Nanny State

Now the wowsers want a tax on soft drinks


Last week they were calling for an increase in the the drinking age, this week our friendly neighborhood Nanny Statists want a tax on soft drinks.

ABC News reports on a research from the Obesity Policy Coalition, the Cancer Council and Diabetes Victoria calling for a 20 per cent tax on soft drinks:

“Even a small change in consumption can have a big impact over time; a small change in body mass index and weight can have a big impact on someone’s health outcomes,” Jane Martin, from the Obesity Policy Coalition said.

“This would have a bigger impact on people who are high consumers, so particularly young people, and they’re more price sensitive.

“The potential to change behaviour in adolescents … who are high consumers, drink a lot of soft drink, that can be very impactful because that can take them through the rest of their life and change habits early.”

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Sydney shuts down, Melbourne opens up


In the age-old battle between Australia’s two capital cities, it is pretty clear who is winning on the nightlife front.

In February, Freelancer Chief Executive Matt Barrie had some very harsh words about Sydney nightlife:

As I write this in 2016, not a day goes by without the press reporting of yet another bar, club, hotel, restaurant or venue closing…

It is now illegal to buy a bottle of wine after 10pm in the City of Sydney because not a single one of us is to be trusted with any level of personal responsibility…

Likewise it is now illegal to have a scotch on the rocks after midnight in the City of Sydney because someone might die

Most damaging of all a 1:30am curfew where you cannot enter a licensed premises, which deliberately aims to kill the trade of any business that operates at night.

Meanwhile in Melbourne, Lord Mayor Robert Doyle announced today his support for 24-hour liquor licences:

Cr Doyle supports a partial extension of opening hours into the early morning at smaller venues and those serving food.

But he said a return to the days of 24-hour beer barns was not on the cards: each venue would be judged on its merits.

All-night public transport was changing the way the city worked at the weekend, and Cr Doyle said the city needed to prepare for extended hours “and move towards a real 24-hour city”.

The contrast could not be more stark.


Leyonhjelm on the consequences of lockout laws


NSW LDP senator David Leyonhjelm eloquently explains in today’s Australian Financial Review the disastrous effects of his state’s lockout laws:

… [J]ob losses and venue closures in Kings Cross since the lockout laws have been staggering: a third of licensed venues in the area have closed. The rest are hanging on by a thread, hoping the NSW government will see sense. And it’s not just the pubs, nightclubs and dens of iniquity that are suffering. Restaurants, shops and newsagents are also closing.

Hundreds of people have lost their jobs and many others have experienced significant reductions in working hours. Such changes have the greatest impact on the most prominent demographic represented among nightlife employees: young people.

What makes it worse is that it is not at all clear that lockout laws are a permanent solution to the problem of alcohol-related violence. A 2014 Australian Institute of Criminology study concluded that lockout laws have mixed or uncertain results. In Melbourne their implementation in 2008 led to an increase in assaults between midnight and 4am, and they were ditched three months later.

… If 200 people in an ailing car factory were about to lose their jobs, politicians would be angling for taxpayer subsidies to prop up their employer. By contrast, hospitality, tourism, and sex workers are apparently expendable while their employers – pubs, bars, restaurants, strip-clubs – are written off as “vested interests”.

Read more here.


Lockout laws punish many for the sins of a few

Australian_masthead_resizedMy colleague Simon Breheny on New South Wales’ controversial lockout laws:

“They are a giant hammer that has been used to smash not only those who have done the wrong thing but also a whole range of other patrons who do the right thing and a whole range of businesses,” Breheny says.

“There was a far more targeted response that would have achieved better outcomes than broad, general-application laws . It has had a devastating impact on (the city’s) night-life and culture, and that is a very sad thing.” Breheny, who is also director of the Institute of Public Affairs’ Legal Rights Project, wants to see the laws replaced by more targeted measures and a greater police presence.

He says the crackdown in Kings Cross and the CBD has simply propelled revellers into suburbs such as Newtown, Pyrmont and Double Bay, which are not as well equipped for crowds.

Read the full report here ($)


Fifty years since Victorians stopped having to skol their beers

This month marks the 50th anniversary of the end of the six o’clock swill in Victoria.

Laws to close pubs at 6pm had been introduced in most states as a temporary measure during the First World War on the basis of helping the war effort. However, as with so many temporary regulations, it stayed in place even after the original rationale had passed. Arguments by the temperance movement for tighter restrictions on the operating hours of hotels had been gathering strength from the 1890s and, once early closing had been implemented, the wowsers fought hard to keep it.

Of course, in practice six o’clock closing did not reduce the amount of alcohol being consumed. It just meant that large quantities of beer were drunk in an unnaturally short period of time, hardly an ideal way for alcohol to be consumed. For half a century, Australians would head straight to the pub as soon as they knocked off work and, standing several deep at the public bar, get through everyone’s shout by 6pm. It certainly made doing overtime a particularly unappealing proposition.

After the passing of the six o’clock swill, 10pm closing became the Australian norm until, in the 1980s, further liberalisation took place. However, we should not imagine that the swill is just a historic curiosity. Many of the same forces which fought to keep the swill can still be heard today, challenging the right to have a drink.


The cost of ageing in the Nanny State

A discussion paper from Christopher Snowdon at UK’s Institute of Economic Affairs published this week looks at the costs associated with an ageing population. This excerpt, from the introduction, highlights the flaws in the oft-used argument that restrictions on unhealthy habits will save taxpayers in healthcare costs:

If healthy lifestyles lead to longer lives and higher costs, it might be expected that unhealthy lifestyles lead to shorter lives and fewer costs. Nobody would advocate unhealthy lifestyles on the basis that they save money, but if the issue is reduced to cold financial facts this is a logical conclusion to draw. However, quite the opposite conclusion would be reached by reading the popular press and listening to public health campaigners. It is routinely claimed that groups with lower life expectancy, particularly smokers and the obese, are a ‘drain on the taxpayer’ because of the costs of treating smoking and obesity-related diseases. The clear implication is that expenditure on public services would be lower if there was less smoking and less obesity.

… There is no doubt that lifestyle-related illnesses require healthcare expenditure. The real question is whether these costs are higher than the longevity-related costs associated with ageing, not only to the NHS but to the government as a whole, including the social security system. The aim of this discussion paper is to find an answer to that question.

You can read Snowdon’s answer to that question here.


Australian Medical Association takes dangerous position on e-cigarettes

France Europe Tobacco

The Australian Medical Association today released an updated position statement on tobacco and e-cigarettes. Or should that be e-cigarettes and tobacco? Because tobacco is no longer the lead concern for the AMA. E-cigs are now the main game. Here’s an excerpt from the AMA’s media release:

AMA President, Professor Brian Owler, said the AMA wants the Federal Government to work with the States and Territories to introduce nationally-consistent controls and restrictions on the marketing and advertising of E-cigarettes.

“While some States have taken a strong stance on E-Cigarettes, others have not, which sends conflicting messages to consumers,” Professor Owler said.

“The AMA is concerned that E-Cigarettes are particularly appealing to young people, and the marketing of these products builds on this appeal.

“The promotion of E-Cigarettes to young people as recreational products has the potential to undermine tobacco control efforts, and normalise the act of smoking.

“The AMA believes that E-Cigarettes should not be sold to anyone under 18 years of age.

“E-Cigarettes should not be marketed as smoking cessation aids, because this is not currently supported by evidence.

Here’s what’s telling about the AMA’s e-cigarette concerns.

The most important issue in the e-cigarette debate is whether they help smokers to quit. They do. Study after study after study has shown this to be the case. But this isn’t the first issue addressed by the AMA. It’s revealing that the AMA prefers to focus on regulatory differences at the state level (yes – Australia is a federation), and the suggestive idea that e-cigarettes are ‘appealing to young people’.

Even if there’s doubt about the evidence, the decision about whether to use e-cigarettes is a voluntary one, and the AMA has no place lobbying for laws that restrict their use on the basis of uncertainty.


Live betting ban paternalistic and pointless


Rick Wallace at The Australian has a report on the federal government’s review into illegal offshore wagering today, which features recent analysis undertaken by Chris Berg and I:

In a submission to the review, the Institute of Public ­Affairs has urged Mr O’Farrell to make in-play betting legal by repealing the Howard-era ban on betting live via the internet. “The ban on ‘live’ or ‘in the run’ betting is technologically ­illiterate and easy to avoid,” IPA researchers Chris Berg and Simon Breheny write. “Techniques that firms have used to arbitrage around the legislative framework demonstrate the weakness of legislative controls.

“Live betting offers consumers more choice, greater participation in spectator sport and the opportunity to manage betting risk more responsibility.”

The IPA also rejects the push from the betting industry in Australia to ban punters from accessing overseas betting sites, calling it “a form of rent seeking”. It ­believes moves to force internet service providers to block overseas gambling sites is a form of protectionism and censorship.

“Restrictions on online betting … are paternalistic and unjustifiable on liberal democratic grounds. Policymakers cannot assume that imposing their scepticism of the benefits of gambling is a reflection of the actual preferences of consumers,” it says.

Read our submission here.


On e-cigs, it’s don’t ask; don’t question; just ban and regulate


We already know that in Australia, it’s ban first, don’t bother questioning later. If they were to ask, they might learn many things:

There have been hundreds of studies testing the quality and safety of e-cigarettes. Any search in a medical journal database yields countless results. Some people have even helpfully summarised and provided links to the various studies, and published them online (like this one covering the hundreds of studies published in 2014 and 2015).

Studies which show that for current smokers, e-cigarettes are a significantly beneficial. Last month, more evidence came out challenging the consensus that e-cigarettes entice users to take up cigarettes. From Reason:

never-smokers rarely become regular vapers… there is no evidence that never-smokers who vape are therefore more likely to become smokers or that the rising popularity of e-cigarettes has given a boost to conventional cigarettes. To the contrary, vaping and smoking rates are moving in opposite directions.

That is why it is so sad to see the growth in the US e-cigarette market slowing significantly. The reason is predictable; confusion propagated by public health experts, and the regulatory regimes that follow:

The industry also is awaiting final rules from the Food and Drug Administration, which could require federal approval for nearly all flavored liquid nicotine juices and e-cig devices.

“That’s creating stagnation,” said Dimitris Agrafiotis, chief operations officer at Mountain Oak Vapors, referring to the relative safety of his products when compared to cigarettes. “We have a big uphill battle if we can’t accurately describe our product.”

E-cigarettes is the free market solution for those that wish to quit smoking. But thanks to an abundance of laws, such as new laws in New South Wales coming into effect this week, the effectiveness of e-cigarettes in Australia is all the more limited.


Plain packaging is 3 years old today

So how is the Gillard government’s theft of intellectual property working out as a policy to inhibit smoking?

Not well.

Here is a picture based on data collected by states (or in the case of Victoria on behalf of the state).


Here is is a picture that highlights something we’ve been on about at Catallaxy Files:


Here is the ABS data on household expenditure:


So we have state-based data, tax-based data (via Treasury), and ABS data all showing that plain packaging didn’t work as advertised. That is all government data – not industry data or private sector estimates of smuggling etc. The Australian governments (federal and state) own data.

By contrast the Nanny State has produced evidence that people don’t like the packaging. Well, yes. Given that the packaging was deliberately engineered to be unattractive that is hardly surprising.

This post first appeared at Catallaxy Files.