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Here we go again…either outlaw it, or leave it alone

July 7th, 2009 at 09:37am

I’m sick of the government’s war on cigarettes, alcohol and anything else which they deem to be bad for you. The reason I’m sick of their war on said items is that they don’t have the guts to outlaw the darn things…instead they take the “softly softly” wrap-you-up-in-expensive-cotton-wool approach of increasing the taxes on the items they don’t like, under the false guise of the extra revenue being spent on the health system.

This time around its cigarettes which are in the (no pun intended) firing line.

The price of a pack of cigarettes could soon hit 20 dollars for a pack of 30 as the federal government considers tax hikes in bid to force up to one million Australians to kick the habit.
The landmark report, now being examined by Health Minister Nicola Roxon, urges the government to slash smoking rates over the next decade to nine per cent, reducing the number of people aged 14 and over who smoke daily from three million to two million.

Under the changes, some of which were canvassed in a discussion paper released late last year, cigarette packets would be generic and plain, with larger graphic health warnings taking up about 90 per cent of the front and 100 per cent of the back.

The plan has been strongly backed by anti-smoking organisations such as the Public Health Association, the Cancer Council and the National Heart Foundation, but has alarmed cigarette companies, which claim it could be unlawful.

I think the best summary of this nonsense was on ABC TV’s “Insiders” programme on Sunday morning which, sadly, the ABC can’t be bothered transcribing. The video is here for the rest of the week.

Basically, George Megalogenis from The Australian went on about how the extra revenue will be kept separate from the rest of the budget, and the government expect the price hikes to not produce extra revenue in the long term because of the larger number of people who will choose to quit smoking if the price is increased in this way, to which Andrew Bolt from the Herald Sun responded “You’re so trusting”.

Spot on Andrew. An increase in the cost of smoking like this may very well force a few more people to decide that smoking is no longer financially viable for them, but it’s just as likely that others will just choose to cut back on the amount they spend on other items. The number of times we have seen governments take money and promise to do certain things with said money (such as the Sydney Harbour Bridge toll), and instead throw said money in to general revenue…if you believe that an increase in tax revenue from cigarettes will go directly in to the health system, then you also believe that pigs will fly in to Parliament House and sing the praises of Kevin Rudd during question time (and no, that does not include jetsetting backbench MPs posing Dorothy Dixer questions).

To put this as simply as I can, if the government has the guts to outlaw cigarettes, then I will support them, because that might actually have the positive health effects that they would like us to believe a tax increase will have. I will not, however, support stupid, money-hungry tax increases dressed up as health benefits.

And I don’t even smoke! I just don’t think it’s fair for people who legally choose to smoke, to be forced to pay extra taxes for the privilege, when those taxes are taken under false pretences. Nor do I think it is fair for smokers to be, on the assumption that smoking taxes actually do go towards health initiatives, forced to pay the nation’s health bill when there are plenty of other reasons for people to need to health care.

But of course we know that the government won’t outlaw cigarettes, because they know that a large percentage of the nation’s voters happen to enjoy smoking, and would not take kindly to their government declaring them to be criminals. It’s surprising that those same voters are more willing to accept an artificial increase in the price of their indulgence.

This plan has nothing to do with health, and everything to do with politics, and the people who wrote the report for Nicola Roxon know it.


Entry Filed under: General News,Samuel's Editorials

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