Aus. Gov. fail at deterring Smokers

So it all began when our good old Prime Minister was being pressured to increase cigarette prices:

The Prime Minister last night outlined the looming threat of an ageing population, warning that the rising cost of health would outstrip the states’ ability to raise taxes within two decades.

Quit Victoria executive director Fiona Sharkey told The Australian Online today that lifting the price of cigarettes would save lives.

“It is the single biggest thing we can do to bring smoking down. It cuts consumption and it cuts the number of people who smoke,” she said.

Source: The Australian (25th January 2010)

And the results…

The excise increase, which will help fund the government’s health reforms, will be short of that required to lift the price of a packet of cigarettes to $20, as recommended by the government’s Preventative Health Taskforce.

There was speculation last night that the excise increase would add at least $2-$3 to a pack of 25.

The excise increase, which will help fund the government’s health reforms, will be short of that required to lift the price of a packet of cigarettes to $20, as recommended by the government’s Preventative Health Taskforce.
There was speculation last night that the excise increase would add at least $2-$3 to a pack of 25.

And even more results…

From January 1, 2012, all brands of cigarettes will be sold in plain boxes. The boxes will be the same colour and carry large, graphic health warnings. The brand of the cigarette will appear in a small font. The font style and size, as well as the position of the brand will be uniform.

Source: SMH (29th April, 2010)

So to sum it up, the Australian government is fighting smoking by

  1. Raising prices of all cigarettes to up to $20 (RM60!) per pack
  2. Making all cigarette packaging plain

So let’s look at this objectively.

First of all, raising the prices to curb smoking seems to be one of the most inefficient methods ever. Not only do smokers have other options (such as rolling their own cigarettes or purchasing from illegal markets) but this ‘solution’ will also have an negative effect on several non-smokers.

The first of which are shopkeepers of tobacconist stores or  convenience stores: I think it’s obvious that the profits of these stores along with their job security will be affected. Instead of stopping smokers, this will just make the majority of smokers turn to another source which is usually illegal and from an external market – It’s interesting how the Government has not looked at the effects of this decision on these small Australian businesses.

Another obvious issue is the matter of freedom of choice. Smoking can both be a social choice or a personal preference. It is not unheard of for a person to feel a sense of confidence with a cigarette in their hand, hence the social smoker. Nor is it a sin to enjoy the flavour of a cigarette. By using cost as a deterrent, the raised taxes on cigarettes seems to only be targeted on those with less money anyway.

Finally, this is like increasing the price of contraceptives to curb pre-marital sex – But the consequences of this are much more obvious, an uncontrollable increase in the population. Increased cigarette prices on the other hand, may not scream consequences immediately. But a smoker has two choices: (a) continue buying cigarettes at the new increased price; (b) stop smoking. With option (a), those that do not have much money will sacrifice their spending other everyday requirements (which can be food, drinks, leisure, etc.) hence the Government isn’t curbing and is rather punishing. Option (b) will result in smokers being forced to stop their addiction – Everyone knows that the most effective method of quitting smoking is when a personal choice is made. It is not up to anyone else to decide whether or not they should quit and by doing so, there will definitely be friction in this process. Being cut-off from this addiction will incur negative feelings such as stress, fatigue and/or frustration – Will this not affect the workforce of Australia?

The change to the packaging is just plain silly. It limits cigarette manufacturers from marketing their brands hence saving them money. The government feels that people smoke due to the colourful packing – Yet have they not realized that within the packaging, every cigarette looks practically the same (with the exception of Pall Mall having some designs on it)?

All in all, there are a lot of disadvantages in making this decision. The government has not considered several issues and I am sure that eventually these will come up.

Keep up the good work, Rudd. First the Internet Censor and now this. Why did I vote for you?

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