Mr. Prime Minister, Honorable Government Members, Premiers, Ministers, et al
When is an electronic device considered tobacco? When it threatens a 7 billion dollar plus subsidy paid to General Revenues funded on the backs of tobacco addicts. (Figure based on report from Physicians for a Smoke Free Canada – Tax Revenues from Tobacco Sales)
My name is Thomas Kirsop. Up until 5 weeks ago, if you asked me, I’d have told you I’d butt my last cigarette out as they were lowering my coffin into the ground. This isn’t because I wanted to die, or because I’m a rebel. It’s because I am a nicotine addict, and the only delivery system that worked for me was tobacco.
Yearly I would dutifully go out and buy my 2 or 300 dollars of gum, or lozenges, or patches or whatever the 10% success rate solution of the month was. I’ll admit I didn’t touch pharmaceuticals; their posted side effects scared me and I have a job that won’t tolerate mental health weaknesses and 4 children who need their dad to be stable for another 16 years yet. The rest of the year I dutifully accepted that I was a failure, that I was killing myself, that I was harming my wife, my children, anyone who came within 100 feet of me. I smoked outside in minus 40 weather, or the rain, no shelter. Either in the company of other folks who have been likewise vilified and ostracized by common convention, or alone. I also hid in the bathroom of my own home so my kids wouldn’t see me and the fan would take away the smoke. I ignored the tar stains running down the walls.
I paid my taxes. 61 dollars of every 100 dollar carton of cigarettes I smoked last year went into General Revenue. 40 dollars to the Alberta coffers and 21.03 to the Federal. Because I was a smoker. Because I was going to be a health care financial burden to my children and yours. Because that was my due for being an addict. That’s what anti-smoking lobbyists and my Doctor told me. That’s what public opinion told me. That’s what my Government told me. Did you know that you make more money off of my addiction than the tobacco manufacturers? I didn’t, but we will get to that.
5 weeks ago I saw a co-worker with a vaporizer (also known as an electronic cigarette). We had a discussion and as a result I went out and picked up what I thought was a good one at a smoke shop in a mall. I thought it was odd that the instructions were poorly written and the “juice came out of a plastic bag from under the counter. I went home set it up and promptly got a mouthful of liquid.
I spent about 8 hours that night on the internet. Google, forums, websites, university presentations on you tube. I learned a lot in that 8 hours. The next day I went to a “Vape Shop” where I had an hour long conversation with the salesperson behind the counter. They further educated me about the varying quality of hardware and liquids, how to use them and care for them, how NOT to get a mouthful of liquid. They never told me I could use the product to quit. Nor did they tell me that as a result of the product, my cough would stop, my nose clear, and my sense of taste come back (all three happened).The government has made it illegal for all vendors to make those claims.
I walked out with a decent but inexpensive starter kit and I haven’t touched a cigarette since. I haven’t stopped researching since either. There is a good amount of press and offhand comments recently about “Vaping” particularly around scientific studies, regulation, legislation, harm vs. harm reduction, and indeed taxation.
“There are no scientific studies or data” Really? 5 minutes on google and I found studies from multiple medical journals, universities (there was a particularly good 1 hour lecture on you-tube from one in the UK), and a Dr. Farsalinos in Greece who seems to do nothing but study “e-cigarettes”. If you would like to have a look at some you could try ECTA Informational Publications/Studies/Articles/Videos or ECTA Informational Publications/Studies/Articles/Videos or ECTA Informational Publications/Studies/Articles/Videos .
ECTA. Electronic Cigarette Trade Association of Canada. I’ll be referencing them up again.
The Tobacco Harm Reduction Association of Canada also has a page where you can find fast access to data. http://thra.ca/links.html .
My own Health Minister was quoted in a paper saying that he was “told” that “E-Cigarettes are dangerous” and then intimated that he wanted to severely hobble the industry with bans to juice flavours and legislation. I sent him the links I have listed above.
Does the industry need regulation? Yes it does. ECTA members self-regulate and have set labeling, testing, and packaging standards. They also mandate prohibition of sales to minors. Because of this I specifically seek out vendors who are members of that association for my business. You should look at their standards. They have done a lot of work and it shows. Go to Electronic Cigarette Trade Association (ECTA) of Canada and click on the “ECTA Information” button for position statements, labeling, and liquid testing standards.
My second to last concern is with legislation and taxation. Nova Scotia is currently going through a bit of an issue with legislation. It seems that they want to classify vaporizers as tobacco products. Why? There is no tobacco in the product. Steel, plastic, circuitry, batteries, propylene glycol, and vegetable glycerine are not derived from tobacco plants, and if you put a lighter to your vaporizer and inhale you won’t get anything out of it. The only relation between a vaporizer and a cigarette is nicotine. That same relationship could be said to exist with any current Nicotine Replacement Therapy product, or an eggplant, or a potato, or any one of multiple items which have nicotine in them as either a natural occurrence or as a means or consequence of manufacture.
“It Looks Like Smoking!” If I put on a lab coat and a stethoscope I can look like a Doctor, I have that in common with my provincial health minister apparently, however given his public statement in the press it sounds like I’ve done more research on this matter than he has. I’d venture to add the Nova Scotia Health Minister to that list too. Read those links I posted for the studies and publications Mr. Glavine. No combustion, no smoke, and orders of magnitude less toxic than a cigarette. Published.
Why all the fuss? I will cite the following web pages from Physicians for a Smoke Free Canada showing taxation rates and collections for tobacco excise taxes for the last several years;
http://www.smoke-free.ca/factsheets/...byprovince.pdf http://www.smoke-free.ca/factsheets/pdf/totaltax.pdf http://www.smoke-free.ca/factsheets/pdf/taxrates.pdf
Newfoundland and Labrador had 115,412 smokers who provided 146,000,000 dollars in excise tax revenue to the provincial coffers.
PEI - 27,401 smokers coughed up $40,152,000 to the province.
Nova Scotia – 190,986 smokers were dying to give their provincial government $206,287,000.
New Brunswick – 152,124 smokers equated to $142,400,000 for general revenue.
Quebec – 1,626,375 smokers donated 794,540,000 bucks to the cause however with no point of sales taxes (GST, HST or PST) they did better than the rest of us (we’ll get to that too).
Ontario – Top of the charts with the provincial government inhaling $1,142,000,000 (That’s right. Billion.) from 2,161,957 smokers who couldn’t manage to quit.
Manitoba – 201,163 smokers. $252,100,000 in provincial tobacco tax.
Saskatchewan – 168,557 smokers. $253,353,000 in provincial tobacco tax.
Alberta – My province, like usual we are trying to compete with Ontario. Only 230 million shy at $912,000,000, but we only had 689,302 smokers. Go team.
British Columbia – Beautiful BC, where they are currently are talking about safe crack cocaine inhalation sites (I’m actually all for that so don’t get me wrong) but squeezed $614,000,000 from their 568,961 smokers.
Yukon, NWT, and Nunavut are not represented on the Tax Revenues from Tobacco sales report on the website however their smoking rates and tax bases are. I could do the math but you should be getting the point.
Four billion, six hundred and seventy three million, seven hundred and thirty five thousand, three hundred and eight dollars. It’s not a number, it’s a sentence. That was just Provincial Taxes.
On top of that the sum total of all 5,933,095 smokers in Canada in 2012 contributed $2,810,161,636 directly to Ottawa for the 2012/2013 emphysema season.
The Grand total?
$ 7,312,993,636. Not including point of sales tax which was applied to the excise tax so add anywhere from 5% to 15% as directed by the tax rates sheet above depending on your province, except Quebec. La Belle Province at least did not live off the avails of her addicted masses twice.
For our health costs which we will incur sometime between now and death. That’s what all that tax was for right? So my children wouldn’t be saddled with the costs of treating my cancer, my emphysema, construction and maintenance of my iron lung.
You people put that 7.3 billion in general revenue. Just like you did with the 7.4 billion the year before, and the 7.7B the year before that, and the 6.7B, and the 6.4B, and the 6.9B and the 6.6B.
And you’ll still shaft my children.
Have you noticed the gradual transition from miserable old depressed and self-debasing me to the sarcastic and somewhat angry tone now?
I. Quit. Smoking.
Yup. Still on nicotine, but now I control the amount and in 5 weeks I’ve cut that amount 25%. We should all be happy right? Nope, apparently not .
Vaping is exploding among smokers through word of mouth alone. It’s that effective. I’ve had 5 conversations this week like the one that started my transition. Out of those 5 conversations, 3 of those people are either using my original starter kit, or have asked me to help find a vendor near their hometown so they can get one of their own.
Despite the cries of;
“Ban the flavours!”
“Think of the children!”
“Send the vapers to the smoke pit! They can suck in the second hand smoke while they quit!”
“Someone told me it was dangerous!”
“No proof that it helps to quit!”
and above all…
That from my government officials at both the provincial and federal levels. Whom it just so happens are the single largest financial beneficiaries from my former addiction. More than big tobacco, more than big pharma, or anti-smoking lobbyists.
My government. The people who are supposed to be looking out for me and the millions of addicts just like me while we try to shake decades of dependency and harm. Your solutions didn’t work for us. Nobody willingly signs up to stand outside at -40. Sneered at by anti-tobacco groups. Our neighbors. Our peers. Our children.
If we could have quit with your methods we would have. Don’t you think?
We found a solution. It could potentially severely impact big tobacco in Canada (again, go look at those studies I pointed to). Why do you think they are buying e-cigarette companies (Granted they are buying crap products that we would never use, both because they are crap and because they are owned by big tobacco. We actually aren’t all that fond of big tobacco.)?
Instead of promoting, supporting, or for that matter even spending 5 minutes on google to look into our solution, your response was to ban, berate, belittle and beat our solution with a rather big stick, and make a bunch of vague, and in some cases outright inaccurate statements to the press.
You. The largest beneficiary of the monetary gains created by our addiction. Trying your damnedest to either kill the option or tax it just like you did the tobacco products.
I quit smoking tobacco, just like you and many others told me to for many years. I quit smoking by using a personal vaporizer (a consumer electronic device) and fruit flavoured nicotine containing e-juice (not dissimilar from flavoured nicotine gum).
I truly believed I would die with a cigarette in my hand. It turns out I might not; unless that 7 billion is more important to you than my life and the potential lives of 5,933,094 other Canadians.
I encourage all Canadians who have seen reduction or cessation effects from using personal vaporizers or “E-Cigarettes” to write their health ministers and representatives at the Provincial or Federal level and give them your story. Give the government the proof they say doesn’t exist.
And here is my final concern;
How would my Government like those letters addressed?