Except for smokers, whom we all know are pariahs on society and beneath our contempt and not worth respect that is due to any other consenting adult who wishes to practice any other act of his (or her) choice in the privacy of his (or his) own bedroom, lounge room, back verandah or city street.
Just a few hours ago, the Uniting Church Australia retweeted a tweet from Uniting Care Australia regarding the September 7 election:
@UnitingChurchAu: MT @UnitingCare_Aus Election Statement 2013: calling on a fair and just society http://t.co/5hbGgq3TMG #ausvotes #ajustsociety
I ask you, dear reader (as I pour you a glass of port – my God, it’s been a long time between drinks on this ‘ere blog), is there not something inherently UNfair and UNjust about a Government that would ask a mere 16.4% of Australian men and 13.9% of Australian women to foot the bill for a $5.3 billion shortfall in their budget? (according to the statistics of the Australian Cancer Council)?
How can they get away with this??? Why do we let them? Because the prejudice against smokers has reached a point in our society which would not be acceptable if it were directed against any other aspect of a person’s life, such as their race or their sexual inclinations/activity. Don’t fall for the rhetoric that tells you how much smokers cost society. It may very well be true that our hospitals have many people in them being treated for smoking related health issues and that this costs our society a lot of money. But let me tell you a secret: everyone gets sick and everyone dies. They do it only once and something causes it and the hospitals are there to treat it. Conversely, if you live to be 100 (because you have lived a really healthy life not smoking or drinking coffee or alcohol or eating McDonalds or chocolate etc.) then you STILL cost society a packet in aged care and pension. You don’t save money by reducing smoking. It is a myth.
What is not a myth is the huge income that our Government currently makes by taxing the smoking population to the absolute hilt (+25%). Just think of that figure they are proposing: $5.3 billion. Compare that to the amount they were hoping to get out of the mining companies – $10 billion or so. We rejected taxing big mining. Now they are proposing taxing ordinary private Australian citizens just wanting to do what generations of people all over the world have done, and what in many countries you can still do quite freely – but not in Australia. (For comparison: last November I bought five packets of pipe tobacco in Dubai for $12; here in Australia, the equivalent price is $185).
I am not an opponent of plain packaging. I am no fan of the big tobacco companies (who I think are actually smoking’s worst enemies). I don’t want to support organised crime by buying “chop-chop”. I currently smoke a mixture of 30% tobacco and 70% tea, because I can’t afford pure tobacco anymore. I just want the freedom to be able to enjoy a pipe when I am reading, writing or just relaxing. I wish that, like smokers of another drug of choice, I had the right to grow a couple of plants of tobacco in the back yard for my own personal use. But unlike that drug, tobacco is taxed, and hence is a huge source of revenue for the Government – to bypass that tax would be a crime.
Don’t listen to the rhetoric about wanting to reduce smoking. All the Government wants to do is reap (by an UNjust and UNfair tax) a windfall from a part of the population that no one respects or cares about any more. Only, I am not sure how the argument works. If they are really wanting to “stamp out smoking”, how will they get their $5.3 billiion budget plug? There must be a limit to how much you can tax a product before your income from that tax actually begins to go backwards…