Sunday, May 18, 2014

Who can afford to smoke?

A friend was under the weather and she asked me to pick up a few items from the local supermarket.  A couple of items were identified. "Are you sure there's nothing else," I asked?

"You wouldn't buy ciggies would you..."  reluctantly, a facet of the induced guilt smokers now carry. "Course I will." She'd told me the brand was either 'mild' or 'mellow'. As she was also describing her coffee choice, there was probably some confusion between the two.

I arrived at the counter of my local supermarket, a couple of other items in the basket, with a written description in hand. The ciggies reside in a solid cabinet. I said,  "I want two packets of Horizon mild or mellow, please."
"But we don't know which they are," was the response. "What colour is the packet?"
"I don't know, I replied. I'm buying them on behalf of. Which ever packet has the words mild or mellow on it I expect."
"But we can't open the cabinet to show you", they said, as the queue behind me grew. An awkward, absurd, impasse was reached.

"They are for my friend  --- ". Eureka. The magic password. They recognised her name. The non-visibility vault was opened and the cigarettes surrendered. As per usual I handed over my eftpost card and didn't even look at the receipt.

Today my reimbursement arrived in cash. When I opened the envelope I thought, surely there must have been a mistake. Immediately my stomach sank because I thought I had handed her a receipt that was in error because I hadn't checked it.

The receipt was also contained in the envelope though. It revealed two packs of the chosen ciggies were $53.80.


My friend is a extremely talented professional with letters after her name to boot. But, by my observations, she probably has a two pack a day habit. That's nearly $20,000 a year.

It makes me furious. Hopping mad. This rapacious government, urged on by the  mealy-mouthed Maori- saving- Maori obsessive, is stealing from smokers way over and above what their average healthcare costs are. Way back the government was already taking enough to meet the health needs of tobacco users. Now it can only claim to be attempting to price them out of their personal choice for their own good.

My working friend will be paying income tax on top of her tobacco excise. A point will arrive one day when she is working just to smoke.

More fool her, you can say. BUT we now live in a country where non-smokers are protected from any secondhand effects, where smokers are paying for their health care three to four times over. It is her choice and her freedom to smoke if she wishes.

But what of those on  low incomes?

For some time I have put up the facts showing household income inequality is static- to- falling. But when the constantly increasing cost of smoking is accounted for, the poor probably are getting relatively poorer.

As I said it makes me very angry, and very upset for those people who are quite addicted. But above all, who CHOOSE to smoke. What business, at this point, is it of the state's?


JC said...

Of course tobacco is just the opening stanza from the nana Nazis as we await with resignation for "Big Sugar" "Big Booze" and "Big Junk Food".

But here's a thought.. when I were a lad you could buy packets of 10 ciggies and if memory serves overseas they sold single smokes so a public that was oblivious to health concerns could fit their choice to their budgets. The same happened with burgers.. relatively small buns and no "would you like fries and 1.5 litre Coke with that?" and places like Cobb and Co carefully measured the average size meal based on surveys on how much excess was returned to the kitchen.

Big meals were still available as were packs of 20 cigs but there was a certain amount of decorum in not pushing people for extra sales.

I'd rather our health education changed direction to smoke, eat and drink pretty much what you want but concentrate on more moderate amounts and encourage the industries to provide smaller proportions as options along with single cigs or at least packs of 10.. after all the Govt rather than industry controls the bulk of the smoke pricing and could give a little to a lot to provide a market solution to excessive smoking.


Anonymous said...

a market solution to excessive smoking.

Easy. End the Communist health system and repeal all cigarette taxes. Problem over and done with.

Brendan McNeill said...

Hi Lindsay

There is nothing redemptive about the smoking habit.

I'm happy to have the State gradually price tobacco out of reach, particularly for the new consumer.

My natural tendency is to support the libertarian arguement, but the reality is adult 'free choice' is something of an abstract construct when it comes to addictive consumer products in a market driven economy.


S. Beast said...

Tobacco plants are incredibly popular. If you're lucky you can find someone to sell you their "organic home grown" tobacco at a substantial discount due to the lack of tax.

The market always adapts.

Dave said...

I doubt that even 20,000 per year would cover the true health bill once it arrives later in life.
I understand your point but until smokers are confined to only smoking within their own houses I am happy for that tax to keep on rising.