Two pieces on Rudd’s tobacco cash grab

Two excellent pieces appear in today’s Australian on the Rudd government’s massive tobacco excise hike.

The first is this incredibly hard-hitting piece by Adam Creighton:

ADOLF Hitler lost the war but his campaign to eradicate smoking and unhealthy eating is still being vigorously waged the world over.

The Rudd government’s decision to ratchet up tobacco excise by another 25 per cent is a cynical cash grab, mainly at the expense of the country’s poorest. But it is surely a supreme irony that it is being sold with the same flawed economic and moral arguments that underpinned Nazi Germany’s policies to stamp out smoking.

German doctors were the first to discover a link between tobacco smoking and cancer in the 1930s. National Socialism declared cancer “the number one enemy”. Along with a passion for the natural environment, the Fuhrer hated smoking — a relic of the sort of decadent liberal lifestyle that undermined the health of the “volk”.

In measures foreshadowing Australia’s own “pioneering” efforts to reduce smoking, Nazi Germany cracked down on cigarette advertising, banned smoking at work, in government offices, and ultimately on buses and trains too.

The Reich itself exhorted Germans to change: “Food is not a private matter” and “You have a duty to be healthy” blared from government placards.

Today’s healthy living crusaders, roused into excitement by any tax or ban that might ostensibly improve people’s health, most obviously do not adhere to the other heinous tenets of National Socialism. But they do share its bizarre and sometimes shrill desire to curtail others’ eating and leisure habits, supposedly in the interests of the individuals concerned and the greater public good.

And then there’s this excellent piece by Nick Cater on the real costs of smoking:

Far from costing the community $31.5bn, as Rudd claimed, the evidence seems to support the advice to the fictional prime minister Jim Hacker in the series Yes, Prime Minister.

His secretary Sir Humphrey says banning smoking would leave the government out of pocket, since cigarette taxes paid a third of the cost of the National Health Service. “We are saving many more lives than we otherwise could because of those smokers who voluntarily lay down their lives for their friends,” Sir Humphrey said. “Smokers are national benefactors.”

Both pieces are well worth reading in full.

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