Friday, 22 January 2021

Prohibition still doesn't work

I see that Australia's policy of charging the thick end of £20 for a pack of cigarettes is going as well as ever...

The founder of Border Force's illegal tobacco squad says one in five cigarettes smoked in Australia is illegal and demand has spawned a smuggling trade worth hundreds of millions of dollars each year, with a recent record-breaking case in Western Australia.

This week two cousins, Omar and Khaled Hussein, were jailed for four years and 10 months each, with parole, by a Perth District Court after trying to smuggle $8.5 million worth of illegal cigarettes into Fremantle Port on October 31, 2018.

This is the biggest consignment of illicit tobacco Australian authorities have ever intercepted. So far.
The Australian Border Force only seizes a fraction of the tobacco being illegal imported and grown in the country, but they still seize a lot...

The ABF seized more than 177 tonnes of loose-leaf tobacco and 422 million cigarettes in the 2019/20 financial year, with the duty evaded totalling some $611 million.

Mr Pike said increased cigarette prices had also generated a corresponding increase in criminals stealing cigarettes, which have become "as expensive as silver", to sell on the booming black market.

A series of robberies across Victorian service stations in recent months have targeted cigarettes, which are likely sold on the black market, with Mr Pike saying more robberies will happen as cigarettes rise in price.

He said halting the rise in cigarette prices was "one of the obvious measures" the government could take to curb the black market and slow thefts.

Obvious, yes, but the government won't do it because they're bewitched by 'public health' lobbyists who deny any connection between neo-prohibitionist policies and neo-prohibitionist outcomes.
The sentencing of these men follows a bust of an illegal tobacco farm in New South Wales last week...
Australian Border Force raided a property in Bulga yesterday, seizing 50.3 tonnes of illegal tobacco, worth $9.9 million dollars and arresting a 33 year old man from Sydney.

The tobacco was being grown over two hectares, with almost another hectare of seedlings, all of which was seized and destroyed.

Things aren't much better in New Zealand where a pack of tabs is nearly as expensive.

Tax increases on tobacco products have been a key plank in the Government’s efforts to make the country smoke-free, resulting in New Zealanders paying some of the heftiest cigarette prices in the world.

The inflated cost of smokes hasn’t gone unnoticed by overseas crime groups as Customs officers make record tobacco seizures at the border.

“New Zealand pays a really high price for drugs [and] it pays a really high price for tobacco,” Customs investigations manager Bruce Berry​ said.

“We’ve seen a dramatic move from organised crime ... into moving of tobacco products.

“We predicted that this would be coming because of the prices that we’re paying.”

In July, Customs intercepted 2.2 million cigarettes hidden inside stacks of metal frames exported from Malaysia. At the time it was the largest tobacco seizure in a single shipment.

That amount, however, was surpassed in early August when 2.39 million cigarettes were intercepted, hidden inside construction materials. A third shipment of 2.31 cigarettes was intercepted by Customs officers in late August.

This compares to only 585,917 cigarettes and cigars being intercepted at New Zealand’s borders in 2016.

Still, it's all worth it if it makes smokers poorer, eh?

Meanwhile, the world of 'tobacco control' was very excited to see South Africa temporarily ban the sale of tobacco (and e-cigarettes - and alcohol) last year. A study in Tobacco Control was published this week looking at the consequences. Based on an online survey, which seems to be the primary methodology in pretend 'public health' these days, it found that prohibition doesn't work. Who knew? 

About 9% of prelockdown smokers in the sample successfully quit smoking. 93% of continuing smokers purchased cigarettes despite the sales ban. The average price of cigarettes increased by 250% relative to prelockdown prices. Most respondents purchased cigarettes through informal channels.

These results do not deter the authors from supporting 'endgame strategies' (a euphemism for prohibition). Like Marxists retrospectively concluding that Russia wasn't ready for communism, they argue that South Africa wasn't ready for prohibition because the 'demand-side preconditions for an effective sales ban were not in place'. In other words, there were too many smokers. 
They also say that there were problems on the supply side, ie. there was a large black market.
But apart from that, prohibition is a great idea! So long as you can stop people wanting to buy the product and stop other people selling the product, there's no problem.

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