Quitting smoking and quitting carbon are strikingly similar issues, said Robert Gifford, a psychologist at the University of Victoria's school of environmental studies.
Smoking used to be an acceptable behaviour, but after decades of irrefutable science and emotional messaging, not to mention massive tax hikes, smoking has become less and less acceptable.
Banned from smoking in restaurants and bars, smokers huddle outside, away from buildings and most people.
Some cities have talked about banning smoking inside cars where children are present.
With the introduction of the carbon tax and B.C. government legislation to cut greenhouse gas emissions 33 per cent by 2020, driving vehicles and the burning of fossil fuels are about to become the new smoking in British Columbia, said Gifford, author of Environmental Psychology: Principles and Practice.
But unlike the anti-smoking campaigns, British Columbia and the rest of Canada don't have 40 years to fight climate change, he said.
"I like the parallel, although it's not perfect, with the anti-smoking campaign that really kind of began in 1968 when the U.S. surgeon general officially declared that there was a problem even though people knew it a long time ago," Gifford said.
"The smoking campaign has been successful, but slow. Some people think the climate change (effort) could be similar except that maybe we don't have 40 years to get people to change their behaviour," he said.
B.C. Finance Minister Carole Taylor said the escalating carbon tax she introduced in the Liberal government's recent budget is the among the broadest and most comprehensive in the world.
She said British Columbia's carbon tax could serve as a model for the rest of Canada as a tool for fighting climate change.
The money raised from the tax will be returned to individuals and businesses through a series of tax cuts, Taylor said. The tax will be applied to most fossil fuels, including gasoline, diesel, coal, propane, natural gas and home heating fuel.
It will start July 1 at $10 per tonne of carbon or about 2.4 cents on a litre of gasoline and 2.8 cents on a litre of home heating fuel and rise to $30 per tonne of carbon - about 7.2 cents on a litre of gasoline by 2012.
Taylor said the government expects the carbon tax to raise $1.8 billion over three years, and that money will, by law, be returned to businesses and individuals in tax cuts and environmental rebates. The less carbon British Columbians use, the more they end up saving, she said.
Federal Environment Minister John Baird said the Conservatives favour regulations on polluters over a carbon tax.
But he said British Columbia and other provinces are free to introduce carbon taxes on their own.
Quebec introduced a form of carbon tax last year that directs revenues to initiatives supporting green technology.
The Quebec tax collects just under one cent a litre from petroleum companies in the province, raising about $200 million a year to pay for energy-saving initiatives.
Other provinces said they have yet to embrace a carbon tax as a way to fight climate change, choosing to focus on other ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Gifford said he is not surprised that British Columbia has taken an innovative approach to fight climate change. British Columbia has a reputation for embracing new concepts, he said.
"Environmentalism has always been on the left coast more than the old coast," Gifford said.
"You've got worried industry people in Ontario, the car industry. You've got just a kind of an old culture in the Maritimes. Older cultures are slower to change than newer cultures."
He said he offered several warnings to B.C. Environment Ministry bureaucrats as he briefed them about the barriers and challenges the government can expect in its efforts to convince people to support the carbon tax.
A Toronto economist said British Columbia's carbon tax will serve as a trial balloon for the rest of the country, and its success will be measured by the province proving it returned all the tax revenues to individuals and businesses.
"No one wants to see that as being a revenue grab for government, so the recycling notion is absolutely the right way to go," said Don Drummond, chief economist for TD Bank Financial Group.