A Just and Fair Nation for All Australians

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…

About Schütz

I am Catholic, married to Cathy, father of Maddy & Mia. Since 2002, I have been the Executive Officer of the Ecumenical & Interfaith Commission of the Archdiocese of Melbourne. I was once a Lutheran pastor, but a "year of grace" and soul-searching led me into the Catholic Church. It was a bumpy ride, but with the support of my (still Lutheran) wife, I was finally confirmed on June 16, 2003.
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61 Responses to A Just and Fair Nation for All Australians

  1. Kate Edwards says:

    Oh dear David.

    While I understand that smokers rationalise things in a desperate effort to avoid reality, you are completely wrong on so many fronts on this!

    First, your claim that smokers do not cost the taxpayer more is just wrong. Yes we all die, and yes many of us may well end up in hospital. But there has been plenty of analysis to show that smokers impose a huge net additional cost on the system, mostly due to the typical pattern of chronic and serious illness they tend to suffer. While most people die ultimately of what amounts to the frailty of old age, smokers tend to suffer a series of increasingly nasty diseases. They also tend to be much less productive along the way due to smoke breaks and other effects of nicotine, tendency to bronchitis etc, hence contribute less to those pensions etc.

    The basic problem is that unlike drinking for example, there is no ‘safe’ level of smoking either for yourself or for those who inhale the smoke you exhale – nicotine is a metabolic poison pure and simple, and smoke even without anything poisonous in it is simply not meant to be inhaled! From a Catholic perspective, you are poisoning the temple of the body.

    And as for the claim that tax hikes are just about revenue raising – no, that really isn’t true. Yes the short term revenue boost is often politically convenient, as now. But all Governments are fully aware that while raising tobacco taxes may give a short term revenue boost from those already addicted, it will make it harder for new people to start smoking and encourage some to give up. In fact smoking prevalence in Australia and those countries that have made serious efforts have been dropping dramatically ever since the disastrous health impacts effects of tobacco were discovered, accelerating dramatically over the last decade.

    Nor is it really true that smoking has been widespread for generations. In fact smoking on a broad scale is a relatively recent phenomenon, associated with the rise of consumerism – hardly anyone smoked in 1900; by WWII an extraordinary 75% of men did as a result of the marketing strategies of the tobacco companies.

    More to the point, it is kind of like radioactivity – scientists did a few tests and let off a few bombs not really realising fully the effects of what they were doing. Now that they do, people tend to get a bit tetchy at any suggestion of a repeat, whether via unsafe reactors, poorly stored waste or other more deliberate uses. Similarly, if tobacco was trying to get on the market today, it would never get through the approval processes.

    That it continues to be sold at all, aside from those so addicted as to be unable to be weaned from it, is a continuing scandal and testament to the power of Big Tobacco.

    • Schütz says:

      Well, they have you in the box, don’t they, Kate? And I thought you were a free thinker…

      The bald equation “smokers = cost to the taxpayer” is fallible on many levels, not the least that smokers ARE taxpayers (paying more tax than anyone else). The Government makes billions of dollars a year out smokers. There is no means testing whatsoever. It is a consumption tax gone ballistic and way past any level that could be described as just and reasonable. The tax has no direct connection to whether or not the smoker actually IS costing the Government anything at all. There are many studies done to show that smokers are over-represented among those suffering from certain kinds of diseases. I have yet to see a study done which is clear about exactly what percentage of smokers ever require treatment for these diseases. I may smoke all my life and never need to be treated for a smoking related illness (and if I am it won’t be as a public patient).

      I have not seen any study on the cost of smoking related illness that doesn’t simply assume that if all smokers were non-smokers the cost “to the taxpayer” would be nil. Even if I do not die of a smoking related disease I will die of something. And whatever it is that I will die of will need to be treated. You can’t stop that happening. So if I give up smoking that does not mean that I will not at some stage in the future be “a cost to society”. And even if I do not die of a smoking related cancer that is no guarantee that I will not develop some other form of cancer. Furthermore if I live to a ripe old age in a retirement home somewhere I will be costing someone something (probably my children) and will still be drawing a pension from the Government. The fact is that non-smokers are also “a cost the taxpayer”.

      Does the “poisoning the temple of the body” argument wash? I don’t think so. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says nothing about smoking being a sin (p2290 only says that “The virtue of temperance disposes us to avoid every kind of excess: the abuse of food, alcohol, tobacco, or medicine”). On the contrary, I do not think that it is a duty of my faith to live a life that is as healthy as possibly possible. I think we need to be careful here not tie Paul’s language of the body in too closely with the modern cult of health. If I remember correctly, he was using “temple” language about the body in relation to issues of sanctity and purity (eg. avoiding prostitution 1 Cor 6:19 cf. CCC 2355), not in relation to matters of health. It has suited Christian health freaks to take up this “temple of the body” language and apply it to physical health, but I don’t think that is true to the context.

      “And as for the claim that tax hikes are just about revenue raising – no, that really isn’t true.” ROTFL!!! Haven’t you been paying attention? There is a 5.3 billion dollar hole in the Government’s budget. Solution? Pay for it with a tobacco tax. How much plainer can it be? The only reason they chose smokers is because noone is going to come to the smoker’s defense in the face of such injustice. They can rob us with impunity while everyone else stands by and says “serves them right”!

      “Yes the short term revenue boost is often politically convenient, as now.” You bet your bottom dollar it is, and no government really wants to kill this particularly “convenient” golden goose, precisely because it is so popular with all the nannies who elect Governments to be nannies to those other nasty people who were not brought up right.

      “In fact smoking prevalence in Australia and those countries that have made serious efforts have been dropping dramatically ever since the disastrous health impacts effects of tobacco were discovered, accelerating dramatically over the last decade.” And what exactly has been the benefits of this drop in smoking rates, Kate? Have we seen a fall in the cost of hospitals and health care? Is this a line in the budget that is falling because of the reduced number of smokers?

      And you mention “productivity loss” due to smoke breaks. 1) Aren’t we encouraged to take a five minute break from our desk every hour? 2) I smoke WHILE I work (it helps me concentrate) reading or writiing, 3) So that is all we are: workers, not meant to have any enjoyment in life, just producing all the time??? 4) what about smoking in our time off?

      “hardly anyone smoked in 1900” That’s news to me. What do you mean by “hardly anyone”? What are your statistics and where from? i was under the impression that it has been widespread since at least the 1900’s

      “by WWII an extraordinary 75% of men did as a result of the marketing strategies of the tobacco companies.” And one of those strategies was the invention of pre-rolled cigarettes, I guess. Historically most people who smoked used a pipe or roll-your-own cigarettes. As I said, I am no fan of big tobacco companies and would love to be able to buy the stuff from my local grower to put in my pipe.

      I tell you what I think I would be a great strategy for reducing smoking overnight but at the same time allowing those who chose to smoke the full liberty of doing so: Ban the sale of ready made cigarettes. Then the only form in which tobacco would be available was cut-tobacco (or cigars for those who could afford them) and people had either to roll their own or put it in a pipe like I do.

      You say that “if tobacco was trying to get on the market today, it would never get through the approval processes” – but there are very many in our population who want to make the smoking of marijuana legal, and who talk up its medicinal properties. And in fact it is legal to grow a couple of marijuana plants for your own personal use (you can’t do this with tobacco). So here is a clear case of a drug that many of us would agree is more harmful that marijuana but there is still a high level of support for its legalisation.

  2. Kate Edwards says:

    David – I’m certainly not advocating the extremist school of the cult of health, I agree that it goes way too far.

    But when it comes to smoking, you may not have seen the studies (and most smokers go out of their way not to look at this literature) but I have. The odds of someone not suffering any ill effects of smoking whatsoever are practically nil. Pretty much every smoker has impaired lung capacity to some degree, and more frequent bronchitis etc; which other illnesses they acquire varies, but the increases in risk are dramatic.

    Frankly the positive effects on concentration etc simply don’t outweigh the fact that this is a de facto way of committing suicide, essentially playing russian roulette.

    By contrast, alcohol for example can be used safely (and even have health benefits) in moderation. They are not in any way analogous cases.

    Nor does the fact that marijuana has an ill-informed lobby group behind it justify tobacco use – two wrongs don’t make a right. Though in fact smoking marijuana is somewhat less toxic than tobacco (albeit with greater psychological costs).

    The aim of revenue hikes, plain packaging etc isn’t really to recoup the costs smokers impose on the healthy system – it is to try and persuade them to stop smoking altogether.

    Denialism is a dangerous thing – and when you have to appeal to Dubai as a positive model for public policy….

    • Schütz says:

      I am not denying anything. However, informed of the facts, I believe that I should have the freedom to choose to smoke or not to smoke. It is not a sin (according to the Church). It is not a crime (according to the State). As such it is a matter, like every other health decision that is neither a sin nor a crime, that should be left to the individual conscience.

      I do not oppose plain packaging. A ban on marketing entirely does not bother me. Apparently most smokers began smoking as children, and largely as a result of the deliberate promotions of the tobacco companies. I am not at all in favour of this. I wish that we could buy tobacco from our local growers and local manufacturers in much the same way that I can buy wine from my local winery. The Governments of the past could have decided to go this way. They could have banned all external tobacco companies all together, and instead encouraged local production.

      We should distinguish the right to smoke and the right not to be unjustly or excessively taxed from the from unethical business practices of the big tobacco companies and from the question of public health. Each are quite distinct.

      I believe that adults ought to be able to make the free decision to smoke or not to smoke (I took up smoking a pipe at the age of 28, and have only ever smoked one cigarette).

      I believe that tobacco – as a legal substance with a long history in our culture and that of other throughout the world – should be accessible a reasonable market price.

      I believe that the Government should not impose burdensome taxes on citizens.

      I believe that no sector of the population should be burdened with a tax based solely on a decision others make about the suitability of their health or lifestyle choices.

      By all means try to persuade me to give up smoking. Nick Tonti-Filippini has devoted himself to this endeavour by means of rational argument (which he is very good at). However I resent the use of coercion and deprivation to “persuade” me.

      In the mean time, the Government can’t stop me smoking tea. But as someone once said when asked whether there was an alternative to smoking tobacco that is equally satisfying: “No. If there were, we would be smoking it.”

      • Tony says:

        I suspect that if all your regular contributors were in a shared physical space, aka a room, you’d see evidence of an awkward silence, David, because, notwithstanding a shared cynicism about the motivations of politicians, your rationalisation is simply not worthy of you.

        I could do no better than to articulate a response as Kate has done, but when you open with this strawman: ‘Well, they have you in the box, don’t they, Kate? And I thought you were a free thinker…’, you know your in territory that quickly reveals that any vigorous response will soon deteriorate. Your addiction is so wrapped up in your self identity — as your top-of-the-page self portrait symbolises — having a detached discussion is almost impossible.

        Tobacco is such a powerful addiction. I have been a hospice volunteer for nearly two decades and there is nothing quite as distressing as seeing a person dying of smoking related diseases struggling to breathe because they have emphysema or getting around on a wheelchair because both legs have been amputated. Even more distressing is that when they wake up after a restless night’s sleep, the first thing they need is that hit of nicotine.

        I would invite you to benchmark your concern about ‘personal freedom’ to the ultimate, painfully slow, end of far too many smokers.

        I would invite you to really see how it is for relatives and friends who have to watch as their loved one goes through the end stages of a life-long process of cooking themselves from the inside.

        In a kind of dark logic, other addictions give you a chance. As any former addict will tell you, backed up by the observations of those who work in the field, the time when you really powerfully, internalise the need to stop is when you hit what you perceive — it’s a different point for different people — to be ‘rock bottom’. Rock bottom for tobacco addicts is the mortal end game. There’s no going back.

        Again, cynicism about politicians aside, if price rises mean less people take up smoking and more give it up, then that’s OK by me.

        • Schütz says:

          Okay, now you are really going to say that I am “in denial”, but let me say to you that I am not “addicted” to tobacco. I like and enjoy smoking and don’t want to give it up. I think that tobacco is the best stuff to smoke, but that doesn’t mean that I am addicted to it.

          Yeah, yeah, yeah. Heard it all before, you say. Well let me give you some evidence.

          For the last twelve months – since the last hike in tax – I have been smoking a mixture of tobacco and tea, with an ever decreasing amount of tobacco in it. Currently the mix is about 30% tobacco to 70% tea. I find that the pipe smokes better if there is a mixture, otherwise I would happily use just tea. It would be much cheaper. I am currently experimenting with other herbs, but, as I am not the first to do this, I doubt I will come up with a herb that smokes as well as tobacco does.

          Secondly, I do not smoke every day, and a week or so ago I went 5 days without getting the opportunity of lighting up. It completely depends on my activity. If I am writing/reading I like to be smoking. If I am very busy on other things or with the family or don’t have a chance to go outside, I don’t smoke.

          I know what addiction is. I am addicted, for eg., to alcohol, which I really can’t go a day without. I am probably more addicted to caffeine than I am to tobacco. I like smoking. I want to smoke. I think tobacco is the best herb to smoke. I understand that other people don’t like smoking. That’s fair enough. I won’t smoke in your presence. Beyond that, what do you want of me?

          • Tony says:

            Since I was about 14 and up until my late 20s I smoked. Mostly it was small amounts and in the relatively pure form of tobacco rolled rather than packet smokes.

            I’d heard all the arguments then too and privately satisfied myself that my counter-arguments were completely rational and reasonable.

            Then came parenthood. Then I had to imagine what it would be like to desperately not want my kids to smoke and to show them by my actions that it was OK. I couldn’t rationalise away that risk (and, yes, it’s a risk not a certainty).

            On this issue, David, I have no right to ‘want’ anything from you. You asked though. I want you to stop pretending.

            It’s not just about your freedom. It’s about the consequences of you exercising what you regard as a freedom on the lives of others.

            I desperately hope that you never have to face this, David, but I invite you to imagine your child using your arguments to justify them taking up tobacco.

            It’s hard enough to deal with if you don’t smoke, but if you do, you have the added burden of trying to internally justify (let alone externally) the ‘do as I say not as I do’ mantra.

            Even (as I hope) that doesn’t happen, one way or another your kids are internalising somebody they love and admire harming themselves.

            You asked, David.

            • Schütz says:

              Fair enough. You were a child smoker who grew as an adult to understand that smoking tobacco was a harmful habit and you didn’t want your children to accuse you of being a hypocrite when you told them they shouldn’t smoke, so you gave up smoking. I completely respect that. Perfectly logical and rational, as well as honest.

              For myself, I made the decision to begin smoking at the age of 28. I understand the health risks, but I balance that off agains the enjoyment I receive from smoking my pipe. We have talked about this with the children on numerous occasions (they are a part of this present conversation). They understand that smoking is something that adults should be free to choose, and if – as adults – they chose to take up the practice, I will not reproach them (even though I may advise them on “good practice”). I would rather they lived in a world where they were free to make this decision than in a world where that freedom is not open to them.

              A big concern for me is that this attack on smoking is part of a bigger picture of a state and a society that has gotten its priorities incredibly skew-wiff, where certain rights and freedoms are being restricted or taken away and other faux “rights” are being created and enforced on us all. And both are being pushed by tricks of language, rhetoric and propaganda.

            • Tony says:

              You don’t understand the health risks, David. Your notion of ‘good habits’ is contemptuous.

              Again, you’ve invited us into your world of self-delusion and I find it distressing beyond words that your rationalisation is so powerful that you’ve allowed your kids into it.

              You may have the most benign addiction to tobacco imaginable, but for most it is a wicked curse. When you involve your kids, that’s the risk your taking with their lives.

              Most don’t operate on the ‘mature’ rationalisation of a 28 year old. They do it for all sorts of irrational adolescent reasons, but having a parent smoke — equipped with ideas of ‘good practice’ — is a potentially a powerful part of that suite of reasons.

              But, by all means, your ‘freedom’ to ‘enjoy’ trumps any such considerations!

              I’ve known plenty of smokers who are honest with themselves and faced the fact that they aren’t free at all, it’s an addiction. I respect them and have empathy for them. I know the struggle.

              But your quest for ‘freedom’ to ‘enjoy’ is neither worthy of respect or empathy.

              One of the ‘roads’ I began to travel on when I went through the process of giving up was facing up to my capacity to rationalise. It’s pretty confronting and it never really ends.

              There’s no doubt that it takes a kind of courage to go against the tide in the way you have, David, but the flip side of that is a determined blindness.

            • Schütz says:

              Fair enough, Tony. I simply repeat what I have already said: we live in a society where true rights and freedoms are being restricted or taken away and faux rights and freedoms are being imposed upon us. My stand on smoking is one way of saying I won’t be a part of that.

            • Tony says:

              I’m sorry to have been so blunt, David, but I will continue if I may.

              To marshal an argument about smoking into a broader argument about ‘true and faux rights’ is a poor as it is ironic.

              Let’s imagine a young woman using your logic of ‘freedom’ and ‘enjoyment’ to justify pre-marital sex. She ‘understands’ the risks and uses ‘good practice’, but she enjoys it and, besides, it is her way of standing up for personal freedom.

              You are a part of ‘that’, David.

            • Schütz says:

              True and false freedoms, Tony.

              Smoking is not a sin.

              We don’t penalise people who engage in sex outside of marriage any more

            • Tony says:

              How satisfying for you, David!

              Good luck prosecuting that argument with a young person who is not impressed with notions of ‘sin’. You’ll have to convince them of the merits of your argument without recourse to such (convenient) short cuts and that’s where your logic of ‘freedom’ and ‘enjoyment’ and ‘good practice’ come in.

              Beyond that, you insist you’re not addicted to a habit that is harmful. In other words you are freely choosing to inflict harm on your body for the sake of ‘enjoyment’.

              Do you want that as a benchmark for your kids?

              Surely we must aspire to more than a life of ‘not sinning’?

  3. Peregrinus says:

    Couple of thoughts:

    First, smokers aren’t uniquely singled out. It’s true that most goods and services attract a flat rate GST of 10% while tobacco products attract that plus heavy excise duties as well, but they’re not the only products to attract excise as well as GST.

    In Australia, excise is charged on beer and spirits (but, curiously, not wine), tobacco, petroleum products and fuel. In addition there’s a luxury car tax and a wine equalisation tax, which are strictly speaking not excise taxes, but they look a lot like them.

    Why these products? Well, the first thing we note is that the list of things subject to similar excise in other countries is, broadly, the same. The rates of excise may differ from country to country, but the idea that tobacco, grog and fuel attract extra taxes is not.

    I think there’s two things at work here:

    1. Puritanism. The notion that if it’s fun, it must be wicked, and therefore those who indulge in it must be punished. In a thoroughly puritan society, even those who indulge in the pleasure concerned accept the validity of this argument, and so the justice of the extra tax they pay. (So whatever else we may say about you, David, you’re not a puritan!) You can’t hope to find a clearer example of this that the US State of Nevada, where the list of excisable products is grog, tobacco, fuel – and prostitution. (5.5% excise on all transactions of prostitution, if you’re interested.)

    I think puritanism helps to explain why these taxes are acceptable, but it’s probably not the main reason why governments impose them.

    They impose them to raise revenue, of course, but why in particular grog, tobacco, etc? Well, partly for the reason just given, the voters will put up with this, but partly because of . . .

    2. Inelasticity of demand. Which is an obscure way of saying, you can put the price up, but people will still buy the stuff. So loading on the taxes doesn’t cannibalise the tax base as happens when, oh, I don’t know, you decide to tax employer-provided motor cars more heavily, and the fleet car business is decimated.

    There are lots of goods and services for which demand is inelastic. Groceries, for example, or rent. Typically, if the price of these things go up, people still consume nearly the same amount; they reduce their purchases of other things instead.

    Most goods of this class are seen by the public as necessities – groceries and rent again – and a special tax on them would be hugely unpopular. The dream product as far as the excise-men are concerned is a luxury good, but one which people will keep buying no matter what the price. Tobacco fits the bill. I’m not saying that consumption of tobacco is wholly unaffected by price rises – that’s clearly not true – but it’s much less affected by price rises than most other things. (Why? Because it’s addictive.)

    As for effects on health, from my days of hanging around insurance company actuaries, who have to get these things right or bankruptcy looms, I have to say that, yes, smoking is a [i]huge[/i] factor affecting both your life expectancy and the health costs you can expect to incur. After your age and your sex, your answer to the question “do you smoke” is going to affect your risk of both death and ill-health far more than any other question on the insurance proposal form.

    Of course, to the extent that consumption of tobacco is unaffected by price rises, loading on the ciggy taxes does nothing to improve health or life expectancy. But it does wonders for revenue.

    Nevertheless, purchases of tobacco are not the most heavily-taxed purchases made by Australian households. Vehicle fuel is, by a long measure. Then tobacco, and just behind tobacco is alcohol. Then another long gap, then vehicle purchases, followed by clothing and footwear. (Vehicles and clothing don’t attract excise, but they do attract customs duties, and most of the cars and clothes we buy are imported.)

    • Schütz says:

      Thanks, Perry. A useful perspective. I am particularly against fuel excise myself, as in the long run the costs trickle down to everything. It is very much a case of the Government “double dipping”.

    • Schütz says:

      And you are right, Perry. I don’t have a puritanical bone in my body.

    • Tony says:

      Hi Pere,

      While I agree in general with your observations and, again, repeat a cynicism about the motivations of politicians, here’s a further development of the view about the ‘inelasticty’ of tobacco:

      Despite debates on the finer points of theory and despite all these methodological limitations, there is no doubt that price exerts a profound impact on tobacco consumption.3 Falls in consumption following large price increases are consistently much more rapid and more significant than falls following implementation of most other tobacco-control policies, and the World Bank has stated that increasing tobacco taxes is the single most effective measure that governments can take to reduce health burdens.2 Increasing taxes on tobacco is a key plank in every major international tobacco-control strategy. (Ref: Price elasticity of demand for tobacco products)

      Presumably our pollies take comfort from the immediate positive hit on revenue with a warm fuzzy feeling of ‘doing good’ (in another budget cycle).

      In pure political terms, I await with fevered interest when the new Treasurer, Joe Hockey, reverses the price increase!

      • Schütz says:

        I too await the reverse. I don’t think they will reverse the 2010 hike, but they might drop the planned Rudd hike. Still, once again, I remain cynical and not optimistic. But if they were to make reversal of the planned hike a policy platform they could pick up an additional 10% of the vote…

        • Peregrinus says:

          Well, yes, tobacco demand is not totallyinsensitive to price rises, just less sensitive to them than demand for most other goods. In the long term – over the past generation, say – tobacco consumption has fallen substantially, and I suspect that’s related at least in part to the fact that the real cost has risen steadily. While today’s addict has little choice but to keep consuming, price rises might do as much as public information campaigns to stop people from starting in the first place. So as the older generation of smokers coughs and wheezes itself into the grave the new generation that replaces it is fewer in number.

          In a sense, it’s a win-win for the government. A tax rise produces at least short-to-medium term boosts in revenue, plus the political kudos/moral satisfaction of probably reducing the adverse consequences of smoking in the longer term.

          I wouldn’t get my hopes up, David. If the coalition win, I’d be surprised if they dropped this latest increase. Whichever party is in power, the government needs revenue, and if the coalition foreswears this particular revenue item they must either tax something else to replace it, or cut expenditure somewhere, or run up a bigger deficit than they otherwise would. And of course any or all of those might (and I suspect would) be more unpopular than just sticking with the already-announced hike in tobacco excise.

          Is all of this unfair to smokers? Not necessarily. Governments have to raise revenue, after all, and a tax system which relies on a diversity of taxes levied on a diversity of tax bases is stronger and more resilient (and more difficult to evade) than a once with just a few taxes levied on uniform bases. Hence excises, customs tarriffs, vehicle registration taxes and so forth can be justified. What’s the right balance between the various things that can be taxed? If a tax on tobacco is more acceptable to the electorate than a tax on, say, groceries or pay-tv subscriptions or eating in restaurants, in an accountable democracy isn’t that the ultimate test of fairness?

          • Tony says:

            I think if the Coalition was going to drop the price-rise we’d know by now, especially if they thought there was anything like a 10% increase in votes (which I think is fanciful).

            • Peregrinus says:

              Oh, no, there’s nothing like a 10% increase in votes in it; David was joking.

              On the figures he quotes in the OP, about 15% of the population smokes. Smokers are disproportionately represented in the lower socioeconomic groups, who also have a greater tendency to vote Labor, and an item of trivia that has lodged in my mind is that smokers’ political preferences break about 60/40 in favour of the ALP. So, of the 15%, about 9% vote Labor and 6% the Coalition.

              So, the Coalition could get nearly 10% more votes if every single Labor-voting smoker allowed his vote to be swayed by this. But unless you assume that they are all hopeless addicts whose every action is driven by a focus on the next fix, unless you assume that their choices are not at all swayed by concerns about workplace relations, or income tax, or asylum-seekers, or budget deficits, or whether they dislike Tony Abbot or Kevin Rudd more, that’s not a very realistic expectation. Especially if you agree with my thesis that their inner Puritans are telling them that it’s right that they should suffer this swingeing taxation, and they derive some obscure satisfaction or validation from being punished in this way.

  4. Matthias says:

    David whilst i stir smokers about how during training sessions i run i can tell who they are by their behaviours . Health costs are astronomical in smoking related illnesses. From a human rights perspective it is a wonder that smokers have not launched an action against the health cultists.
    wowsers was once a name associated with those protestants who were into temperance and the banning of playing games on sundays- i mean backyard games. i saw it once 10 years at a Presbyterian church where two boys kicked a football and an old man said “boys it is the Lord’s day”.
    so wowserism runs high in the Greens and Left ALP and in the antismoking lobbies-the will not admit their Christian antecedents

    • Tony says:

      I’m sure there are overlaps, Matthias, but I think you’re drawing a long bow or, at least, one that can’t really be demonstrated with solid evidence.

      I think, in principle there is a difference between wowserism which is scornful of pleasure (esp on the ‘Lord’s day’) and the kinds of health-related concerns of other groups.

      And if there is an identifiable ‘anti-smoking’ lobby it is certainly not confined to the ALP left or the Greens.

    • Peregrinus says:

      Actually, Matthias, another factoid that has lodged in the dustbin of my mind is that while smokers are overrepresented among ALP voters, they’re even more overrepresented among Green voters. Apparently, for a surprising number, concern for the environment is entirely compatible with disregard for your own lungs.

      There’s a very interesting dynamic that goes on at the intersection of morality, politics and smoking. The simplistic liberal orthodoxy is that, so long as what I do doesn’t harm others (or doesn’t harm them without their consent) then the community has no basis for intervening to change my behaviour. Hence the justifications articulated for things like tobacco taxes, the regulation of tobacco sales and restrictions on smoking tend to focus on the (financial) cost to the community of, e.g., treating smoking-related illnesses, suffering smoking-related reductions in labour productivity, etc.

      But these justifications don’t really stack up convincingly. For example, while the additional health costs the state bears on account of smoking are huge, the revenue from taxes on tobacco is huger – much huger. Smokers, in short, are a net contributor to the public health budget. And while there are, of course, costs to smoking other than the public health costs – e.g. costs borne by the employers of smokers – tobacco tax revenues don’t usually flow back to the people on whom those costs fall.

      The reaction to this, if you are a libertarian who believes in and supports the simplistic libertarian orthodoxy, is to denounce anti-smoking measures as evidence of the “nanny state”, or – if you’re a convinced ideologue with no sense of proportion – to compare them to Nazi measures, as I-forget-who did in the Australian last week.

      But those who are uncomfortable with the simplistic liberal orthodoxy (and that should include Christians, I think) should spot an opportunity here. The fact is that moral views do influence public policy on, and public attitudes to, smoking, and anti-smoking measures. But nobody talks about this because we have to pretend that It’s All About The Money, this being the Only Proper Concern Of The State. Perhaps what we should be doing is encouraging people to acknowledge that, yes, moral views about how we should live are playing a role here, and always have done, and perhaps try to springboard from there to a more open discussion about what that role is, what it ought to be, and whether, deep down, the simplistic liberal orthodoxy is really tenable, or is consistent with how public affairs work in the real world. Because this isn’t an issue that is relevant only to policy about smoking.

      • Schütz says:

        You’ve lost me, Perry. But thanks for making one point, ie. the revenue from tobacco taxes is way out of proportion to any “cost” to the public health system

        • Peregrinus says:

          Well, yes, the revenue from tobacco taxes is way out of proportion to tobacco-related public health costs.

          But why should that be a problem? After all, the revenue from, say, stamp duty on the purchase and sale of houses and land is way out of proportion to the cost of maintaining the register of land titles. But even those who object to stamp duty, or consider it too high, would not advance this as a serious argument for lowering or abolishing duties. There is no reason to expect any particular link between these two amounts.

          So why would we see such a link as relevant when it comes to tobacco taxes? This comes back to the point which I perhaps have not put very clearly. There is a discrepancy between the reasons we articulate for imposing or accepting tobacco taxes, and the reasons which actually motivate us to impose or accept them. People talk about public health costs as a justification for tobacco taxes because, for whatever reasons, they are unable, unwilling or uncomfortable to talk about the reasons which actually motivate them. We don’t like to talk about the role that collective moral judgments play in public affairs, because the neoliberal orthodoxy is that they should play no role. Things like tobacco taxes illustrate that, while we pay lip service to the neoliberal orthodoxy or at least refrain from explicitly challenging it, when it comes to what we do rather than what we say we don’t respect that orthodoxy.

          • Schütz says:

            Which is to say, Perry, that if we are honest, this whole thing is motivated a) by the need to raise revenue, and b) by a “collective moral judgment” against smokers. The latter makes (what I regard as) the “injustice” of proposal acceptable. If smoking is an immoral act which (in the judgment of our society) should be eliminated entirely, then let this be said and let fair measures be taken to stop it, eg. banning all imports of tobacco from tomorrow – an easy legal step that would do the job over night but would also mean an enormous hole in the budget. But let it be known that as far as the Church is concerned, smoking is not (per se) a sin. Ie. It is not “immoral”, and should not be the target of “collective moral judgment”. Good grief: there are plenty of others out there getting sympathy at the moment for the decades or centuries of “collective moral judgement” against them. Such judgement hasn’t gone away, it has simply found a new target.

            • Tony says:

              Is it safe to assume that your logic could just as legitimately applied to dope or heroin, David?

              Are you just as concerned that individuals who, are ‘aware of the risks’ and use ‘good practice’, are being treated ‘unjustly or unfairly’?

            • Schütz says:

              Well, that all depends. The Catechism says:

              2291 The use of drugs inflicts very grave damage on human health and life. Their use, except on strictly therapeutic grounds, is a grave offense. Clandestine production of and trafficking in drugs are scandalous practices. They constitute direct co-operation in evil, since they encourage people to practices gravely contrary to the moral law.

              Oddly enough, nicotine and caffeine and alcohol, though all technically “drugs”, do not appear to come under the Church’s condemnation in the way that other mind altering, addictive and health damaging drugs do. I am not entirely sure for the reason for this. Yet the use of “drugs” in the paragraph is said to be “gravely contrary to the moral law”, whereas smoking and drinking are matters elsewhere in the Catechism where “moderation” is counselled. Moderation is never counselled in the case of grave moral evils.

              Isn’t that interesting?

            • Tony says:

              The use of drugs inflicts very grave damage on human health and life. Their use, except on strictly therapeutic grounds, is a grave offense.

              And your position is that because the CCC doesn’t include smoking in this pretty unambiguous moral position, it’s just fine?

              Even more than that, to charge a duty (beyond a certain, unspecified, point) is ‘unjust and unfair’?

              If smoking is a drug — and you seem to acknowledge it is — and if it ‘inflicts very grave damage on human health and life’ and if it is not used in ‘therapeutic’ context, why isn’t it a ‘grave offence’?

              Does it become an ‘offence’ when it’s a packet cigarette and not a pipe? Or does it become and ‘offence’ when it’s more than a certain amount of tobacco per day?

              Presumably, because the CCC doesn’t say so, smoking is never an ‘offence’ in the moral sense?

            • Schütz says:

              Well, I don’t know, Tony. I am just saying that the Church’s teaching at the moment on drugs such as caffeine, alcohol and nicotine is that these do not involve a grave moral evil. Is smoking tea (which is what I am doing right now – not a bit of tobacco in the pipe) a moral evil? Tea (smoked) is not a drug. But is when it is drunk? Should we adopt the Seventh Day Adventist position and ban alcohol and caffeine as well as nicotine? My mum thinks that you can get “tea poisoning” from drinking too much tea. Perhaps you can. Has there been any study done into the damage that drinking tea does? Even if it does some or just a little rather than a lot, should we not reject its use except for “therapeutic” reasons? Perhaps tea drinking should also be declared a “grave moral evil”.

            • Tony says:

              Seriously David, I don’t think you’d be that happy using your logic if it wasn’t for the fact that you have an addiction yourself.

              At best it’s resorting to the morality of a check list, and what’s not on it at a particular time, rather than aspiring to a positive moral principle.

              I posed a number of ‘ifs’ in response to principle you quoted from the CCC. You haven’t said how they don’t apply to smoking. Unlike alcohol and coffee the best science tells us — and has been telling it for years — that there’s no minimum consumption that is not harmful.

              Not only that, people who don’t actively consume it are potentially harmed by being in proximity of tobacco smoke.

              Again, despite what I’ve written in this string, I have genuine sympathy for smokers, most of whom (according to stats I can’t lay my hands on right now) want to give it up, and the struggle they have with a powerful foe. I’ve been there.

              But it’s another thing again to defend it.

            • Peregrinus says:

              Well, all taxes are motivated to some extent – and usually to a very large extent – by the desire to raise revenue. Pointing this out is not really a coherent or weighty objection to a tax, unless you are a libertarian anarchist who believes that revenue-raising is inherently immoral.

              And as for a “collective moral judgment against smokers”, I’d put it slightly differently. It’s a collective moral judgment about smoking.

              And moral judgments play a large role in tax policy, if only because tax plays a large role in the choices people make about how they behave and live, and policymakers know this. So tax is used to influence people’s behaviour.

              Couple of examples:

              You get more favourable tax treatment if some of your remuneration is directed into superannuation rather than taken in the form of immediate salary. Partly this is motivated by a desire to relieve the public purse of the obligation of providing you with an age pension, but there are much wider social reasons for this which have nothing to do with balancing the federal budget. The labour market is more efficient and more flexible if people are free (financially) to retire at an age when their productivity, efficiency and appetite for work might be declining. It’s regarded as socially desirable if working adults are free to devote resources to maintaining their dependent children, without having to maintain their dependent parents, maiden aunts, etc. as well. Individuals benefit from having the financial freedom to retire if they choose, and they still benefit from this even if in fact their choice is not to retire. And so forth.

              Whether you agree with these reasons or not, the point is that the tax treatment of superannuation is a deliberate, conscious attempt to influence the choices people make with regard to consumption and saving. You could argue that it’s their choice to weigh up and their choice to make, and the state should not be attempting to tilt the balance one way or the other, and therefore you should pay the same tax regardless of how much of your income you spend and how much you put into super. But your argument is not one that is accepted by those who make our tax laws.

              Another example; if you spend your money acquiring a larger, finer family home, you pay no capital gains tax on any profit realised from that investment. Spend it on acquiring any other asset, however, and you will pay CGT on the sale of that asset. This obviously encourages people to invest in their home rather than in other assets, and helps to explain why our homes are both among the largest, and among the most expensive, in the western world. Whether this is a good social policy or a bad one is debatable, but it’s undeniable that it’s a social policy; an attempt to influence people’s investment decisions.

              And excise duties on luxuries and/or harmful goods is of course an ancient tradition. Remember the sharp rise in taxes on alcopops a few years back? You can debate the effectiveness of that measure, but I don’t recall anybody (apart from the distillers) objecting that discouraging the consumption of alcopops was not a proper objective of government.

              Public policy is largely about making ethical choices – choices about how we, as a community, ought to act – and here we’re dealing with a particular ethical choice, which is the extent to which we, as a community, ought collectively to influence individual ethical choices.

              So the fiction that we don’t think it’s proper for the state to attempt to influence individual ethical choices is just that; a fiction. We do think it’s proper. The state does it all the time, and most of us support most of those attempts. The tax system is just one mechanism by which we do this, but there is also the benefits system, the criminal law, and many other instruments of public policy.

              Swingeing tobacco taxes, in short, are not exceptional, or a departure, or a unique response to a perceived problem. They are one of countless examples of the state attempting to influence individuals’ behavioural choices in all areas of life, by a variety of legal and administrative mechanisms. So if you’re going to object to it, it’s not enough to say that the state is attempting to impose a moral view on the individual; that’s pretty much what the state does all the time. You need to articulate an argument about why this particular moral view is not one that a state ought to impose, either because it’s flat-out wrong (“smoking is harmless, and measures which presume its harmfulness are objectively unjustified”) or because smoking decisions are in a class of moral decisions which the state has no business to influence (like freedom of religious belief, say).

      • Peter says:

        I suspect the Greens smoke something other than tobacco Pere.

        • Peregrinus says:

          Perhaps! But it’s worth pointing out that Davids’s arguments against restrictions on smoking tobacco apply equally to restrictions against smoking something other than tobacco – a point which is not lost on the Greens, I feel.

  5. Louise says:

    David, I empathise. The bastard politicians do this because they can get away with it. My husband informed me (but I haven’t had a chance to verify it – I think he read it in the Australian) that they recently passed a law to permit them to simply confiscate savings from people whose accounts were inactive (not used for a year). Money lying around? Belongs to the politicians. Smokers *are* hated and therefore nobody cares about the money the government wants to take from them but then, nobody seems to care much when they just confiscate it out of banks either! What we know about our politicians is simply that they want all our money. That’s it.

    Fat people are hated too. I suppose they’ll be taxing us all soon on our extra kilos.

    • Schütz says:

      Have you seen this one?

      Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has announced parents who choose not to have their children vaccinated will miss out on thousands of dollars in tax benefits.Speaking at Westmead Hospital in Sydney, Mr Rudd announced that those who do not vaccinate their children will not get the Family Tax Benefit A end-of-year supplement.The payment is worth $726 per child, per year and is paid when children are vaccinated at one, two and five years of age.Labor will shut off the payment to conscientious objectors, who can currently still claim the tax benefit if they register.

      http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-08-18/labor-to-cut-tax-benefit-for-parent-who-don27t-immunise-childr/4894390

      My wife has been a conscientious objector all her life. Our kids are not immunised. But now – because we are ‘risking their health and the health of others’ the Government thinks that they can get away with not paying us what everyone else gets. Looks the same tactic to me.

      Fine if you are not a smoker or a concientious objector against immunisation. They “deserve it”. Just wait till they find something that affects you.

      • Tony says:

        Immunisation is not just about individuals, David.

        It works when an optimum number in the population is immunised.

        If you don’t meet that optimum number, it is difficult to eradicate the disease. On that basis your decision (not sure why it is just your wife’s issue) not to immunise potentially has consequences for others.

        Not that I’m a great fan of injecting chemicals into me, mind, but there comes a point where the slight risk to an individual is outweighed by the benefit of eradicating terrible diseases. In other words, to borrow from the theme of this string, it becomes an issue of justice and fairness for all Australians.

        Is the mechanism of withdrawing a payment a ‘just and fair’ way of encouraging the uptake of immunisation? Not sure. But I see no evidence of a ‘they deserve it’ motivation.

        On the matter of confiscating savings, the measure, as I understand it, brings forward what already existed from 7 years to 3 years and confiscated accounts can be reclaimed (with interest) on proof of ownership.

        On principle at least, it seems to me that genuinely inactive accounts are better in the hands of the government than the banks.

        • Schütz says:

          You truly scare me, Tony. Remind me not to vote for you.

          • Tony says:

            It ‘scares me’ that you’d risk the health of your children and the health of other children too, David.

            On the matter of voting, I’m not in the race and, as I understand it, the likely winner, Tony Abbott, ‘commends the government’ on the immunisation issue.

        • Louise says:

          Two words: Private. Property.

          • Louise says:

            Oz Politicians: All Your Buck$ Are Belong To Us.

            • Tony says:

              Us Louise?

              Given that we’re talking about unclaimed accounts, is the ‘us’ the banks or the government?

              There appears to be provision for the owner of the ‘private property’ to claim it back, so ‘us’ is protected.

              Again, I’m talking about the principle. There may be a reasonable case for the mechanism — and changes to it — to be criticized, but I can’t see how a pithy ‘Private. Property’ is a counter argument.

            • Louise says:

              We’re not talking about “unclaimed” accounts Tony, we’re talking about inactive accounts. Not the same thing. Sorry.

            • Tony says:

              I’m not sure there is a difference in terms of what we’re discussing, Louise.

              At some stage an inactive account becomes an unclaimed account.

              The question is when. Unless you’re saying never, then a decision about when and, notwithstanding criticisms about that decision, my view is that ‘property’ is best in the hands of the government than the bank.

      • Peregrinus says:

        “Looks the same tactic to me.”

        It is the same tactic. They are trying to influence your behaviour through financial incentives and disincentives, as opposed to through compulsion, and the criminal law.

        The question is, why is this objectionable? This is the kind of thing that governments do all the time. The criminal code represents the behaviours which the governments seeks to compel through the use of force. It take up, I don’t know, maybe 2% or 3% of the statute book? The remaining 97% or 98% of the statute book represents the government’s attempts to influence your behaviour through less extreme measures, such as giving you a financial interest in behaving the way they would like you to behave.

        “Fine if you are not a smoker or a concientious objector against immunisation. They “deserve it”. Just wait till they find something that affects you.”

        They’ve found lots of things that affect me. They’ve found lots of things that affect all of us.

        The challenge that you’re conspicuously not attempting to meet, David, is to say why, when it comes to cigarettes and vaccinations, the government’s attempts to secure particular outcomes through manipulating the financial consequences of behaviour is uniquely awful. I honestly don’t see why you think it is.

      • Louise says:

        I did hear about this immunisation issue, David, and although my children are immunised, I have very grave concerns about this kind of punishment being meted out on conscientious objectors. Where does this kind of thing end? I don’t like it at all.

        • Tony says:

          Where will it end?

          Again, there’s a ‘social’ good here. If enough people decide that they want to opt out of immunization then at some point the whole process is compromised for everyone.

          So the risk or ‘punishment’ applies to the whole community — particularly the children not vaccinated! The more of them there are, the more they are at risk and the harder it is to eliminate the disease.

          I think that watching old footage of children who contracted polio, for example, puts notions of ‘punishment’ into perspective.

      • Joshua says:

        What?! David, I have overlooked – cough, cough – your pipe-smoking, but to find out that your children are not immunized is altogether too much. I have often remarked to others that parents who don’t immunize their children should have them taken away and given to childless couples who would care for them sufficiently to immunize them! But I suppose I was exaggerating, slightly…

        • Joshua says:

          One of the greatest triumphs of medicine has been to eradicate smallpox, that dreadful scourge, and – in much of the world – such terrors as lockjaw and all the rest: all by means of immunisation. I reject as perverse pseudo-science all attempts to argue that immunization is anything other than a great blessing, and frankly one that should be compulsory; I would have no compunctions whatsoever about having it enforced even against the wishes of the person or responsible adult concerned, just as I would regard as piffle to be rejected any mad opposition to blood transfusions. Next you will tell us you have grave doubts about fluoridation of the water supply…

          • Tony says:

            Your comments are even more strident than mine, Joshua. How ‘scary’ are you, I wonder?

            • Joshua says:

              I am a rather irascible and judgemental person, Tony, but I daresay you’ve guessed as much!

              It does worry me greatly that our dear friend David’s children are not immunized – this puts them in danger of serious illness.

              I have probably been (as usual) tactless and so forth in saying what I have, but it really does concern me greatly on their behalf.

              Forgive me, David, but please carefully reconsider – for their sake.

            • Schütz says:

              No offense taken, Josh. You are not a father or a husband. Tony is both, I understand. The decision not to immunize our daughters in their infancy was my wife’s, not mine, but I fully respected her decision. My children are not in immanent danger. In fact their whole childhood has been remarkably healthy compared to that of many immunized children I know.

              The concern is that, at a very tender age, we introduce deadly diseases into our children’s system. I know this has had the demonstrated historical fact of practically wiping out certain nasty diseases among immunized populations and has thus been an overall good. However there is no proof that having a small number of unimmunised children in a population from which these diseases have been eradicated causes any danger either to them or others in the community. (It may be that newcomers to Australia could pose such a threat – different matter). Therefore the right of parents to decide whether they want their child to have these diseases introduced into their system should be upheld. My daughters have both had measles – that is commonly immunized against with little effect. They have both had tetanus shots – due to cuts and animal bites later in life. If they were to travel overseas they would be immunized. If they want to get flu shots they can (altho what hood foes this do – the flu just adapts). But I have often seen for myself how little babies become quite ill after their shots, and it does make me wonder if it is quite necessary to do this to perfectly healthy babies in a perfectly healthy population. It is a bit like arming every citizen with a gun in a time of peace because we just might be invaded. And whatever else you may think – and this goes for blood transfusions and vaccinations for cervical cancer too – the right of parents to decide on medical treatment of the children is to be upheld.

            • Joshua says:

              I did write in haste and amazement; do forgive me.

            • Tony says:

              We could waste many bites arguing the science, both in terms of the efficacy of vaccinations and the importance high population compliance. The fact that the science is overwhelming will make little difference if you don’t want to listen and you counter with anecdote.

              The bottom line here is that, as important as vaccinations are regarded by the government and almost all scientists, no rights have been taken away.

              The mechanism for this is the withdrawal of a benefit. The benefit is not a right and, as Pere concludes, you haven’t made a case against the principle of governments seeking to influence social behaviour.

            • Joshua says:

              Now that I learn that they have received at least one immunization, and that if they were to go overseas they would prudently receive more ere they go into greater danger, I feel much relieved! Sorry, but non-vaccination is one of my pet peeves…

              I suppose parents should have some remaining rights over their offspring… ;-)

  6. Louise says:

    Personally, I *loathe* any health-related topic. Health fanaticism is really appalling and it is virulent. Oddly enough, hardly anyone wants to promote chastity for the sake of health. (An older generation of atheists could see the value in chastity – not any more).

    • Joshua says:

      As I mentioned to David the other day, isn’t it amazing how no mention of the perils accruing from (mis)use of certain organs is tolerated (imagine the outrage if rates of various unpleasant diseases were compared to extramarital relations of various sorts natural and unnatural), but to breathe in tobacco smoke is known to all as reprehensible?

      • Louise says:

        I agree. It’s morally repugnant, this double standard.

      • Tony says:

        I’m not entirely sure what you’re getting at in the first point of comparison, Joshua, but to compare it to the harmfulness of smoking seems to be arbitrary.

        On the second issue, clearly the author of ‘this ‘ere blog’ is a demonstrable exception to your ‘known to all as reprehensible’ rule as are probably most smokers.

        Or maybe not. I seem to remember reading somewhere that most smokers say they want to give up. If so that makes the author of ‘this ‘ere blog’ even more exceptional. }:-)

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