As much as I find Chris Kenny to be little more than just another Murdoch dupe, on this issue of plain packaging of tobacco he makes this blindingly obvious observation.
The terms being bandied about by Big Tobacco, like ‘Nanny-State’, ‘legal’ and ‘responsible’ all hold true, to varying degrees. This plain packaging fracas is a genuine big government pandering to the anti-smoking lobby. The colour, shape, size of the packaging does absolutely nothing to alter the contents. That remains as tobacco, be it processed into little white rice-paper tubes or raw, shredded tobacco leaf ready for rolling or smoking as otherwise desired. Those of us who smoke, as the tobacco lobby ad states, are of legal age, carry an adult responsibility for what we do, and will make up our own minds about what we do or don’t ingest, inhale or imbibe. We pay taxes for the privilege to make those decisions, especially so in the case of tobacco and that other evil, wicked, mean and nasty addictive substance, alcohol. To claim that alcoholics and victims of lung cancer, et al, are inordinate weights on the public health purse for that freedom of choice, is completely absurd when the amount of the relevant excises are taken into account. Following the most recent rise in Federal excise, May 2010, Federal government raises some $3.6b annually, not all of which is directed to health & hospitals. Further, while plain packaging might….that’s MIGHT….be seen to discourage younger people from taking up the ‘habit’, it won’t deter those who for whatever reason, choose of their own volition to smoke. If government were in any way serious about reducing smoking rates, nicotine patches, gums and other like forms of addiction replacement/treatment regimes would be covered under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. Currently, this is not the case. Currently, the only real incentive government hands out to smokers to encourage quitting, is the disincentive of cost. Cost which directly feeds government coffers.
Plain packaging, as Kenny alludes, is an assault on intellectual property, freedom of trade and trademark patents. If successful, and it will be despite the so-called ‘deep pockets’ of Big Tobacco, the government’s action will create a precedent in the restriction of trade of a currently legal product, which is deemed to be harmful to the individual, and by inference, to the society which supports it. The same can be said for alcohol, petroleum products, electricity, motor vehicles indeed, the inferred extension of harmful commodities is enormous. All of which are taxed in some form or other. Kenny’s bleat is a libertarian bleat. An anti-government bleat and yes, the inevitable anti-Labor bleat. Because that’s who & what he is. Yes, it’s not right that a government – ANY government – should intervene in the marketing, packaging, presentation or other use of a registered trademark or patent. It’s not ‘Nanny State’ behaviour, it’s dangerous establishment intervention into free market economics and trade. It might be ‘Nanny State’ behaviour if the State was really vowed and declared to stop people smoking or drinking or driving because doing so is deleterious to their health, but it’s clearly not.
Kenny isn’t pointing out anything new to anyone with two-thirds of three-fifths of an understanding of the issues at stake. He’s simply filling in a newspaper column and engaging in his favourite pastime of whining about what he perceives as ‘lefties’. It’s what he does.