Ross Murray's Border Report
Ross Murray
Ross Murray
is editor and publisher of the Stanstead Journal.
Posted 04.09.01
Stanstead, Quebec


Sticking it to us with free stick-on patches

We get a lot of junk faxes coming through The Journal office and most of it ends up in the recycling bin. It's cheap paper with not a lot of fibre but we hate to just throw it out.

Usually, we ignore the missives from the BC Lumber Association or the offers of interest-free credit cards. They're just not anything to get excited about.

But on Monday, we received a fax trumpeting the fact that Quebec's drug insurance plan now covers Habitrol nicotine patches for those trying to quit smoking. I was so steamed that if I was a smoker, I would have needed a butt to calm down.

But I'm not a smoker. Yet, like a sucker breathing in second-hand smoke in an elevator, I'm once again going to suffer because of someone else's vice.

Any time a new drug becomes admissible under the Quebec plan (and subsequently the private group-insurance plans), more pressure is put on the system, more costs are incurred - costs that are spread across the board and shared by all users. In other words, you and I will be paying higher drug insurance premiums to pay for those who have stupidly become addicted to cigarettes in the first place.

The argument will be that in the long run, this will save money for taxpayers because having fewer smokers will ease the burden on our health-care system. But anyone who has had experience with the patch knows it is not always successful. In fact, the fax from Habitrol announcing the good news states that "nicotine replacement therapy may double a smoker's chance of quitting successfully." Considering that the odds of smokers actually quitting on the first try are pretty slim, that's like saying a good luck charm may double your chances of winning the lottery.

The bottom line is allowing smokers to pass on the cost of quitting to non-smokers is another example of our unwillingness to take responsibility - financially or socially - for our own failings. If smokers can afford $5 or so for a pack of smokes a day (and that's small potatoes for anyone needing a patch to quit), they can cough up the dough for their own goods to kick it.

There's something else about fax paper. It has a funny smell as it decomposes. After a while, it begins to stink. This fax about Quebec's willingness to coddle smokers stunk right away.