I have a lot of respect for Hone Harawira. The voting for a Tory government thing has lessened it but his hatred for the tobacco companies balances things out. Harawira wants smoking banned. Says he would love to whip or worse the smoking company bosses (you know they cut the price of cigarettes during the recession so people could afford to stay addicted? bastards).
The Maori Affairs select committee is going to have an investigation into the effects of smoking on Maori. We already know the effects. One in three Maori deaths caused by smoking because 45% smoke. That’s got account for most of the difference in life expectancy between Maori and non-Maori.
Think of all the health costs, lost productivity, and the cost of buying the cancer sticks. Imagine what we could do with all that money instead.
Of course, it should be the health select committee or, better, the Minister of Health doing the investigation. Turia is associate minister but she’s too much of a sell-out to push the issue. “I’m already talking to the government about those matters … I think we’re progressing,” she says. Well, we know how talks with the Nats turn out for the Maori Party. Screwed every time.
Turia’s also against a ban. Get rid of display walls and tax ’em more she reckons. Yeah, get rid of the walls, restrict sales to licenced premises too, but more tax? No. When tobacco tax goes up, the amount smoked goes down a little but not enough to counter the higher price. People actually end up spending more on tobacco. Just adds to the poverty of the predominantly poor addicts.
A gradually introduced ban is the way to go. Set an import cap. 90% of what was imported last year. Then lower the cap by 5% or 10% each year. The addicts get weaned off slowly cause there’s not enough to go around.
Don’t worry about the WTO. Use the sanitary and phytosanitary provisions. It’s a poison that kills 5,000 New Zelanaders a year after all.
Set a retail price per gram of tobacco that works out at about $13 a packet. Make that 90% tax. That way the suppliers can’t profiteer.
Harawira’s right. Most addicts want to give up. He should know. He was one. A gradually introduced ban, in the form of import restrictions, is the way to help people get off their addiction without taking more money out of poor people’s wallets.