A salutary tale from Canada. Thanks to institutional do-goodery on an international scale, the people who invented recreational nicotine consumption – the Native Americans, as we now call them – find themselves with a booming cigarette industry, both legal and decidedly illegal.
In yesterday’s Independent, the award-winning journalist Peter Millar filed a long report from the US-Canadian border – one rendered porous by the location of the ‘Indian’ homelands – in which he revealed the law of unintended consequences in all its absurdity.
As guilt-ridden imperialists, naturally, both invader nations have left the few survivors of the tribal genocides to run their own affairs – including the manufacture and consumption of products made from their culturally-sacred tobacco leaf.
The trouble is, the native peoples aren’t too interested in the anti-tobacco healthist message to which their conquerors also cleave. And after 400 years of discrimination, they don’t care too much for the white man’s borders and taxes, either.
The result, as you can read in Millar’s report, is a rash of ’tobacco shacks’, selling dirt-cheap cartons of rip-off brands, as well as bags of mixed and uncertain cigarettes for a few cents each (which often end up in schoolyards); an international expansion in the legitimate tobacco industry; and a clandestine trade in raw and finished product across two borders, run by murderous organised crime syndicates.
The legislators must feel pleased with themselves. The culture that introduced alcohol to the people it supplanted – and marijuana, which it is now legalising – has scored a victory on the scale of… Little Big Horn.