OnPoint by Keith Ng

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OnPoint: Sock-Puppeting Big Tobacco to Chew on ACT

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  • Ian Dalziel,

    BAT out of Hell…
    British American Tobacco are regular winners or finalists in CAFCA’s annual Roger Awards.
    If corporations like this want the rights of individuals how can we find out how much tax (and how much Excise money) BAT has paid the NZ Government over the years?
    And also how much they have paid to political parties and lobbyists.
    (and to sports and other sponsorships)
    And do all their staff smoke? is it a requirement?

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 5046 posts Report Reply

  • John Armstrong, in reply to BenWilson,

    that doesn't mean you have to be restricted where you appreciate your impacting good.

    Ya lost me.

    I don't think it's of much relevance in the zealotry surrounding anti-smoking legislation.

    I agree, it's not a major factor, but was just addressing your objection.

    I think the whole thing is deeply Christian, frankly, and fuck that.

    I really don't think that Christianity is a major factor either. I don't really even see the zealotry you are talking about. Isn't tightening access to cigarettes just, you know, commonsense?

    Hamilton • Since Nov 2007 • 132 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    I thought you were being sincere. So I addressed tobacco.

    I was being sincere, but I can see that I didn't make the question plain enough. My bad.

    If you mean where does the reach of public health end for other harmful activities, I have no idea.

    Yes, that was what I meant.

    There is a societal consensus for the control of tobacco

    Consensus is a strange word for a position that is contentious. I, for one, am not part of this consensus.

    I think there's a very compelling case to make skippers take basic safety instruction courses.

    That's a tough one. It certainly is the law for boats over a certain size. But I wouldn't really think it should be necessary for someone fishing off a dingy near the shore, or some kid sailing their P-class off a beach. The main thing about boats, unlike smoking, is that you can easily kill other people with them. Rather like cars. That's why cars require licenses to drive, but pushbikes don't (even though it is very easy to kill yourself on a pushbike).

    As a general point, slippery slope arguments are a load of bollocks, as far as I'm concerned.

    The point of them is to require from the other person clearer justification for "why this and not this?". You've said you really have no idea. To me, that says a lot.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8587 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to BenWilson,

    The main thing about boats, unlike smoking, is that you can easily kill other people with them.

    Fatal second-hand smoke effects exist.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16750 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to BenWilson,

    My argument is not economic. It's moral.

    Applying limited public health and social resources to treat smokers (or drinkers, for instance) means those resources are not available for other people. There seem to be moral implications..

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16750 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to izogi,

    In a very dragged out and expensive way though, is it not?

    and from George,

    the costs of end-of-life healthcare, particularly for cancers, is extreme.

    Convince me you've done the number on this. Considering that everyone dies in the end, and the better our healthcare gets, the more likely it is that the end will be dragged out, and probably be cancer because that is uncurable, and in the mean time they've got 13 - 14 years more superannuation on average, and considering that the "smoking related deaths" referred to several times have included the increased chance of sudden death from heart attacks, I need more convincing that the economic argument stacks up. Numbers would be good.

    Not that I really care too much about it as an argument anyway, the economics of it are not my concern at all. The concern is the systematic removal of a liberty that harms no-one but the consumer of that liberty. Where it does harm others, sure, I buy that. Where it doesn't, I don't.

    Ya lost me.

    OK, it's upthread some ways, but I only got into this because Simon Grigg suggested that in Thailand there are people who will actually make you stop smoking in public outdoor places. I really don't think that's cool at all.

    Isn't tightening access to cigarettes just, you know, commonsense?

    No. Commonsense arguments are no arguments at all. They're an appeal to prejudice, and I can't help but feel with smoking that it has a really strong puritanical edge.

    Second-hand smoke effects exist.

    Indoors. I'm not talking about indoors.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8587 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch,

    Consensus is a strange word for a position that is contentious.

    You're part of a minority.

    In 2010, around two-thirds (65%) of
    respondents ‘agreed’ (39%) or ‘strongly
    agreed’ (26%) that the government should
    do more to reduce the harm done by
    smoking

    Now, being part of the minority doesn't make you wrong, per se. However, it does weaken your ability to argue that is is illegitimate for a democratic government to restrict the use of a harmful and addictive substance that imposes massive costs on its users and on society.

    The People's Republic of … • Since Nov 2006 • 2136 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch,

    They’re an appeal to prejudice

    Ben, you're the first person I've ever met, offline or on, who has referred to the evidence on tobacco as an "appeal to prejudice".

    The People's Republic of … • Since Nov 2006 • 2136 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch,

    So I quote myself:

    If you mean where does the reach of public health end for other harmful activities, I have no idea. There is a societal consensus for the control of tobacco, but there are no such strong consensus for the control of other potentially harmful products and activities, except for illegal drugs. If that changes, then control of those will also change – although action may lag or precede it, as we often see with slow or rapid reactions to particular threats conceived to be against the body and the state.

    To make that clearer, and quite explicit. The state will control things, in proportion to their harm. Some things it may overreach on (BZP, ecstasy), other things it will lag evidence on (advertising of food to children, healthy provision of foods in school canteens). In the case of tobacco, it is likely to end up strongly controlled but legal, with provision to smoke in your own home. That is where it ends. In Sweden's case, it ends with state-ownership of alcohol stores. It does not end with the state planning your breakfast and measuring your wine-glass, in case you were wondering.

    I really feel like you're arguing in bad faith, Ben, from an ideological position which refuses to engage with the evidence or deal with the pragmatics at hand. I don't have everything to hand, nor do I have the time to pull it all together. I have however read considerably on the subject in the last week (for reasons unrelated to this debate) so it's not all feelings and superstition.

    The People's Republic of … • Since Nov 2006 • 2136 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch,

    Perhaps I don't think you're arguing from bad faith, but I feel like you're not engaging with what I or others are saying.

    I'm also aware that my last paragraph is an appeal to authority, but I do think that if you're going to argue that there is no compelling reason to restrict tobacco you have a burden to provide evidence. Merely appealing to liberty is insufficient, because there are other rights claims that society has, including very strong ones (the right to health, the right to life, the right to fresh breath). Unless you are a libertarian, and believe that liberty (insomuch as it can exist when people have been misled and then addicted to a commercial product) trumps all other rights and interest claims - there's no way for a non-libertarian to engage a libertarian coherently, because the premises are so completely divorced.

    The People's Republic of … • Since Nov 2006 • 2136 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    You're part of a minority.

    Having actually looked up the word consensus, I'm rather surprised to find it doesn't mean unanimity. I'll concede this one. I guess I've only ever been in consensus decision making situations that did end up being unanimous. That is, however, probably on account of the way that the term deviates from "majority" - it involves finding a way to give concessions that allow the minority to agree. It is a stretch for you to suggest that smokers have generally agreed to most of your positions here. They just have to suck on them.

    However, it does weaken your ability to argue that is is illegitimate for a democratic government to restrict the use of a harmful and addictive substance that imposes massive costs on its users and on society.

    I don't argue that. Our government is legitimate, in so far as governments can be.

    I really feel like you're arguing in bad faith, Ben, from an ideological position which refuses to engage with the evidence or deal with the pragmatics at hand.

    No, I'm just disagreeing with you. Tell me something that I haven't engaged with, and I'll happily engage with it. So far it's me vs 3-4 others, so I'm sorry if I haven't covered every minor angle in what you wrote.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8587 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to George Darroch,

    Unless you are a libertarian, and believe that liberty (insomuch as it can exist when people have been misled and then addicted to a commercial product) trumps all other rights and interest claims - there's no way for a non-libertarian to engage a libertarian coherently, because the premises are so completely divorced.

    It certainly is important to me. I feel that I've covered the caveats that allow for the other rights, and as for the "right to health and life", I'm not convinced they're rights at all. In fact, I don't even come from a rights based angle at all. I'm a much simpler kind of Utilitarian.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8587 posts Report Reply

  • Simon Grigg, in reply to BenWilson,

    OK, it's upthread some ways, but I only got into this because Simon Grigg suggested that in Thailand there are people who will actually make you stop smoking in public outdoor places. I really don't think that's cool at all.

    I find an endless cloud of toxic smoke that I have to walk through on a stinking hot still day rather uncool too. Because that was the alternative. Those places - the parks, the walkways, the markets - are always crowded in a way New Zealanders often hard to imagine if they've not seen or been part of the daily mass.

    I'm not denying the right of people to puff away anywhere where I don't have to suffer it, but surrounding my head with smoke is never cool. My asthmatic friends also applaud the wardens.

    Others, my mother for example - who is not asthmatic - also suffer horrendously if exposed to second hand smoke. She needs water if she breathes it, to relax the tightness in her chest. It takes a few minutes.

    The authorities here have gone out of the way to improve the air and the water (which is now mostly tap-drinkable). Making the public areas of the city walk-able is another part of the overall grand vision I guess. I'm not sure how that becomes uncool when seen from afar.

    Just another klong... • Since Nov 2006 • 3208 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch,

    Tell me something that I haven’t engaged with, and I’ll happily engage with it.

    Your initial response to the fact that tobacco kills people was to wave it away, and then it was to say that old people are a burden to the state and we're better off economically without them.

    So I don't think you've engaged with the fact that tobacco is an addictive substance which is first typically smoked by those in their early-mid teens, and which will then go on to cause massive health affects on those users throughout their lives until their early death. You've failed to explain why despite all of this, the state is illegitimate in putting (quite minor, in both relative and absolute terms) restrictions on its sale, use, and price. Which, if I understand you correctly, is your claim.

    The People's Republic of … • Since Nov 2006 • 2136 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to BenWilson,

    Tell me something that I haven't engaged with, and I'll happily engage with it.

    I don't believe you have engaged with the impact of addiction on choice - but I've already recognised you may need better information to do that with. And I don't have any to point you at right now, sorry.

    snap

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16750 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    As an aside, I'd like to thank Mr Grigg for my current soundtrack (#6, oh yeah)

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16750 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch,

    The authorities here have gone out of the way to improve the air and the water (which is now mostly tap-drinkable). Making the public areas of the city walk-able is another part of the overall grand vision I guess. I’m not sure how that becomes uncool when seen from afar

    Here's to governments who realise that their job isn't to get out of the way, but is to help create things that make our lives better.

    (I guess that makes me a socialist).

    The People's Republic of … • Since Nov 2006 • 2136 posts Report Reply

  • Simon Grigg, in reply to Sacha,

    As an aside, I'd like to thank Mr Grigg for my current soundtrack (#6, oh yeah)

    As I recall, that was a killer live, no?

    Just another klong... • Since Nov 2006 • 3208 posts Report Reply

  • izogi, in reply to Simon Grigg,

    I'm not denying the right of people to puff away anywhere where I don't have to suffer it, but surrounding my head with smoke is never cool. My asthmatic friends also applaud the wardens.

    I'm not qualified to comment on health effects, but I definitely agree with the prevalence of outdoor smoke. Perhaps not everyone can detect it, but it's certainly there and it lingers.

    I found it frustrating enough when living in Wellington that it really was impossible to walk down Lambton Quay during any vaguely populated time of day (morning, lunch, evening) without becoming trapped behind people 10 to 15 metres away puffing smoke back into the faces of everyone all over the footpath behind them. I actively avoided walking anywhere near cafes that have shoved their smoking customers out onto the streets for the same reason, except when I really had to. I've since shifted to Melbourne where it's impossible (no exaggeration) for me to walk 5 minutes from my CBD railway station to work at 7.45am without having to traverse a gauntlet of people hanging out on street corners and both sides of footpaths, puffing smoke into everyone who walks past.

    Some of this effect is no doubt a consequence of legislation that restricts smoking indoors around workplaces, but it's a side effect that's not been addressed in any way. I appreciate that smokers need somewhere to light up too, I may be unusually sensitive and perhaps smoker breath isn't different from someone with bad breath for some other reason in which case I haven't decided if it's reasonable to differentiate. For me, though, I'd appreciate some kind of acknowledgement of a right to fresh air in public spaces where large amounts of people have to visit and use for day-to-day living, including outdoor spaces. Often I've found the middle of the roads to seem less polluted, but I guess today's cars actually have emission standards whereas cigarettes probably don't.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 428 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Simon Grigg,

    I find an endless cloud of toxic smoke that I have to walk through on a stinking hot still day rather uncool too.

    Yes, when I went to Bangkok, every time I blew my nose it was black. But that wasn't because of smokers. I gather this has improved, though? I walked along the streets there prior to these wardens and didn't find the smokers even noticeable. It's not that crowded, and hot air rises fast, particularly when it is blown in that direction, as most smokers seemed to do when other people were near them. Far more annoying was being heckled to watch sex-acts, but each to their own.

    Mind you, I never did go walking on any really hot days. I can imagine that the smoke dissipates more slowly on those days. Perhaps wardens make more sense in BKK. Here in non-crowded, temperate, windy NZ, I can't see any argument for them. If someone is smoking in your face, it can be handled in exactly the same way as if they were doing anything else that's obnoxious. It's not a major social issue, in need of repair.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8587 posts Report Reply

  • HORansome, in reply to BenWilson,

    In fact, I don't even come from a rights based angle at all. I'm a much simpler kind of Utilitarian.

    Well, if you're a utilitarian, then I think you should be agreeing with us rather than disagreeing. The public utility of restricting tobacco use (better living, everyone!) is a good which rather outstrips the limited private utility of smokers' not being harangued about their habit.

    (This will be true of rule-based utilitarianism as well as standard consequentialism. Also, if you're a utilitarian you'll need a really good reason to think the means of production of tobacco production, the selling of tobacco (with its associated targeted advertising) et al aren't factors in deciding the public good of tobacco restriction).

    Tāmaki Makaurau • Since Sep 2008 • 424 posts Report Reply

  • Peter Graham, in reply to George Darroch,

    That again, is ill informed. Quite apart from the horror inflicted on those who suffer through their last years and those who lose family members much earlier than they otherwise would (13 years earlier, among men, 14, among women), the costs of end-of-life healthcare, particularly for cancers, is extreme. A person in a cancer-ward can easily consume hundreds of thousands of dollars in treatment, equivalent to decades of paid taxes.

    As tussock pointed out, most deaths are from cancer or cardiovascular disease whether or not they're caused by smoking. You're going to die of something and it's unlikely to be pretty or cheap to treat.

    Interestingly, one study has found that thin non-smokers had higher lifetime medical expenses than either smokers or obese people because non-smokers live longer. http://www.plosmedicine.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pmed.0050029

    Christchurch • Since Jul 2011 • 39 posts Report Reply

  • Simon Grigg, in reply to BenWilson,

    Far more annoying was being heckled to watch sex-acts, but each to their own.

    See, I don't walk down those couple of streets that often/ever.

    The skywalks in particular don't offer the upward dispersion as they have trains running above them. The clouds of smoke that filled the air up there were the subject of endless comment in the media. Maybe I missed the folks leaning over the side trying to blow it discretely away.

    It's not that crowded,

    Chatuchak market's 27 acres put between 200,000 and 300,000 people through every weekend day. On a holiday weekend it can rise to 500k - define crowded. Really.....

    Here in non-crowded, temperate, windy NZ, I can't see any argument for them.

    I'd argue my mother is one - she's 79 and not a state burden - she still pays taxes.

    ETA: I'm not advocating wardens for Auckland - I am saying that my mother used to enjoy places like Mission Bay's green area but finds it increasingly arduous to do so.

    Just another klong... • Since Nov 2006 • 3208 posts Report Reply

  • izogi, in reply to BenWilson,

    Here in non-crowded, temperate, windy NZ

    I’m not convinced the most relevant factors are about the size of the crowd so much as the nature of our urban layouts that place smokers into walking corridors which everyone uses with people who are smoking, or encourages them to stand near doorways and entrance-ways where stale smoke lingers for hours on end and becomes unpleasant for people who use them.. References to wind can also be misleading, given how people tend to gravitate towards sheltered non-windy spaces when they can. I’m fairly sure the Wellington City Council was caught out by an air quality study a few years back, having previously assumed that wind was blowing away all their problems.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 428 posts Report Reply

  • HORansome, in reply to BenWilson,

    Having actually looked up the word consensus, I'm rather surprised to find it doesn't mean unanimity.

    That's a problem Climate Change Deniers have been suffering from for a long time. :)

    Tāmaki Makaurau • Since Sep 2008 • 424 posts Report Reply

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