Tuesday, 27 July 2021

Tobacco: Australia's new drug war


As authorities target illicit tobacco imports, criminal groups are turning their attention to farming their own crops across regional Australia.

Illicit Tobacco Taskforce Australian Border Force Commander Greg Linsdell said that in the past 12 months there had been a significant increase in seizures involving the domestic growth of illicit tobacco as criminal groups look to maintain their supply after COVID-19 impacted imports.

Incredibly, it has been illegal to grow tobacco in Australia for over a decade and you can get ten years in prison for doing so. People banned from growing plants? It sounds like the War on Drugs and that is basically what Australia is working towards with tobacco.
Unsurprisingly, it has led to all the problems you associate with the drugs war, notably rampant criminality and an industrial scale black market. 

Authorities are also contending with huge illicit tobacco importation attempts. In the most recent fiscal year until the end of May, the ABF seized 512 million cigarettes, a 36 per cent increase from the previous year. The force also seized 748 tonnes of loose-leaf tobacco, compared to 167 tonnes the previous year.

The 2020-21 haul is equivalent to an estimated $1.7 billion in evaded duty – a record amount, compared to an estimated $621 million in evaded duty from the previous year.

During the final week of May, the ABF intercepted almost 10 tonnes of loose-leaf tobacco and more than 7.3 million cigarettes via sea cargo.

It should never be forgotten that this is a totally avoidable political choice. If the government respected people's right to smoke and didn't force the price of cigarettes up to a level that is literally prohibitive, none of this would happen. And maybe you shouldn't have banned e-cigarettes too, eh?

Minister for Home Affairs Karen Andrews said the federal government remained committed to stopping the illegal trade at the border.

“Every time someone uses illicit tobacco, they’re denying the community legitimate tax revenue that funds our schools, hospitals, and roads,” she said. 

It's not legitimate tax revenue though, is it Karen? It's extortion. Your government has set it at such a punitive rate that many smokers have no choice but to buy illicit and none of them have a moral duty to send more money to a government that openly despises them. 

"They’re also playing into the hands of serious and organised criminals, who often import illicit tobacco and sell it to fund importations of harder drugs."

Maybe so, but you were warned about this plenty of times and you preferred to listen to unscrupulous shysters from 'public health' waving around worthless studies claiming that tax rises don't fuel the illicit trade.
Good luck with your new drug war. 

See here and here for more examples of Australia's self-inflicted wound.

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