On May 31st the world’s approximately 1 billion smokers were encouraged to stop smoking for 23 hours. This worldwide event entitled World No Tobacco Day was first established by the World Health Organization in 1988. The theme of this year’s World No Tobacco Day was the harm caused by the illicit trade in tobacco products. This clearly sounds like a worthwhile idea and cause, but some of the comments left me with a Catch 22 type feeling.

Illicit tobacco trading includes smuggling, counterfeiting, bootlegging and illegally manufacturing tobacco products. The obvious concern is that these activities result in tobacco products being more affordable and easier to access by young would-be smokers. The other concern was that these illegal tobacco products would not be taxed and that tax money would not be available to the governments for their use in combating the “tobacco epidemic”. In Europe about 10 billion Euros (over $11 billion dollars) is lost each year due to the illegal trade in tobacco. The claim is then made that this money is not available for use in health programs and subsidies to help cope with the diseases caused by smoking.

This made me wonder what would happen if smoking vanished today. Would the lack of tax revenue seriously jeopardize our economy? Do we really want people to stop smoking or would this put too many people out of work in the fight against tobacco use. Does this apply to the “war on drugs” as well?