I abhor the state funded troughers who have built little niches for themselves and in many cases little empires off of the back of advocating law changes for their pet hates.
One such bludging ratbag is Professor Richard Edwards from Otago university.
He has produced a treatise suggesting the banning of tobacco as the final step in the war against tobacco. He suggests massively tightening up tobacco control processes and ultimately banning the product altogether.
I oppose this, not because I am a fan of smoking or tobacco, but because these wowsers are manipulating public policy against their pet hate and once they have finished with tobacco they will move on to the next ‘evil’, which is looking more and more likely to be sugar.
His justifications are:
To assess the feasibility of the introduction of a policy of this nature, the broader context need to be considered. In many ways this appears highly favourable. For example,
- Smokers are a steadily shrinking minority, albeit still a substantial one. In the 2013 census only 15% of adults were regular (daily) smokers, and 62% of adults had never been regular smokers;
- An extraordinarily high proportion of smokers regret having started, and around half have tried to quit in the last year;
- There is widespread public support for the Smokefree 2025 vision and ‘endgame’ ideas to achieve it. For example, in a recent survey 79% supported the Smokefree 2025 goal, 71% agreed that they want to live in a country where hardly anyone smokes, and 50% agreed with a ban on tobacco sales in 10 years time (1);
- Use of tobacco among politicians, teachers, health professionals the media and other opinion formers, decision makers and influential occupational groups is low and decreasing (2);
- The Government has recently introduced strong tobacco control measures with overwhelming parliamentary support. These include large increases in tobacco taxation and the point of sales display ban (passed 117-3 in July 2011);
- The tobacco industry is largely viewed as a pariah, and has little public or political support. For example, 65% of smokers (higher among Māori and Pacific smokers) think the industry should be more tightly regulated (3).
Note how the anti-tobacco industry has created pariahs and demonised smokers…they will do this to those who enjoy sugar and use sugar in products. Instead of Philip Morris or British American Tobacco being evil corporates it will Coca Cola, Pepsi, Chelsea and Frucor. They will be labelled drug dealers, diabetes causing poisoners and much the same titles currently put against the tobacco industry.
His main suggestion is to ban tobacco altogether:
However, there is a theme in New Zealand’s current political discourse which favours minimal intervention and has a low threshold for labelling regulatory or legislative interventions as manifestations of a ‘nanny state’. If a policy to end tobacco sales became viewed in this way then it could quickly become politically unpalatable and implementation unfeasible. Indeed, if seen as too radical and punitive, a proposal to end tobacco sales could conceivably intensify and expand the breadth of opposition to tobacco control. If so, advocacy for such a measure might be counter-productive by discrediting and derailing less radical tobacco control approaches and even the Smokefree 2025 goal itself.
Overall the social and political environment appears favourable. However, the small risk of a political and publish backlash suggest that if advocacy for a policy ending tobacco sales is to be successful and not counter-productive, then its merits must be carefully explained and debated.
Ending tobacco sales could also greatly reduce the current tobacco control policy agenda, saving legislative time and resources. Measures such as licensing of retailers, restrictions on location of retail sales and increases in tobacco taxation would be redundant if the products cannot be legally sold. Nevertheless, assuming importation or cultivation for personal use was permitted, policies mandating smokefree outdoor public places and smokefree cars would remain relevant.
He helpfully has an image from Bhutan, but fails spectacularly to understand what has happened in Bhutan since the total ban on tobacco products.
For a professor who deals in information you would think he wouldn’t have failed to mention that Bhutan had to lift their blanket ban due to skyrocketing criminal trade. A simple Google search could’ve told him that.
Bhutan – the only country to have banned the sale of tobacco
Bhutan’s second parliament is likely to set the history of ‘ban lift’ as it takes steps to do so one after another. Very recently the country lifted ban on import of furniture and alcohol.
Now the country’s Upper House resolves that ban on import of tobacco must end. In a majority resolution on Monday (3 February 2014), the house said ban on import and sale of tobacco products must end to control the black market.
Bhutan had gained fame for being the first country to completely ban on manufacturing, import and sale of any tobacco products. However, the government also received harsh criticism for sending a monk behind bar for years on charge of carrying tobacco products worth Nu 120.
After public outcry over the harshness of the law, the first elected parliament of the country showed some leniency towards tobacco consumers. Many send to jail for selling tobacco were subsequently released on king’s order.
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