Monday 27 November 2023

The BBC's bitter tears over New Zealand

Three days after New Zealand's incoming government decided to repeal the Labour policy of very slowly banning tobacco, the BBC has finally noticed - and it is not happy
Whenever there is a bump in the road towards further state control, the Beeb finds it difficult to disguise its horror, but as it is supposed to be impartial, their journalists have to find ways of editorialising without explicitly taking a side. One way of doing this is to focus on the reaction of the people they agree with and make that the story. In this instance, a neutral headline would be something like 'New Zealand axes tobacco ban'. Instead, the BBC has gone with...
New Zealand smoking ban: Health experts criticise new government's shock reversal
Is it really a "shock" for a centre-right government to oppose a loony left policy? Are Kiwi prohibitionists really "health experts"? Is there no one praising the "reversal"?

Smoking is the leading cause of preventable deaths in New Zealand, and the policy had aimed to stop young generations from picking up the habit.

Health experts have strongly criticised the sudden reversal.

"We are appalled and disgusted... this is an incredibly retrograde step on world-leading, absolutely excellent health measures," said Prof Richard Edwards, a tobacco control researcher and public health expert at the University of Otago.

"Most health groups in New Zealand are appalled by what the government's done and are calling on them to backtrack," he told the BBC.

If you enjoy a bit of schadenfreude, I recommend Richard Edwards' Twitter feed. He's been in full meltdown since Friday.

The legislation passed last year had been acclaimed internationally with research models backing the key reforms.

Ooh, a model! Respect the model! It's not as if public health modelling has ever been completely wrong or anything, is it?

While it has been praised as a public health policy, the Smokefree measures drew opposition from some business groups in New Zealand. Owners of newsagents and corner shops criticised the loss of revenue - even with government subsidies.

These are the only opponents of the policy mentioned in the article, thereby consolidating the usual narrative that policy debates about lifestyle regulation can be boiled down to business versus health experts and people versus profits.

Some lawmakers - including the new Prime Minister Chris Luxon - also argued a ban would lead to a black market for tobacco.

It's not even arguable. Obviously prohibition leads to black markets. New Zealand already has a sizeable black market with cigarettes smuggled into the country in large quantities and convenience stores being robbed at gunpoint for their tobacco products.

However his National party, which won 38% of the vote in the 14 October election, hadn't mentioned the Smokefree laws during election campaigning. The announcement by the new finance minister Nicola Willis on Saturday that the government would repeal the laws shocked health experts who believed the policy would be untouched.

Yes, you've already said that. Prohibitionists are upset that prohibition has been cancelled. We get it.

Both minor parties blocked a flagship National policy to open up foreign property ownership - which the party had been relying on to fund tax cuts for middle and higher-income earners. Ms Willis said on Saturday that had led to the party looking elsewhere.

"The suggestion that tax cuts would be paid by people who continue to smoke is absolutely shocking," Emeritus Prof Robert Beaglehole, chair of New Zealand's Action for Smokefree 2025 committee told Pacific Media Network.

Crocodile tears from an anti-smoking zealot pretending to be sad about smokers being taxed. Call for tobacco duty to be cut, Robert.

A national Māori health organisation, Hāpai Te Hauora, called it an "unconscionable blow to the health and wellbeing of all New Zealanders".

Smoking rates, and associated disease and health issues, are highest among New Zealand's indigenous Māori population, for whom experts had said the policy would have the most positive impact.

That's one way of looking at it. Another way of looking at it is that tobacco prohibition would be racist and neo-colonial in a country where the indigenous people are three times more likely to smoke that the white folk. The smoking rate among rich, white New Zealanders is tiny. They would hardly be affected at all. It is the Maori community that would bear the brunt of the crime and corruption that results from prohibition.

"The government is flying in the face of public opinion and obviously in the face of the vast majority of people who work in this field, health professionals, doctors, nurses," said Prof Edwards.

Good. Cry more.

Friday 24 November 2023

New Zealand averts prohibition

When the British government announced plans to stop anyone born after 2008 from ever buying tobacco last month, it was eager to stress that the UK would not be alone in passing such an eccentric law. The Department for Health and Social Care cited the “case study” of New Zealand which in January 2023 “became the first country in the world to introduce a restriction on the sale of tobacco to anyone born after a specified date”. It also mentioned similar legislation recently tabled in Malaysia. 

Incremental prohibition was meant to create a legacy for the ultra-progressive Jacinda Ardern who rode off into the sunset in January, but her Labour Party got battered in last month’s general election and the incoming government has other ideas. A three way coalition has been formed between the centre-right National Party, the “populist” New Zealand First Party and the liberal (in the uncorrupted sense) ACT Party. Having thrashed out an agreement, they have decided to repeal the generational tobacco ban.

Read all about this fantastic news at The Critic. The BBC doesn't seem too interested in reporting it. 

Asked whether the UK would now see sense and abandon this ridiculous idea, a Downing Street spokesperson said

'No, our position remains unchanged.

'We are committed to that. This is an important long-term decision and step to deliver a smoke-free generation which remains critically important.'

It seems that the British Conservative Party has more in common with Jacinda Ardern's loony left Labour Party than with New Zealand's centre-right.


Thursday 23 November 2023

Fun Police

There's a new podcast called Fun Police which I've just subscribed to. I'm also one of the guests in the first episode which is all about prohibition. Check it out here.

Wednesday 22 November 2023

Rolling baccy tax goes through the roof

A little noticed part of today's autumn statement was the inflation plus 12% increase in rolling tobacco tax from 6pm tonight. This is on top of the inflation plus 6% increase last year. In total, duty on rolling baccy has gone up by nearly 40% in just over a year.

Is the government in the pay of international smuggling cartels?

I discuss this in The Critic.

First, it greatly restricted how many cigarettes smokers can legally buy abroad by leaving the European Union. Then it hiked up the price of tobacco way above the rate of inflation. Then it announced a crack down on vaping. And now it is going to literally introduce the prohibition of tobacco, albeit gradually. What’s going on? Did Jeremy Hunt misunderstand the Red Wall MPs when they told him that he needs to do something for white van man?


Monday 20 November 2023

'Health-harming industries'

From the Guardian on Saturday:

Firms are earning £52.7bn a year from UK sales of tobacco, junk food and excessive alcohol, and their consumption is contributing to Britain’s rising tide of illness, a report says.

The report came out today and it only demonstrated that 'public health' types don't understand business or economics. See my Substack for more.

Friday 17 November 2023

Did the sugar tax reduce dental extractions by 12%?

You have probably guessed that the answer is 'no' and you would be right.

The study is therefore making the extraordinary claim that George Osborne’s announcement in March 2016 had an almost immediate effect on rates of tooth decay despite there being little change in the sugar content of soft drinks for the first 18 months and there being no change in the price of sugary drinks for the first two years. Furthermore, the effect was most pronounced among pre-school children who are least likely to consume the drinks in question whereas there was no effect on teenagers who drink more of them than any other age group.

Read the rest at The Critic.

20mph limits and smoking

I was on BBC Politics East the other day talking about 20mph limits and the tobacco ban. I'm against both. If you want to watch it, it's here.