Tuesday 13 October 2015

Aussie Tobacco Control Worse Than North Korea

Swivel-eyed anti-tobacco extremist Simple Simon has been dismissing the notion that eye-watering sin taxes might have societal negative consequences.

The debate is occurring because Australia last month slapped a third 12.5% tax increase (applied every three months) on tobacco, pushing the cost of a pack of 30 to AU$32, around £16.

It's quite clear that at that level of cost, it is the less well off who will be most likely to be priced out of smoking. Unless, that is, they make savings elsewhere on their household budgets. It's a problem Simple Simon doesn't care much about.

Alleviating financial pressure on the poor is apparently "a perverse way to be helpful" according to Chappers, because his - and his tobacco control chums' - only definition of "help" is to bully people into stopping doing things they personally disapprove of. If that means people are forced to stop smoking because they can't afford it - even if they love tobacco and would never choose to - it can only be a good thing for tobacco controllers like Mr Chapman.

John Stuart Mill had something to say about this 150 years ago in his treatise On Liberty:
“Every increase of cost is a prohibition, to those whose means do not come up to the augmented price.”
By this he means that every marginal increase in sin taxes ensures that someone, somewhere, is forced to quit because they can't afford it anymore, which is de facto prohibition. This is self-evident and entirely the point of Australia's huge tobacco tax hikes; they want smokers to be unable to afford to smoke and therefore be prohibited by price.

Chappers obviously doesn't accept that he and his profession are promoting more totalitarian policies than those of North Korea, so let's consider a scenario.

Imagine a smoker chooses not to quit fags and cuts back on food instead to such an extent that he and his family risk immediate health problems, even death. Would Chapman say "they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population"? Well of course not, he is a philanthropist, nothing could be further from his mind. Could it?

But that is effectively what Australia's tobacco control policy - guided by Mr Chapman and his equally hideous colleagues - is designed to do. It is a direct attack on individual choice. Of course, Chappers would argue that smokers do indeed have a choice, they can choose to quit, or die (Kim Jong-Un would be proud). However, since no-one would choose to die, the only option is to be forced to quit. He can play with words as much as he likes, but Australia's tobacco control policy is a system of enforced prohibition, with the poorest going first.

As Chapman himself says, even North Korea is not that evil, which makes him and his ilk worse. Hey, don't blame me for pointing this out, Simon said it himself!

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