Monday 6 November 2017

Self-serving sockpuppets

Who's fault is that, I wonder?

It should be a surprise to no one that the illicit trade in tobacco is booming after several years of above-inflation tax rises and the implementation of plain packaging. Shameless as ever, state-funded anti-smoking groups are attempting to exploit the failure of their policies to feather their own nests.

The graphic above comes from Fresh North-East (100% funded by the unwitting taxpayer) who have conducted a survey showing that the majority of underage smokers acquire their tobacco from illicit sources.

55% of children aged 14 and 15 who smoke say they buy illegal tobacco from sources like "tab houses" and shops - while 73% say they have been offered illegal tobacco.

Despite the survey finding that underage smokers are far more likely to be buying tobacco from 'private addresses' (ie. tab houses) than shops, Fresh are pushing for more regulation of the legal trade in the form of licensing. They want every shop that sells tobacco to apply for a licence to do so. Crucially, they want these shops to pay for the privilege. This is entirely unnecessary. Shopkeepers who sell illicit tobacco already face large fines and can lose their alcohol license if they sell tobacco to underage consumers.

The anti-smoking lobby wants tobacco licensing for two reasons only. First, to deter shops from selling tobacco at all (which, of course, would lead to even more illicit tobacco being sold). Second, to raise revenue for themselves.

The second of these reasons has not been made explicit until today, but Fresh have now come out and said it:

Fresh is calling on the Government to introduce a licensing system for tobacco manufacturers and retailers to provide funding for improved enforcement and other measures to reduce smoking prevalence

By this, they mean giving money to groups such as Fresh to lobby for measures to (supposedly) reduce smoking prevalence. 

The anti-smoking lobby in Britain now exists entirely for its own sake. All of its ridiculous policies have been tried and failed. It has nothing else to offer and it is now focused on keeping the money rolling in. Other than licensing, its only other policy proposal of any note is the unworkable idea of putting a windfall tax on tobacco companies. This, again, is designed to create a trough of money for ASH et al. to get their snouts into.

This is public choice theory in action. Groups such as Fresh have made themselves obsolete and the rise of e-cigarettes has set their obsolescence in stone. They are an irrelevance. The rise of black market tobacco - which they always denied would happen - is their legacy. They have done enough damage and their self-serving industry should be shut down.

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