Monday 10 September 2012

Thoughts Of An Odd New Zealander

The case for plain packaging tobacco is beginning to be made in New Zealand and - as I've mentioned before - the same carbon copy bollocks is being trotted out down there.

Self-declared politician-hating blogger, Cameron Slater, has made a few noises against the idea but generously allowed one of his commenters to put the other side. One can only assume he did this so we can all laugh at the writer's gullibility.

I mean, where does one start with this credulous nonsense?
In general I resist being told how to live by the nanny state – or anyone, especially my sister, and I find state interference in legitimate commercial transactions repugnant.
Sounds like the old "I'm a libertarian but only when I feel like it" line to me.
However I support the government’s proposed legislation to enforce plain packaging of tobacco, and I’ll explain why.
Yep, it is indeed.
Firstly, the legislation isn’t going to force anybody that chooses to smoke, to stop smoking. It isn’t going to prevent them from choosing the tobacco product and brand of their choice. It doesn’t infringe on the personal rights of any person to continue enjoying what they’ve been doing. Ask for 25 Holiday and that’s what you’ll get.
Buzz! Wrong.

Plain packaging is designed purposely to infringe on rights of the smoker. Curtailing the enjoyment of their chosen product is one of the selling points of it, as anti-smokers will willingly tell you.
Smokers display the branding every time they take out their pack to smoke. In doing so they are making a statement about how they want to be seen by others as they display and endorse the brand they have chosen.
In fact, denying smokers their enjoyment was a central plank of the Aussie campaign to ban logos and colours.
The study showed how cigarette brands and cigarette package designs gave meaning to personal characteristics, to social identity and to positions in hierarchies of status. (page 6)

Pack design doesn’t just communicate the ‘personality’ of a cigarette brand to the smoker... it also allows smokers to project these characteristics to others when they handle and display the package throughout their daily routines. Just as designer clothing, accessories and cars serve as social cues to style, status, values and character, so too can cigarette packs signify a range of attributes about users. As ‘badge products’, cigarettes can reinforce the characteristics conjured by brand image.(page 7)
So our faux libertarian is already on dodgy ground.

What else does his/her credulity stretch to?
Secondly, while selling tobacco and related products is a legal commercial transaction (subject to the laws around age, advertising, display etc), I challenge its legitimacy.
Err, shouldn't someone who claims to be resistant to the 'nanny state' naturally accept that individuals should be allowed to voluntarily purchase a product if it is legal? Apparently not.
Cigarettes contain a cocktail of more than 200 chemicals, mostly designed to physically addict you to smoking, ...
Really? You don't think that 21st century hyper-regulation might have banned such a practice if it were true? And if not, why is the tobacco control industry fannying around with plain packs when it could be getting the ingredients banned instead? Someone has been swallowing the anti-smoker soma a bit too often, methinks.
... as well as making sure they burn evenly and don’t go out while you’re not watching (makes you go through them quicker, and hopefully buy some more).
Boy! This guy/gal is such a conspiracy theorist they'll be babbling on about Freemasonry and lizards under the North Pole next. He (maybe I shouldn't assume it's a 'he') hasn't, one presumes, heard of fire safe cigarettes then.
If a corporation tried to introduce a new product called cigarettes today, assuming it had never been practiced, and knowing what we know about the contents of cigarettes and the effects of smoking them, they would never be allowed. The influence and financial clout of Big Tobacco around the world makes it unlikely that any government would ban the practice now, but I believe our government is morally and ethically obliged to do whatever it can to dissuade the public from taking up this toxic habit. I realise morals and ethics don’t always figure highly in government motives, but I live in hope.
If he (or she?) is pinning their hopes on plain packaging redeeming government morals, they'd be better advised backing 100/1 shots at Ascot Park. Even Aussie hector-in-chief Nicola Roxon has admitted that there is no evidence plain packaging will work.

Just from the facts above, any liberal thinker worth his salt would express doubts about plain packaging, but our author warms to their task - and displays some text book mouth-frothing - when attempting to debunk opposing arguments.
1. The “it won’t work, people will still smoke so don’t bother” argument. Well, the fact that they’re investing so much in trying to prevent this shows that it’s likely to be successful in dissuading new smokers from starting. If people are still going to smoke anyway, then this should be the best thing to ever happen to the industry. They can stop spending the 10s of millions they spend each year on marketing and promotion, and trying to find ways around the existing legislation, save millions on fancy packaging, and start making super profits.
Oh good grief. I hope this dolt never comes to London because - economically illiterate as they are - someone from the East End will probably sell them the Olympic Stadium or something.

Snowdon puts that wide-eyed idiocy to bed pretty succinctly here.
One of the main arguments made in favour of plain packaging—first in Australia and now in the UK—is that the tobacco industry strongly opposes it.

But this is a fallacy. It assumes that industry (any industry) depends on volume and turnover, when it actually depends on profit. The removal of branding is likely to have a negative effect on profit margins
And even Aussie super-prohibitionist Simon Chapman agrees.
"This explains a lot about why they fear plain packaging, because they will struggle to convince smokers that it's sensible to pay more for products that actually only look better because of their box."
Super profits? The entire point is to stop tobacco companies from making the profits they are currently making. Are you starting to sniff a bit of incompetence in this freedom lover's reasoning?

2. The “it’s not fair” argument. We created it (the huge marketing and branding juggernaut designed to feed new customers in to the market at a rate the same or faster than their dying customers are leaving it), so we should own it. Well boo-fucking-hoo, Big Tobacco. What you created was a machine designed to firstly lure, and then trap, new (young) customers into a lifetime of addiction, often followed by a slow lingering death. You have no rights to continue to profit from an instrument of death and disease, just because you built it. There are plenty of businesses around NZ that have had their business model turned on its head by the stroke of a politician’s pen, so suck it up.
I think we can discount the libertarian preamble now. This is nothing but psychotic anti-smoker rhetoric. If you can find any 'evidence' for plain packaging in that, then you're a better man that me, Gunga Din.
3. The “plain packs would make it easier to counterfeit” argument. Again, tough titties. You’re not worried about the health impacts to your gasping customers; you’re just worried that someone else will make the profits that you believe are rightfully yours.
'Gasping' hyperbole aside, I take it this blinkered dickhead has never heard of counterfeits being "up to thirty times more toxic than ordinary cigarettes". By arguing against a measure which will increase counterfeiting, tobacco companies are arguably acting - whether you love or loathe them - in the interests of those who smoke. By contrast, the author seems to care less about health dangers than he does about attacking tobacco companies.
4. The “infringing on people’s right to choose which brand to smoke” argument. Again, nothing more than a smokescreen. People will still be able to ask for, purchase and consume, all the brands that currently exist.
No they won't, moron. Plain packaging not only bans logos and colours, but also restricts packs - and the cigarettes in them - to a certain size and shape, which means many brands will cease to exist overnight. Go back and read the subject matter before commenting, it should be a prerequisite before putting your ignorance on record.
5. The “we have invested in our brands over many years and have a responsibility to our shareholders to do everything we can to defend our rights to use them” argument. Yes, now we’re getting closer to it aren’t we, vultures? This argument and the ones above are all about the profit you’re worried you might lose because fewer people may be inclined to start using your noxious addictive products, and you might not make so much money.
The same baseless argument as in 1) above, but with more spittle being ejaculated on the keyboard, and equally deluded.
6. The final canard: the “this is the thin end of the wedge – just think what products will be forced to use plain packaging if this succeeds” argument. A total red herring [...] Alcohol (as a legalised drug) is the product most often quoted as next cab off the rank if the nanny state has its way. It will never happen, and nor should it.
Oh I see! No wonder this plank is so woefully incoherent, they've been living in the black hole of Calcutta for the past few years. It explains why they know so little about plain packaging proposals and also why they've not heard of plain packaging for alcohol in the UK, Australia, and elsewhere. Along with other precedents being spotted for fast food in, yes, New Zealand, and the whole caboodle on a global level.

Oh yeah, and since they claim to be a regular reader of the blog, had they missed the talk of plain packaging for formula milk - a big New Zealand product - being a distinct possibility too?

How many dominoes in other product areas are required before this weapons grade lunatic begins to see the threat?
Alcohol – while not minimising the harm that irresponsible and excessive use can and does cause – performs an important role as a social lubricant and has a number of recognised health benefits, when taken in moderation. Tobacco has NO recognised health benefits and is harmful taken in any quantity.
Only 'cos you believe whatever you're told sunshine. That will change once the current drive to make you think the same of alcohol (or even salty snacks in the future) sways your incredibly dull mind the same way.

He/she leaves the best till last though.
I’ve given a lot of thought to reconciling my general principles described above with the undoubted benefits to society of fewer new smokers taking up this vile and toxic habit.
No you haven't. You've done no research whatsoever and just let your ill-informed knee jerk.
I’m a firm believer in freedom of choice ...
Cigarettes are purely a nicotine delivery system and nicotine as a drug is almost as chemically addicting as the varieties of meth and heroin out there.
We should do everything we can to help young people avoid becoming addicted to smoking.
Indeed we should. It's just a shame that plain packs - as admitted by the most vocal proponents of the idea - won't have any effect whatsoever because kids aren't even aware of them.

Credit where it's due, mind. I can at least admire the writer's stubbornness. Despite being taken to task in the comments, he/she continues to valiantly defend the vacant-headed poppycock to the last.


Jay said...

All of the comments on the whale oil blog post are worth reading... Loads of people with common sense.

John Davidson said...

Sounds like a union stewart who once came across with the we know you didnt mean to keep food and shelter from fellow union members children by crossing the strikeline to work and selfishly feed your own! Ya the fuktard put his arm on my shoulder saying that shit and I tossed his ass over into a bolt bin and commensed to beat the holy socialism out of his arse. Of course the cops didnt buy it as starting the fight when he leaned on my shoulder being good unionists themselves. But the judge sure said it was. Self defence.
To hell with these nannies and their comming off as we hate the nanny state soothing bullshit talk! Makes my blood boil