OnPoint by Keith Ng

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OnPoint: Sock-Puppeting Big Tobacco to Chew on ACT

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  • Rich Lock, in reply to George Darroch,

    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.

    A good point. However, like some aspects of piracy (as opposed to peer-to-peer file-sharing), it also provides a revenue stream for organised crime. And that's people who we really don't want to be giving money to.

    I'd suggest that does present a public health problem, albeit an indirect one.

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

  • John Armstrong, in reply to Sacha,

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

    Part of my bubbling theory is that change might actually not be so far away. Peak oil might alter more than where we go to buy fuel for our cars.

    Hamilton • Since Nov 2007 • 132 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to John Armstrong,

    change might actually not be so far away

    Only if the right approach can wrest power from the well-resourced interests defending the status quo. That's going to take far more competent organising that we've seen so far - and fresher ideas than street marches and brochures. Aslo means tapping the strengths that business, government and community can each bring to the table.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16754 posts Report Reply

  • Keir Leslie, in reply to Rich Lock,

    O sure. I should say that in certain places and certain times I think tobacco is a very attractive illegal commodity, and even in NZ I would expect a small but thriving black market. I do think it would be small, compared both to current consumption and even pot consumption.

    There's two differences that are I think quite important. First, that tobacco was legal until it entered the country, and then probably goes out through grey market channels --- local dairies, kiosks, etc. So it's not an entirely black market supply chain --- it was legally grown, harvested, processed etc. Second, Europe has very porous borders and smuggling is very easy. That's not true in New Zealand. Tobacco smuggling in Europe is basically a matter of tax evasion.

    Since Jul 2008 • 1376 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Sacha,

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

    Perhaps not. It's really hard to say. Many people have kicked addiction, by exercising choice. It seems to be one of the most successful ways, in fact. People who don't want to quit are the main ones who don't quit, just as people who don't want to be counseled don't get anything out of therapy. But that could be a semantic game about the terms "choice" and "want", neither of which are especially well understood. Science would seem to suggest that choice does not actually exist and that manipulating want is all there is to human behavior. But I've never, ever been convinced on this.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8589 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Rowe, in reply to 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.

    Saturday Night's Alright For Introducing Vouchers in Education

    The Long & Winding Multi-Lane Toll Motorway


    What do the kids listen to these days? I'm afraid I'm unfairly showing the Don's age.

    Lake Roxburgh, Central Ot… • Since Nov 2006 • 563 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Jolisa,

    satirically titled Don Brash speeches, plundering the best lines from centuries of protest literature

    There is no depression in New Zealand

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16754 posts Report Reply

  • James Butler, in reply to Sacha,

    There is no depression in New Zealand

    Or the original "No Depression":

    I’m going where there’s no resource consent process,
    to the lovely land that’s free from abrogations of my property rights.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2009 • 801 posts Report Reply

  • James Butler, in reply to James Butler,

    Coming to think of it this reads ominously like a Seasteader's anthem, especially given Peter Thiel's obsession with anti-geriatric medicine:

    In that bright land, there'll be no hunger,
    no orphan children cryin' for bread,
    no weeping widows, toil or struggle,
    no shrouds, no coffins, and no death.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2009 • 801 posts Report Reply

  • HORansome, in reply to BenWilson,

    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.

    Smoking, as an activity on the part of a smoker, does no harm to others? Really? What about secondhand smoke? The environmental impact (not just of smoking but the production of cigarettes)? The terrible working conditions in the plantations where tobacco is grown and the factories where said cigarettes are made?

    A lot of us enjoy smoking, but let's not turn a blind eye to the consequences of that habit. Smoking doesn't just adversely affect the lives of smokers.

    Tāmaki Makaurau • Since Sep 2008 • 424 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to HORansome,

    no ifs, lotsa butts...

    A lot of us enjoy smoking, but let’s not turn a blind eye to the consequences of that habit. Smoking doesn’t just adversely affect the lives of smokers.

    indeed, those butts can be piscatorially pesky...

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 5046 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to HORansome,

    What about secondhand smoke?

    I already said I don't disagree with banning it in buildings...but on the street, that I don't like.

    What about secondhand smoke? The environmental impact (not just of smoking but the production of cigarettes)? The terrible working conditions in the plantations where tobacco is grown and the factories where said cigarettes are made?

    That's not harm the smoker is doing to anyone, any more than the shirt you wear on your back from China does the person sitting next to you any harm, or the bus you catch causes oppression in oil-producing Libya, or the milk you drink leads to poisons in our waterways. Anyway, the bans on smoking aren't on "bad workplace practices tobacco". They're against tobacco, period. Whether you grew it yourself or not, out of compost made from your own poo. The taxes and restrictions are motivated entirely by moralizing about the health risks.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8589 posts Report Reply

  • izogi, in reply to BenWilson,

    I’m pretty sure thrill is addictive to some people.

    It’s on a tangent but there’s some interesting research from within New Zealand around the skewed risk-tolerance with people who are into things like mountain climbing and base jumping. His sample of 50 committed and experienced mountain climbers had a 10% death rate after 4 years. Also noteworthy is that of 175 recorded deaths of base jumpers in 30 years, only 123 were actually from base jumping while the others were from other accidents, drug overdoses and suicides.

    I think helicopter piloting is another thing that maybe attracts risk-takers.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 429 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch,

    The taxes and restrictions are motivated entirely by moralizing about the health risks.

    To the extent that popularly elected governments take measures to protect the health of their citizens, and those measures impose on the freedoms of those citizens, yes, absolutely.

    Whether you view those measures as; paternalistic and unjustified, paternalistic and justified, or non-paternalistic and justified, is a matter for debate. Personally, I consider that there are a mix of the latter two, but that most fall squarely into the last category.

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

  • BenWilson, in reply to George Darroch,

    I think it's paternalistic and therefore unjustified, just so you know. It's a very slippery slope, legislating against self-harming. Where does it end? If there was a clear rationale for why such interference doesn't extend to forcing citizens to eat well and exercise, then let's hear it.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8589 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Keir Leslie,

    It doesn't make sense to pay 200 dollars for 30 grams of tobacco unless you are amazingly rich.

    No, especially since a thousand seeds costs about $2.50 (and they will drop their own seeds from then on), and they're basically plant-and-forget, being a very hardy plant, well adapted to NZ, that actively repels pests, making it an excellent companion planting choice. It's so damned easy to make massive quantities of it, that it's surprising more smokers don't, considering how much smoking costs them. Hard to find any legal crop with such an excellent cost-yield ratio. Just for personal consumption (the only legal way to do it), it sounds like about maybe 2 or 3 hours work to make a year's supply. Maybe the cutting up of it could add time, depending on your choice of how to use it, whether to roll it up, make cigars out of it, or just stick it in a pipe. That's around $500/hour tax free for your average smoking addict.

    Then you could be sure there was nothing added, as well, and no poor serf had been forced to work for your pleasure.

    I've seen them growing wild all over the place, too. Really strong survivor. Good luck trying to eradicate the plant.

    ETA: LOL. Just discovered one in my own garden, poking up between the path tiles in my strawberry patch. There's a good ounce on it.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8589 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch,

    Where does it end?

    With plain-packaged cartons costing $40, that you buy from restricted retailers (chemists, mostly) and are free to smoke in your own home and property... and 2-5% of the population smoking. That's my speculative answer.

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

  • Sacha, in reply to BenWilson,

    If there was a clear rationale for why such interference doesn't extend to forcing citizens to eat well and exercise, then let's hear it.

    Because both those activities are not addictive. As I say, you really do not seem to understand what that means. In the nicest possible way, I recommend some reading before any further talking about it.

    If determined to take a 'rational' economic approach, one could fairly argue that people can do whatever they like *provided* the consequential costs of their actions were fairly covered. For both smokers and drinkers, that would mean paying for *all* of the health and social system impacts, if you want to claim total freedom. There are currently huge opportunity costs in there for everyone else.

    However, arguments soon revert to stereotype when moral dimensions are introduced. Like the one about welfare 'dependency'.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16754 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to George Darroch,

    That's my speculative answer.

    Just not to the question actually asked.

    Because both those activities are not addictive

    Indeed, that's why they would need to be forced to do it. For their own good.

    If determined to take a 'rational' economic approach

    My argument is not economic. It's moral. But I think the cost of smokers in a country that has superannuation is not what you think. It's quite cost effective, really, because it kills off people mostly after their productive life ends. This is a poor argument for it, though.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8589 posts Report Reply

  • John Armstrong, in reply to BenWilson,

    That's not harm the smoker is doing to anyone, any more than the shirt you wear on your back from China does the person sitting next to you any harm

    That's a confusing argument. I think you're mixing up immediate and long-term effects. Secondhand smoke clearly has implications for the person sitting next to you. Wearing clothes from China doesn't (necessarily). Fair enough. But I thought that HORansome's point was that smoking also has broader environmental and social impacts. The fact those impacts mainly happen to people who aren't sitting next to you doesn't mean they aren't real.

    Do you really think that purchasing decisions (milk, oil, whatever) have no wider influence?

    Hamilton • Since Nov 2007 • 132 posts Report Reply

  • John Armstrong, in reply to BenWilson,

    This is a poor argument for it, though.

    No, its a stupid argument.

    Hamilton • Since Nov 2007 • 132 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch,

    Just not to the question actually asked.

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

    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.

    I'm not happy with all of those because I think some don't reflect current evidence, but I don't think that it's inconsistent to say that there should be strong control of some particularly harmful substances and weak(er) control of much less harmful substances. We don't currently regulate activity, we leave that up to individuals, with some provisions for safety, such as lifejackets for boaties, and licenses for pilots. Given the comparatively huge number of deaths attributable to recreational boat use, I think there's a very compelling case to make skippers take basic safety instruction courses.

    As a general point, slippery slope arguments are a load of bollocks, as far as I'm concerned. Banning the incitement of racial hatred, for example, is not equivalent to closing the presses and running all publications through the censors office. I respect people who oppose the former, but I don't respect people who conflate them.

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

  • BenWilson,

    But I thought that HORansome's point was that smoking also has broader environmental and social impacts.

    And my response was that practically everything does, and that doesn't mean you have to be restricted where you appreciate your impacting good. You don't have to leave the CBD to put on your Chinese shirt, or drink your latte. Yet. Of course, when the impact of coffee on health is better understood, then perhaps the addicts can be treated like second class citizens and society will have really progressed.

    Do you really think that purchasing decisions (milk, oil, whatever) have no wider influence?

    I don't think it's of much relevance in the zealotry surrounding anti-smoking legislation. I think the whole thing is deeply Christian, frankly, and fuck that.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8589 posts Report Reply

  • izogi, in reply to BenWilson,

    But I think the cost of smokers in a country that has superannuation is not what you think. It's quite cost effective, really, because it kills off people mostly after their productive life ends.

    In a very dragged out and expensive way though, is it not? Smoker deaths don't usually occur overnight. They're often long and painful, and even if there were no public healthcare system to take a hit, you could expect many cancer-suffering smokers to remain a drain of the emotional well-being (not to mention economic productivity) of friends and family for a long time.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 429 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch,

    It’s quite cost effective, really, because it kills off people mostly after their productive life ends.

    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.

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

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