The way the government deals with tobacco is two-faced. It’s like government wants us all to stop eating cake, so it takes away our desserts, but then stands there licking the icing off our plates.

By the end of March, $4 million worth of icing will come off our plates through the new tax hike on cigarettes, and according to Finance Minister Neil LeBlanc, not one penny will be put into anti-smoking programs.

Crazy. The government needs to stop trying to control smokers and do more to help people actually quit.

Darren Dileo is a pharmacist at Scotia Pharmasave on Gottingen Street, where a huge wave of people is coming in looking for smoking-cessation tools. “I don’t know if it’s because of New Year’s resolutions or the tax hike, but in the last month I’ve had more people in here for patches or Zyban than I have in the last year.”

So people are trying to quit smoking. Smokers need support. Successful treatment for an addiction requires counselling. Smokers don’t need to be made to feel like criminals, and speaking of which, people incarcerated in jails are the only people in Nova Scotia who can get smoking-cessation aids free.

Pauline Raven is director of the Halifax YWCA. “Banning smoking in public places and increasing tobacco taxes are control-focussed measures that don’t address the underlying causes of why people smoke,” she says. “Where are the programs to address the addiction to cigarettes that will help people quit?”

The Women’s Y applied for funding from the Halifax Peninsula Community Heath Board to create a program for women wanting to quit smoking. The program, Quitting From The Heart, will help women uncover the reasons why they smoke, give them the knowledge and tools they need to quit and offer other ways for the women to nurture themselves, including yoga, meditation and exercise. As good as this sounds, funding didn’t come through. The eight-week program will cost participants $80.

The CHB is not the bad guy in this. Last year, it was able to give out about eleven per cent of the funding it was asked for. The CHB gets its money from Capital Health, which is funded by the Health Department, which spends less than one per cent of its budget on prevention programs. So no bloody wonder.

A program like Quitting From The Heart should be offered in every town free to anyone who can get in the door. That $4 million (and more) should fund programs and counsellors and subsidize the costs of pills, patches, gum and whatever else helps.

Addiction to tobacco (and addictions to gambling and food, for that matter) should be part of the detox and residential program services that exist for those addicted to alcohol and other drugs. Smoking is not a bad habit. Smoking is an addiction, like heroin.

Let’s talk about the biggest, most hypocritical smoker in Nova Scotia getting off tobacco âe” the province itself. The government underfunds prevention programs, treats smokers as criminals and continues to profit from tobacco. Yet the province is every smoker’s dealer, out there on every street corner, turning a profit on the backs of addicts. Make selling tobacco illegal. Let it move into the underground economy with marijuana.

If government weren’t so busy trundling all its tobacco-related lucre to the bank, maybe it would get honest and serious about people quitting.