Last week in Australia, the Prime Minister announced a few changes to cigarettes, including increasing taxes, requiring that the paquets be generic (with lots of warning statements), and increased funding for a slew of additional “hard hitting” ads. There are already some “hard hitting” ads showing the disgusting results of smoking, and people who are horribly disfigured by it. One of the ads has a pretty catchy tune, which has stuck in my head – and I’m not even a smoker.
But I have to wonder, in a land where they were willing to outlaw guns for just about everyone (since there’s no 2nd amendment to the Constitution of Australia), and where carrying a pocket knife is a criminal offense (or so I’ve heard, I’m not sure what the law exactly is), and in a time where the health care burden from smokers is widely recognised, why not simply make the fags illegal?
Of course, the irony is that not 20 years ago in Australia the national pasttime was the ‘smoko’ where everyone simply gathered around and blew smoke (so to speak); a relaxing way to spend the work day. Now there’s this massive effort on the part of the government to get people to quit. Does that mean everyone should switch from smokos to gummos, simply sit around chewing till the flavour is run out?
But how to get rid of cigarettes? The days of prohibition in the U.S. where so much time was spent chasing bootleggers (and being bootleggers) is a good example of how difficult to enforce these laws become. But maybe there are other laws…
What about a law that cigs not be imported? Those badasses at customs are used to rejecting all kinds of dangerous goods, adding this to the list would probably only get them more excited. Or, say that cigs simply cannot be sold by a registered business. Then any major business would have to comply to not be shut down. OHS is another big organisation here in Oz, one that is also used to enforcing laws that people don’t always like to follow. Government could simply make it illegal to hire a smoker.
Now all these suggestions by themselves seem rather harsh, but I’m comparing them to the alternative, which is to allow cigarettes to be sold, and allow smokers to continue about their lives with minor inconveniences. One might say this route promotes more freedom for people to choose to smoke if they want – and I would agree, it does allow more freedom than simply making it illegal. It also keeps more doctors and nurses employed, and an entire section of healthcare that wouldn’t be necessary without the various mouth, throat, lung cancer, stroke, and so forth people coming through. Smoking also reduces people’s stress levels, if they choose to smoke.. and there’s the coolness factor – just look how cool those people look in the movies with smoke pouring from their mouths and noses.
Let’s take for example a product that was pulled after being shown to kill people prematurely: Vioxx. In fact there are many more, a list is on wikipedia. Vioxx was a drug that used by approx 80 million, was suddenly pulled from the shelves and consigned to the bin because a few people developed adverse effects after heavy use. Apply that logic to cigarettes and you actually have a higher incidence of directly related death, and yet it’s still not off the shelves. An older example, cocaine, has been illegal since roughly the turn of the century, on account of its addictive properties and perceived association with lowlifes.
No government, not even Australia, will take the bold step of simply putting a stop to (legal) cigarettes. I’m not really sure why.
After thinking for a moment, I’m guessing it’s simply public opinion and the daunting task of enforcing the new law. But as I’ve pointed out, there are other ways of effectively putting a tighter squeeze on the ready supply of cigs with the aim of eventually getting rid of them altogether.