Should smokers pay higher health premiums?
Published Friday, September 30, 2011 3:31PM PDT
B.C. Health Minister Mike de Jong says he is intrigued by the idea of charging higher medical premiums to smokers.
While the province is "not on the cusp" of bringing in the extra MSP charge, de Jong says the idea is interesting.
"What people have said to me is, ‘Is it fair that someone who is engaged in an activity that we know is going to result in health complications, chronic disease and added costs is paying the same as me?'" he told reporters Friday.
He says the higher premiums could help offset the billions of dollars that cigarettes cost the healthcare system.
"If you don't quit, you're costing everybody money."
But the BC Civil Liberties Association is raising several concerns about the idea.
"How would you enforce it?" BCCLA director David Eby told CTV News.
"It invites invasive measures by the state to figure out whether or not you're smoking."
He says bringing in higher MSP premiums for smokers could be a slippery slope.
"What other lifestyle behaviours would the government start going after? People with drug addictions? Would they start charging them more for MSP? People who use alcohol too frequently in the opinion of the government?" Eby said.
"People who eat fatty foods? People who eat to excess? People who don't exercise enough?"
He adds that the idea might also be a bit hypocritical.
"If there government wasn't the biggest purveyor of addictive cigarettes and alcohol, two major factors in impacting people's health, then they might have a moral high ground," he said.
Premier Christy Clark has said she doesn't support the idea.
B.C.'s new smoking cessation program came into effect on Friday, giving people who want to quit free nicotine gum, patches and prescription drugs like Champix and Zyban.