OnPoint by Keith Ng

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OnPoint: Sock-Puppeting Big Tobacco to Chew on ACT

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  • Sacha, in reply to BenWilson,

    I'm not thinking black or white. You could treat it the way people are suggesting for the other smokable crop - make it legal to grow but not to mass-market.

    Or we could invest properly in solving the drivers of all addiction, which I'd prefer. Just not naive enough to think that's happening any time soon.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16838 posts Report Reply

  • Carol Stewart, in reply to tussock,

    Know what's dangerous? Skydiving. Mountain climbing. Flying light aircraft. Adventure tourism. Walking down stairs. Wet floors. Ice. Not cigarettes, which are less dangerous than things still promoted locally as health tonics, like red wine.

    That is such bullshit. How many people die per year from skydiving, mountain climbing, flying light aircraft, adventure tourism, walking down stairs, wet floors and ice combined? A total of, say, 50? It has to be at least a factor of 100 less than the 5000 or so who die per year as a direct result of smoking.
    What part of "smoking remains the single biggest cause of preventable morbidity and mortality in New Zealand. It is estimated that half of all long-term smokers die of a smoking related illness" do you disagree with, semantics aside?

    Christchurch • Since Jul 2008 • 662 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to bmk,

    So when Christians say that cannabis (or tobacco or opium poppies for that matter) should not be grown are they saying God made a mistake?

    You could argue the 'mistake' is in the humans. The plants are just fine.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16838 posts Report Reply

  • Ross Mason,

    I did get the impression he was focusing on land property rights. You know, those ones that say I can do what I like with my piece of dirt. Dig it up, sell the topsoil and sell it back to me when I buy one of their sections, shit in the streams so that downstream has the problem not me, grow tress, cut them down and watch the dirt get washed off the steep land. But I made my buck whats the problem??

    But wait Don said that farmers "can use the land they own without the stifling interference of plans, planners, and bureaucracy, subject only of course to a respect for the property of others."

    Phew...thats OK then.

    Property rights are the basis of any modern society. Ownership of a piece of land puts upon the owner both the freedom to use it for new and better purposes, and the responsibility to bear the losses of using it badly.

    Yeah right. Farm goes broke, company goes broke...oh dear..."bear the losses of using it badly?" Joke 1. Like these growers good guys who left a legacy of the most contaminated DDT site in NZ.

    Dioxin around the country including timber treatment plants, landfills, paper making, 245T manufacture.

    And don't forget our use of this incredible "endless supply" of superphosphate that has left an island nation destitute. All for the benefit of a few years of farm production...runoff into streams....clogged rivers and stinking lakes.

    Yup. I do think that ACT is on the right track. They should all be bearing the losses......and oh...paying the cleanup bill???? Joke 2.

    We are all going to die. Our use and plunder of "our" land stops on that date. What is left is for our children and their children. I think someone needs to derail this guy and make sure our future citizens have some worthwhile land to use properly.

    Upper Hutt • Since Jun 2007 • 1502 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Telfar Barnard,

    It would be hard to pick up more smokers in Indonesia - close to 80% of all males smoke...

    Um. Only if all Indonesians were male. Also, 2006 figures put adult male smoking prevalence in Indonesia at 61.7% and female at 5%.
    Seems like plenty of scope to pick up more smokers to me.

    Know what's dangerous? Skydiving. Mountain climbing. Flying light aircraft. Adventure tourism. Walking down stairs. Wet floors. Ice.

    Noone pretends those things aren't dangerous. What's the difference? They're not addictive. Also, in the more common of the examples you've given (walking down stairs, wet floors) noone's making money off them. Furthermore, ALL causes of injury accounted for about 4500 deaths each year in 2005 and 2006 (from my reading of mortality data - I'm one of those 'health researchers') which is still less than deaths attributable to tobacco use.

    ...their international strategy is to say that every measure that hurts tobacco companies will benefit the illicit tobacco trade, which is basically organised crime, which is basically terrorism.

    This is particularly rude given the multiple lawsuits taken against big tobacco for enabling the illicit tobacco trade (it's easier to make profits from selling tobacco if you don't have to pay tax on their sale). But then in my personal opinion big tobacco is organised crime - they're just so organised they manage to avoid having what they do counted as criminal under the law.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 396 posts Report Reply

  • Islander, in reply to Ross Mason,

    I dont often approve +1 infinity but I do here Ross- there's a scifi short story I forget author&title of, but it revolves round the idea that the only - & limited- celebration left for the sad remanant of humanity was acknowledging "Our ancestors were pigs!"
    Which we are not of course - pigs are both intelligent *and* sagacious (and, in congenial circumstances, quite gracious,,.,as can our species be, similarly-}

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • Keir Leslie,

    Hmm. I have to say, I doubt that tobacco would be a very viable black market commodity. Let's take the classic ounce. That's 30 grams of pot more or less. Retail value is around 300-4oo dollars, depending on quality and location. Port Royal retails for 30-40 dollars per 30 grams. That's a tenth of the price. So, assuming the same percent profit, to make the same amount of money, you'd have to move ten times the product. This is logistically problematic, especially given that in fact Port Royal moves very cheaply at the moment, by legal means.

    Now, sure, we're comparing apples to saffron here, right? Once tobacco goes illegal the price will soar, and so that stuff won't matter too much. But when the price soars, people will stop smoking, and the market will crater. It doesn't make sense to pay 200 dollars for 30 grams of tobacco unless you are amazingly rich. So if I was working for the gangs and someone asked me if tobacco looked like a good industry to move into, I'd say no. Focus on the high end.

    Since Jul 2008 • 1389 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart, in reply to Sacha,

    I’m not thinking black or white. You could treat it the way people are suggesting for the other smokable crop – make it legal to grow but not to mass-market.

    This graphic suggests that New Zealand's climate probably isn't great for tobacco growth (if we're talking about people growing it individually, throughout the country), though I suppose if everyone could only grow very small amounts that would at least cut down on consumption...

    Amherst, MA • Since Nov 2006 • 2093 posts Report Reply

  • Simon Grigg, in reply to Ross Mason,

    Um. Only if all Indonesians were male. Also, 2006 figures put adult male smoking prevalence in Indonesia at 61.7% and female at 5%.
    Seems like plenty of scope to pick up more smokers to me.

    Good luck trying to survey such things in Indonesia. The 60% figure often quoted comes from Ministry of Health data but has been disputed as far too low many times - given the amount of money fired into the pro-smoking campaign by the likes of Sampoerna any data that comes from the government on this should be treated as suspect. In 2009 either the Jakarta Globe or the Jakarta Post - I'm sorry I forget which and I can't find it in a search - quoted a figure of around 76% of adult males.

    The female level, whilst it may be higher than that 5%, is still far less but that's also kept down by both strong cultural and religious factors. It has long been socially unacceptable for women to smoke for those reasons. I don't think the companies have found it easy to change that. Mostly, just from my own observation rather than any figures, the only women who seem to smoke in any numbers are upper middle class urban dwellers.

    Anecdotally, after 5 years living in Indonesia and travelling fairly widely - with many Indonesian friends - I almost never encountered Indonesian males who didn't smoke. I think I have one.

    That said, one of the most glorious smells anywhere is the drive into Kudus in Jawa Tengah, which I've done few times, where most of the kretek are hand rolled in vast factories. The clove aroma is inescapable for miles and it's a very beautiful, prosperous town.

    Sadly the town has awful, awful, health stats.

    ETA: Here is a report that puts the growth of tobacco in Indonesia at between 2-4% per annum. At the high end that puts the 2009 figure reasonably close to the 2006 figure regardless of whether the MOH manipulated the figures or not.

    Just another klong... • Since Nov 2006 • 3209 posts Report Reply

  • Jolisa,

    P.S. Don Brash, I know you’re too busy to keep up with popular music the kids listen to these days, but I’m pretty sure the lyrics go “this land is your land, this land is my land”, not “this land is your land, so you can tell everyone else to fuck off”.

    If the great Woody Guthrie hadn't been cremated and his ashes scattered off Coney Island, he'd be spinning in his grave. Even so, if I were Don Brash, I'd be cautious strolling the boardwalk, lest a Woody-nami rise up and sweep him out to sea.

    Here's another of the less-frequently-sung original verses from that excellent song, which still rings true and timely:

    In the squares of the city, In the shadow of a steeple;
    By the relief office, I'd seen my people.
    As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking,
    Is this land made for you and me?

    Auckland, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 1427 posts Report Reply

  • Jolisa,

    Am now looking forward (not) to a series of satirically titled Don Brash speeches, plundering the best lines from centuries of protest literature. "A spectre is haunting New Zealand"; "If I can't dance, I don't want to be part of your fiscal strategy", etc.

    Auckland, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 1427 posts Report Reply

  • John Armstrong, in reply to Sacha,

    Or we could invest properly in solving the drivers of all addiction, which I'd prefer.

    Risking a threadjack here, but I'd love to hear a bit more about this. Feeding my own bubbling theories you see..

    Hamilton • Since Nov 2007 • 132 posts Report Reply

  • Rich Lock, in reply to Keir Leslie,

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2401 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Lucy Telfar Barnard,

    Know what's dangerous? Skydiving. Mountain climbing. Flying light aircraft. Adventure tourism. Walking down stairs. Wet floors. Ice.

    Noone pretends those things aren't dangerous. What's the difference? They're not addictive.

    I'm pretty sure thrill is addictive to some people. Addictive is a difficult word - for most things that aren't illegal, it has a good connotation. Many computer games actively tout being addictive, and are sought out for that. This website could be charged with being addictive.

    The problem with tobacco isn't the addictiveness, it's the health harm that it causes. And, as Tussock was quite rightly pointing out, that's in many other things too. I think a better example might have been fatty food, and sugary drinks. There are a very large number of victims of these substances whose lives are substantially shortened, and also suffer a big loss of quality of life, often from quite a young age.

    Mind you, I do have a pretty advanced walking down stairs habit. At least 20 a day. One of these days, it might kill me, but I'm prepared to take the risk.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8675 posts Report Reply

  • DeepRed, in reply to Lucy Telfar Barnard,

    Noone pretends those things aren’t dangerous. What’s the difference? They’re not addictive. Also, in the more common of the examples you’ve given (walking down stairs, wet floors) noone’s making money off them. Furthermore, ALL causes of injury accounted for about 4500 deaths each year in 2005 and 2006 (from my reading of mortality data – I’m one of those ‘health researchers’) which is still less than deaths attributable to tobacco use.

    Another keyword here is, “when used as directed”. Guns are explicitly designed to hasten the process. Tobacco is a slower, more “acceptable” form of it.

    On the other hand, cars kill people, but it's down to poor design or wilful/unwitting misuse.

    Remember Prince Philip’s brain fart about the Dunblane massacre? The one where he asked if cricket bats would be banned because they can kill if swung hard enough.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 4403 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to BenWilson,

    The problem with tobacco isn't the addictiveness, it's the health harm that it causes.

    Good luck separating those.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16838 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to John Armstrong,

    I'd love to hear a bit more about this

    Same. I'm thinking about us tackling the emotional and personal development issues that all addiction sits on. Needs a big investment in mental health, counselling, and other wellbeing services. Imagine the productivity and social gains from say $1b spent on that rather than some daft motorway to nowhere.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16838 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch,

    Tobacco smuggling in Europe is a big problem.

    Google 'tobacco smuggling in the UK'. Here's a couple of examples from the results

    It's a problem, in the way that file sharing is a problem - it deprives revenue from those who would collect it (the tax system, and the Government). However, as a public health problem, not so much. Do smuggled cigarettes represent excess consumption? Possibly, but it's hard to imagine that this excess is a large one. And on the other side, measures to decrease the attractiveness of legitimate tobacco decrease the demand overall. This is the major concern of public health professionals. The tobacco industry has been fervent in working up the 'threat' from smuggled tobacco, with findings that in no way match those of independent researchers.

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

  • BenWilson, in reply to Sacha,

    Good luck separating those.

    Can't be done. You can show people that it's both harmful and addictive. They still have to decide if the harm outweighs whatever the drivers of the addiction are, which aren't just the fear of physical cravings. They're actual pleasure in the use of the substance. Not just the chemical pleasure, but the entire experience. That pleasure can't be discounted in the big picture of anything. Life isn't just about harm avoidance.

    The push to attack the use of tobacco in the experience part by making it more and more difficult to find somewhere to take it doesn't strike me as especially praiseworthy. Making pariahs out of smokers doesn't help them. And helping them is surely the point. If you want to help someone, actually help them, rather than "helping" them by making their lives difficult. There's something fucked up about making the lives of people who do no harm to anyone else difficult, I dislike it where ever I see it.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8675 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch,

    Tobacco related illness. Gods but I hate that expression. Of course everyone dies of tobacco related illnesses: strokes and heart attacks and a lot of cancers are related to tobacco use, and that’s what most people die of anyway, smokers and non-smokers alike.

    Well, be prepared to hate it some more.

    Smoking tobacco lowers life expectancy by 13 years for males, and 14 years for females. That's the equivalent of taking a New Zealand man and woman, and putting them both in North Korea. Literally, you lose that much life expectancy.

    There are very clear and extremely well established causal pathways between tobacco smoking and a very large number of negative health outcomes. I don't have the figures in front of me, but smoking increases the odds ratios of a number of severe health events (cancers, heart attacks, pulmonary diseases) extremely. You're probably aware of this - these are the findings that became clear half a century ago, because it was very hard to ignore something as dramatic as a heart attack. You're probably unaware of the less dramatic harmful effects which have been demonstrated in the last few decades, which are seen with even low levels of consumption.

    There are no such established pathways between moderate consumption of common foods, and low-moderate alcohol consumption.

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

  • Sacha, in reply to BenWilson,

    They still have to decide

    With respect, I'm not sure you understand how addiction works.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16838 posts Report Reply

  • John Armstrong, in reply to Sacha,

    tackling the emotional and personal development issues that all addiction sits on.

    Yep, but also the broader social and cultural issues that impinge on the personal and emotional ones. You know, capitalism and liberalism elevating the individual over the collective, the trope that happiness comes from getting rather than giving, and an advertising industry that reinforces both with the message that happiness will be yours if you will just buy their damn abdominizer. But I suspect that's probably beyond the power of any government to change.

    Hamilton • Since Nov 2007 • 132 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to John Armstrong,

    also the broader social and cultural issues that impinge on the personal and emotional ones

    Totally. You can see why I'm not holding my breath..

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16838 posts Report Reply

  • Rich Lock, in reply to Sacha,

    You can see why I'm not holding my breath

    Because you, like Bill Clinton, didn't inhale?

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2401 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Rich Lock,

    for health reasons, you understand :)

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16838 posts Report Reply

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