Thursday 1 August 2013

Australian State Broadcaster Is Even More Gullible Than The BBC

Australia really is a funny old place.

Long time readers may remember a time (March 2010) when a smoke-hating Policy Exchange wonk here in Blighty produced a pile of garbage about the cost of smoking to the taxpayer being around £13.74bn, forgetting that taxpayers aren't actually affected by private costs to businesses or imagined personal losses. Here's a taste.
The tax on cigarettes should be increased as the burden on the taxpayer is too high, even taking into account revenues from duty, a think tank said. 
Research conducted by Policy Exchange found that while tax on tobacco raised £10 billion a year for the Treasury, the annual cost of healthcare and other consequences of smoking totalled £13.74 billion. 
That total includes £2.7 billion of NHS care, £2.9 billion lost in productivity during smoking breaks, the £342 million cost of cleaning up butts and £507 million spent putting out fires. 
Lost productivity due to the deaths of smokers and passive smoking victims costs £4.8 billion and £2.9 billion is lost in increased absenteeism, their report - Cough Up - concluded.
As I discussed in detail at the time, the guy must have been pissed out of his tiny mind when writing such rot, and it was rightly rubbished by the Telegraph and Spectator - to name but two sources - as economically illiterate propaganda of the most egregious kind.

Hardly surprising since the author, Henry Featherstone, had tweeted his intention to produce such codswallop well in advance.

In case you're wondering what he looks like, here he is sat to the right of Debs Arnott at said ASH AGM, perhaps detailing how quickly he could cobble together his weapons grade bullshit.

Maybe Debs threw the oleaginous twerp a biscuit for his faithful lapdoggery, I dunno.

Anyway, it is quite clear that the £13.74bn cost is arse-biscuits of the most superlative kind, even when speaking of a country where OECD figures state that around 21% to 22% of a 70m population still smoke. So let's say that's around 10 to 12 million if we exclude the kids.

Australia's population is just 22m, and they have a smoking rate - as they consistently remind us - of less than 15%. So, again, let's be generous and say it equates to 3.5 million smokers if we include youths, teens, kids, babes in arms and foetuses.

So I was quite surprised to see this on the ABC website.
Anti-smoking groups, buoyed by a pledge by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to "get serious" about the $35 billion cost of tobacco-related diseases in Australia, are urging him to solve his revenue problem by raising taxes on cigarettes.
"Crikey!", I thought, the Australian currency must have been through one hell of a crash! If that's the cost from so very few people, there must be about ten Aussie dollars to the pound!

Not so, because according to, that AU$35bn equates to about 20 billion of our dear old Queen's golden nuggets. That's right, 50% more than Henry Featherstone's daft claims for about a quarter of the number of people ... even giving all benefit of doubt to the prohibitionist convicts.

By my reckoning, then, even the wildest and most corruptly fabricated mock-up of costs caused by smoking in the UK amounts to £1,374 per smoker per year, whereas the Aussie equivalent - as stated with a straight face in the ABC article - is £11,666 per adult, youth, child, ankle-snapper and chain-smoking embryo per year.

What the hell are they smoking down there? Unfiltered dynamite?

Or is it, as is infinitely more likely, outrageous - and simply impossible - tobacco control industry lies accepted without query by an inept state-funded broadcaster? You know, like the BBC but with extra special incompetence added.

Perhaps all that sunshine down under in the sandpit has frazzled their claptrap detector or something.

UPDATE: Chris Snowdon, writing at the IEA today on smoking breaks and productivity, also references Featherstone's foolishness.
I've written a lot about these 'cost of vice' studies and I will not go so far as to say that Policy Exchange's is the worst in a highly competitive field. It is, nevertheless, poor. Its primary aim appeared to be finding an annual 'cost of smoking' that exceeded the annual revenue from tobacco taxes, thereby justifying higher tobacco taxes.
Precisely the way the laughable AU$35bn fantasy figure has been used by the ABC above, in fact.

You can read the rest here


chrissnowdon said...

I think this $35 billion may be an inflation adjusted reworking of the $31 billion smoking was said to cost Australia few years ago. As ever with these cost studies, most of the 'cost' is intangible and non-financial and affect only the smoker, not the general taxpayer. The report which came up with this ridiculous figure added an important footnote, in which it was admitted that tobacco taxes significantly exceed medical costs.

"Tobacco tax revenue in 2004/05 exceeded tobacco-attributable costs
borne by the public sector by over $3.5 billion. Of this surplus $2.7
billion accrued to the Commonwealth and around $800 million to state

nisakiman said...

The problem is, DP, claptrap or not, the drones believe it, because it was on the ABC / BBC.

And "OhMyGod, Something. Must. Be. Done."

I fear we must see this charade out to its inevitable end. Prohibition will come (while marijuana is legalised), there will be the mandatory gang wars over the tobacco trade, TCI will declare it a great success until TPTB realise they've been sold a pup, and then, (after I'm dead, no doubt) it will all go back to the way it should have been all along. TCI will have been responsible for untold death, misery and mayhem as all this unfolds, which they will of course deny. They will then regroup and start the whole sorry mess all over again, ad infinitum. There's nothing we can do about these misfits. They pervade all areas of 'Public Health', and once ensconced start to wield their malevolent influence on the parallel universe that is government.

I fight because I feel I must, but I do so in the knowledge that I am (we are) very much the Davids dealing with a totally misanthropic Goliath. I despair sometimes. My only solace is that I at least live in a country that has bigger fish to fry than pandering to a little coterie of zealots with disproportionate influence.

Dick_Puddlecote said...

Fighting can be fun, though. Just look at the rancid grime we've discovered hiding under their cleverly placed rocks in recent times.

When they squeal that there are too many FOIs, and Arnott begins every radio or TV appearance bawling about tobacco funding, you just know they're pissed off about their lies being found out. :)

Dick_Puddlecote said...

It's great when the truth inadvertently slips out, isn't it? ASH admitted that duty exceeds costs once too, but I can't find the link just now.

What the.... said...

The robber politicians are at it again. Extortionate taxes on tobacco have been the norm for decades. The increases in already extortionate taxes under this Labor government have been savage. Further, growing
tobacco plants for personal use is illegal in Australia
. If you want to use tobacco, you have to allow yourself to be fleeced by government. It’s a variant of the extortion of King James I hundreds of years ago.

Recently, the robber politicians legislated two automatic price rises in tobacco per year aligned to the CPI. This would save them the
embarrassment of coming before the public each time in their extortionate
ventures. But even this wasn’t enough for the thieves. From next year the rises will be linked to increases in average male earnings, which have been greater than the inflation rate.

Worse still is that smokers have to endure the standard “health spin” as they are being robbed. But this latest mega-robbery dreamed up by the Labor miscreants is extraordinarily perverse. With Rudd, the spin is
further spun. That mystical, statistical tobacco “death toll” which is a nice
round TOTAL of 15,000 per year suddenly becomes 15,000 for just
“smoking-related” cancer. In a recent government report, the “additional health care cost” for “smoking-related” disease was estimated at around 300 million dollars (even this figure is arguable). To justify the billions extorted from smokers, the government concocted numerous “other” costs from smoking totaling $32b. But in Rudd’s hands, the concocted $32b becomes the figure just for “additional health care costs”. The magnitude of the lying spins the head.

Government benefits from the robbery. Antismoking groups
then want their “cut” so that they can remain in comfortable employment and further “educate” the public with inflammatory propaganda. And pharmaceutical companies, that also finance antismoking, benefit in that they align the cost of their next-to-useless “nicotine replacement” products to the cost of tobacco; extortionate taxes also bring a clientele for their useless products. All those that create the statistical spin benefit financially while smokers are fleeced. Part of the fleecing goes to pay for antismoking campaigns, i.e., smokers are forced to pay for their own “denormalization/dehumanization”. It’s just – only – a regular money grab. Failed policies? Financial black holes? No problem. Let’s just go rob the smokers some more. This conduct could well be described as a racket that doesn’t let up.

At some point something’s got to give.

What the.... said...

Yesterday’s announcement was mind-numbing. The retail cost of tobacco is already extortionate. A single increase of 12.5% in excise would have been bad enough. But the miscreants want 4 x 12.5% (one for each of the
next 4 years) that will bring the cost of a pack of 20s to ~$20. A carton of
cigarettes that cost around $30 twenty years ago will soon set you back $200; taking out a loan to buy a carton of cigarettes isn’t entirely out of the
question. The magnitude of the extortion is extraordinary. We’re into the upper levels of insanity and greed.

If that wasn’t bad enough, the trash that was pouring out of Labor ministers’ mouths yesterday in rationalizing this “daylight, in-front-of-the-police-station” robbery was breath-taking. They were all just parroting from a script. The usual 15,000 overall “death toll” from smoking suddenly became 15,000 just for “smoking-related” cancer. The contrived figure of $32b for the “overall cost of smoking” suddenly became a $32b cost just to the health care system. And not one reporter picked them up on the trash…… not once.

Then there was a procession of “health activists” (you know…..from the various disease and dismembered body-organ groups and the “we’re going to save the world from the evil tobacco empire” organizations) appearing on the various TV channels declaring that smokers cost the health care system more than they pay in tobacco tax. Again, not once were they questioned on this baseless, inflammatory claim. One was even asked if the tax should have been hiked even more, to which he replied a resounding “yes” (natch – auto pilot).

Then, of course, there was the evergreen nitwit, Sir [the moron has been given a knighthood for his antismoking efforts] Simon Crapman, making an appearance, croaking away at just how wonderful the tax would be.

The litany of unquestioned self-promoting/interested lies was nauseating.

And just to put a cherry on top of the poo pudding, Rudd even declared that his mum died of lung cancer “caused by passive smoking”. See
comments here:

What the.... said...

At least one blogger, not usually partial to the plight of smokers, and commenters picked up on the deception:

Junican said...

I read up about the ban on growing your own tobacco in Australia. The ban (including moving tobacco and seeds without a licence) was enacted in 1901! I suspect that it was enacted to protect big commercial growers at that time. I could not find any prosecutions in recent times.
I know that there are people growing tobacco plants in Australia because I have seen utube videos.

theprog said...

The bottom line is that most govs know that tobacco is extremely lucrative, hence very little serious prohibition intention until (at least) all taxpayers will have been forced to cough up in other ways. As things stand UK tobacco duty alone would finance 10% of total NHS budget and comprises nearly 2% of the total budget. Imagine the outrage if the NHS budget was slashed by 10%. The irony is they they need smokers more than ever before.

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