Friday 2 June 2023

Australia: a special kind of stupid

More bad news from the supposed world leader in tobacco control. Official figures show that teen smoking rates rose sixfold between 2018 and 2023, from 2% to 12.8%.

It's been over a decade since Australia introduced plain packaging, a policy that the Southern hemisphere's wrongest man, Simon Chapman, likened to a vaccine for lung cancer. Australia has had the highest cigarette taxes in the world for ages, the sale of nicotine e-cigarettes has always been illegal, and all they have to show for it is an insanely big black market for both tobacco and e-cigarettes, more children smoking and a whole bunch of people using unregulated vapes. The wowsers just can't stop winning, can they?

Naturally, this has led to much soul searching among the tobacco control elite who are having to reassess their assumptions in the face of this overwhelming evidence of policy failure.

I'm joking, of course. They are doubling down again.

If you spoke to someone from the reality-based community, they would tell you that children find it easier to access a product when the market is in the hands of illicit traders because illicit traders don't care who they sell to. They might also point out that the Australian government has gone out of its way to portray vaping as being at least as bad as smoking. School children in Australia are taught that vaping causes brain damage. Public health agencies produce websites that purport to tell people the facts about vaping but actually tell them lies and misleading half-truths.


Alas, Australia's 'public health' industry is about as far from reality as it is possible to get. Their narrative is that youth smoking rates have risen in tandem with youth vaping rates and that this is proof of the legendary 'gateway effect'. In their view, it's not a failure of policy, it's the fault of the people who have been "promoting vaping".

The problem with this theory - aside from the fact that there are only about three people in Australia who have been promoting vaping - is that it hasn't been happening anywhere else. In England, where vaping actually is promoted, the proportion of 11-15 year olds who smoke regularly has fallen to 1% and the proportion who smoke at all has dropped from 5% to 3% since 2018.

Smokers aged 11-15

Regular smokers aged 11-15

Smoking among 18-24 year olds has halved since vaping took off, from 26% in 2011 to 13% in 2021.

It's a similar story in the USA where smoking among high school students has plummeted from 16% in 2011 to 2% in 2022.

Across the ditch in New Zealand, smoking rates nose-dived as soon as e-cigarettes were legalised in late 2020.

It takes a special kind of stupid to engineer a situation in which you have high rates of both smoking and vaping among teenagers, but Australia has somehow managed it. They handed much of the tobacco market and all of the vape market to illicit traders, thereby removing all regulation and ensuring people of any age have access to cheap products, and then created such a moral panic about the least harmful option that doctors give their own children cigarettes to stop them vaping.

Way to go, guys!

No comments: