Wednesday, 8 June 2022

Raising the smoking age and other bad ideas

Rumour has it that the 'independent review of tobacco control' will recommend raising the age at which people can buy tobacco to 21, just as ASH have been demanding.

I've written about this for Cap-X...

An independent audit of tobacco control would be more appropriate. Anti-smoking campaigners pop up every few years with their stern faces to tell us that they have got a new evidence-based policy which the Government must act upon. The Government then dithers until the pressure builds enough for it to capitulate, the policy is introduced and we never hear about it again. The last one was plain packaging, which was portrayed as something of a panacea at the time (one of its more excitable advocates described it as a vaccine for lung cancer), but when the dust settled it turned out to have no effect on cigarette sales. Randomised controlled trials have since shown that it was never likely to work.

Independent reviews are supposed to ‘take the politics out’ of issues that are inherently political. They are supposed to generate ‘blue sky thinking’ and ‘thinking outside of the box’. In practice, they usually involve someone who doesn’t know a great deal about a subject being surrounded by activists, and who ends up parroting the activists’ demands.

And the New Statesman...

In the UK, the age at which people are considered to be adults has generally gone down over the years. Until 1970, you had to be 21 to vote. The age of homosexual consent was 21 until 1994. These days, the only thing you’re not allowed to do between the age of 18 and 20 is adopt a child. With the exception of the age of consent (16), driving a car (17) and giving blood (17), the law has coalesced around the age of 18 as being the age at which people have the physical and mental maturity to make their own decisions.

When the legal smoking age rose from 16 to 18 in 2007, civil libertarians raised few objections since it only created parity with other potentially risky activities, such as gambling, drinking and fighting in a war. Increasing it to 21 brings it in line with almost nothing and looks more like the start of incremental prohibition than a considered verdict on the age at which people have enough wisdom to weigh up risks and benefits.

They're both short articles so do have a read.

Speaking of stupid nanny state policies, I've also written about the utter failure of minimum pricing for Spiked.

In 2014, Sir Ian Gilmore, chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance, described minimum pricing as an ‘evidence-based policy exquisitely targeted at those, and those around them, who are currently suffering harm’. Gilmore’s partner in temperance activism, Nick Sheron, said that MUP was an ‘almost perfect alcohol policy because it targets cheap booze bought by very heavy drinkers and leaves moderate drinkers completely unaffected’. In another turn of phrase, he said MUP ‘exquisitely targets the heaviest drinkers’.

Today’s report shows just how exquisite minimum pricing is. Carried out over five years and focusing on the ‘people drinking at harmful levels’, for whom minimum pricing was supposedly calibrated, the research has found almost nothing to suggest that putting an arbitrary floor price on alcohol causes anything but misery.

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