Nanny State

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.

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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.

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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.

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Live betting ban paternalistic and pointless

live_betting_submission_cover

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.

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

vapers

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.

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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).

PP1_smoking_rates_11-14

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

PP2_cleared_volumes

Here is the ABS data on household expenditure:

PP3_qtrly_exp

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.

 

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Health activists don’t like freedom, which is why they want to redefine it

CSnowdon

Christopher Snowdon

An excellent article by Christopher Snowdon in The Spectator today:

Nobody wishes to be seen as being against freedom and yet the ‘public health’ lobby has an endless list of taxes, prohibitions and restrictions which implicitly assume that there is too much of it. The answer, as ever, is to redefine what liberty means.

He continues by looking at recent efforts by so-called health experts to turn true freedom into freedom from fear of such things as speeding drivers, exposure to cigarette smoke and the “fear that our children will be harassed by cigarette and alcohol advertising”:

That this all amounts to an assault on personal liberty should be obvious. The freedom to live your life as others think you should live it is no freedom at all. If it were freedom, it would not require a never-ending stream of new criminal offences to be created.

Continue reading here.

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A costly venture into tobacco nationalisation

It has been reported by major press outlets today that the federal opposition plans to radically increase the tobacco tax burden, should it be elected to government. In the Australian Financial Review today:

The cost of cigarettes will surge to more than $40 a pack under a future Labor government and put Australia back in line with the world’s most aggressive anti-tobacco jurisdictions.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten will announce on Tuesday Labor’s plans to increase the excise rate by 12.5 per cent for four years from mid-2017, raising an extra $47 billion over a decade for Canberra’s coffers.

According to World Health Organisation data, tobacco excise accounts for 49 per cent of the retail price of a pack of 25 cigarettes in Australia. With the GST adding another nine per cent, total taxes represent 58 per cent of retail tobacco prices.

With reports saying the proposal aims to set tobacco excise at 75 per cent of the retail price of a pack of 25 cigarettes, what we have here is little more than a cynical exercise in tobacco product nationalisation.

Governments in recent years have effectively taken complete control over the packaging attributes of cigarettes sold in formal markets, and are steadily exerting price control over the product itself.

Politicians paternalistically exhort Australians to give up their smokes, but not too many all at once because government itself is becoming hooked on tobacco revenue to close its overspending budget gap.

The continuing existence of smokers also gives health bureaucrats an alibi to control the features of tobacco products themselves, despite plain packaging proving ineffective in reducing smoking.

The irony of this situation would not be lost on most Australians.

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Email: Freedom of speech under attack

The latest attack on free speech – this time in Tasmania

Freedom of speech is under attack in Tasmania after the state Anti-Discrimination Commissioner decided on 13 November that a complaint against Catholic Archbishop Julian Porteous should proceed to a hearing.

In particular, the Commissioner has decided the Catholic Church has a case to answer in relation to a complaint made regarding a booklet outlining the Catholic teachings on marriage distributed to parents of students enrolled at Catholic high schools across Australia.

The IPA’s Chris Berg wrote in the Sunday Age yesterday:

To be offended by the booklet is to be offended by what was, until very recently, the mainstream view on gay marriage, and one still shared by a large minority of the population… For this reason if nothing else, the complaint ought to have been dismissed as laughably frivolous.

It should never be an offence to offend a person. This is particularly chilling in light of the proposed plebiscite on the definition of marriage. As IPA Executive Director John Roskam stated in October:

A vote in a plebiscite or referendum, in which one side is not allowed to present its case, is not a legitimate vote. That’s why both supporters and opponents of same-sex marriage should be concerned by the complaint against Archbishop Porteous and the Catholic Church.

Continue Reading →

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The Nanny State: A failure of regulation

regulations&rules

On 11 September, I testified on the lack of evidence in favour of regulation at a public hearing of the Senate’s “Nanny State” Inquiry at Parliament House in Canberra. As the Hansard transcript reveals, that led to a lively and good-natured exchange on the nature of regulation with the Chair, Senator Dastyari.

My testimony was based on my submission to the Inquiry (number 237) titled, “Regulating choice: The need for evidence“. I concluded from reviews of the experimental evidence on the effects of regulation, that the Iron Law of Regulation applies.

The Iron Law has been stated as;

There is no form of market failure, however egregious, which is not eventually made worse by the political interventions intended to fix it.

An honest belief in the value of regulation is presumably grounded in a faith that a wise and well-intentioned regulator could in practice increase total net welfare.

That belief is not obviously plausible, as it depends on a sequence of assumptions or conditions that are highly unlikely to apply in practice. Can you think of any regulation where the regulator has met all of the ten necessary conditions for successful regulation described on page 3 of my paper with Scott Armstrong?

Our research has investigated the effects of government regulation of speech (by way of mandatory disclaimers in advertising), corporate social responsibility and of the environment. We could find no evidence that regulation increased welfare – in most cases it caused harm. We have not found a regulation that would meet even one of the ten necessary conditions for successful regulation.

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