me get this straight: The province has been collecting tax off of tobacco sales for a long time now. (If anyone knows the number of years, feel free to leave a comment.) They’ve been making money off of peoples’ addiction. Is that right? And now, after years of making money off tobacco, they’re sueing big tobacco manufactuers for more money?


Is smoke being blown at anyone else?

This isn’t meant to be a huge political commentary. What it does point out is the difference between PR and its ugly evil twin, Spin.

Wikipedia defines ‘spin’ in public relations as:

[A] form of propaganda, achieved through providing an interpretation of an event or campaign to persuade public opinion in favor or against a certain organization or public figure.

I don’t love that big tobacco producers have made gazillions of dollars off of addiction, illness and disease. I don’t. But what I also think is wrong is dishonesty on the part of government when it comes to making money.

As my friend said:

It seems to me that sueing big tobacco is a measure by the government to gain tax revenue without appearing to raise taxes on cigarettes. This way, everybody ‘wins’ because the government will get their money and still appear to be a champion of the common people, even the ones addicted to cigarettes.

Good PR for the provincal government. Or is it spin?

It’s pretty easy to demonize the devil if you ask me. And $50 billion in revenue for the province should, in theory, benefit tax payers without having to raise taxes. Everybody wins! Or do they?

What I’ll be interested to see is where the monies generated from the lawsuit go. Will they be directed at health care or proactive anti-smoking initiatives (which by rights they should) or will they go to general coffers? That might be the difference between PR and spin in this case.

What do you think?

Tags: ,

{ Comments are closed! }