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Banning smoking

Written By: - Date published: 9:44 am, September 24th, 2009 - 69 comments
Categories: health, maori party - Tags:

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.

69 comments on “Banning smoking ”

  1. Wouldn’t reducing imports have exactly the same pricing effects as increasing taxes?

  2. Zetetic 2

    Ordinarily, it would hence the second to last paragraph.

    “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.”

  3. George D 3

    It’s inventive. And I like it for that reason alone. It deserves further investigation.

    Since neoliberal thinking took over in the 1980s, both Labour and National have been scared of directly regulating anything. Contrary to the claims of the hysteric right, the Government only very lightly intervenes in most parts of society, even when there are very clear gains to be had by doing so.

    I’m not sure that this is the best thing to do, but I know that a lot more can be done – and because it is killing people, should be done.

  4. the sprout 4

    completely agree Z.

    the erradiction of smoking as a common behaviour is a desirable goal, but…

    just raising taxes results in even poorer addicts, the consequences of which outweigh the gains in smoking reduction.

    outright banning will just result in the problems of any prohibitionist policy, most notably a new revenue source for organized crime and the criminalization of a whole new sector of the community not otherwise involved in criminal activity.

  5. Rob 5

    Yeah, well it worked for marijuana….

  6. ghostwhowalksnz 6

    Just get them to ban ALL additives to smokes. There are a multitude of minute quantities of flavour enhancers added to make them more palatable for young smokers. ( This also with alcopops with so much sugar)
    Heres a list of whats possible.

    Quite a few are obviously flavours like vanilla, wine ? etc

    Heres a list of additives to the tobacco for Philip Morris cigarettes sold in NZ


  7. Zetetic 7

    Difference with pot and tobacco is pot grows well here. Tabacco’s all imported.

    Maybe don’t take the import limit all the way down to zero, 10% of current level or something.

  8. Andrei 8

    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.

    Utterly fallacious reasoning – everybody dies and uses the health system in the process. If a smoker dies at 65 he or she has probably saved the taxpayer money, not only in superannuation but also in the other health costs – eg hip replacements, intensive nursing for dementia etc that the elderly consume.

    I am not saying that smoking is a good thing but it is not the demon that you seem to think it is either.

    • Zetetic 8.1

      “If a smoker dies at 65 he or she has probably saved the taxpayer money”

      typical ignorant comment. It seems clever only because you’re uninformed. In fact, smokers have more years of poor health than non-smokers and use more health resources during that time. Don’t believe me? You’ve got the internet, get educated.

      Also, you’re argument basically boils down to ‘keeping the poor addicted and dying young is cheaper on my taxes’. Wrong and inhuman.

    • Armchair Critic 8.2

      What a genuinely revolting thing to say. People die early, unnecessarily and in a horrible manner as a result of smoking – is that not sufficiently demonic for you?
      I doubt your economic argument is valid either, the taxes on tobacco surely don’t cover the resulting costs.

    • Andrei 8.3

      It seems clever only because you’re uninformed. In fact, smokers have more years of poor health than non-smokers and use more health resources during that time.

      Smokers have a lower life expectancy than non smokers – So do Gays for that matter who have an even lower life expectancy than smokers – what-ya want to do about that?.

      The fact is that sooner or later you are going to get sick and DIE of something and along the way you are very likely to consume a significant amount of health resources. Can’t be avoided, if the cancer don’t get you Alzheimer’s will or kidney failure or something else and they all cost money to ‘treat’.

      You choose to smoke or not as the case maybe and you take your chances.

      You lefties always miss the bigger picture – can’t seem to grasp more than one idea at a time and everything is a class war.

      • Armchair Critic 8.3.1

        “You choose to smoke or not as the case maybe and you take your chances”
        It is a bit more subtle than that, Andrei. You may well choose to start smoking. Nicotine is addictive, though, so continuing to smoke is much less of a choice.

      • Maynard J 8.3.2

        You are still completely wrong Andrei. The average healthcare cost to the taxpayer for smokers is significantly higher than the general population. They dying is the cheap part, to be frank.

        You do not miss the bigger picture, you can not even seem to ge the frame in focus.

        • Andrei

          The average healthcare cost to the taxpayer for smokers is significantly higher than the general population.

          I’ll bet it isn’t, particularly since smokers die slightly younger.

          I know an old lady – never smoked who has had two hip replacements and survived breast cancer and who is currently in the high needs unit of a rest home and has been there for nearly three years – easily a million dollars spent on her health care over the past twenty years and thats just one example.

          My own mother is on a very expensive drug, which presumably is keeping her alive, and which has to be approved by Pharmac. I’d be prepared to bet that if she had been a smoker she would not have got the approval and maybe that would be the correct call in a system with limited resources, who knows.

          So why is it more expensive to treat a smoker for heart disease than a non smoker? – explain how you come up with this reasoning.

          • Maynard J

            You demean us all by introducing individual examples, for shame. I nkow someone who died at a decent age after not having seen a doctor for over 30 years – what is the relevance there? Absolutely none.

            “So why is it more expensive to treat a smoker for heart disease than a non smoker? explain how you come up with this reasoning.”

            Explain how you came up with the idea that that was my reasoning first.

            Especially when the word “Average” was in my comment, which would imply you are barking up the wrong tree with that assumption (in fact you are in the wrong forest).

            • Andrei

              You demean us all by introducing individual examples

              Why so?

              I am just demonstrating by example of why this thesis that smokers use more of the public health resource is BS.

              Smokers are more likely to get some diseases than non smokers but if they do and especially if they die early it just means they don’t get other diseases. Fairly obvious really.

            • NickS

              For someone how claims to be intelligent, it’s surprising that you fail to understand why we use data rather anecdotes as evidence for a argument.

            • Andrei

              For someone how claims to be intelligent, it’s surprising that you fail to understand why we use data rather anecdotes as evidence for a argument

              So where is your data? Hmmm

              You mean the numbers which dear old Hone pulled out of his arse?

              Thats data??????

              Yeah right!

            • Maynard J

              “I am just demonstrating by example of why this thesis that smokers use more of the public health resource is BS. ”

              Oh, so because you know one example, then the whole thery is false. I did not know that you also know every one else that uses or has ever used the PH system. It is very cold outside – climate change must be a crock right 😉

              Smokers get and die of costly diseases at a significantly greater rate than non-smokers. They suffer health problems at an early age, which makes them less productive, and there is a very high social cost of thousands of premature deaths.

              It is offset by lower super payments, but to think that accounts for the healthcare costs, productivity losses and so on strkies me as unlikely.

              If you look at the statistics relating to health problems faced by smokers, and then consider the average expenditure required to treat them you might get an idea – but I get the impression you want to be fed those stats. You have a web browser, get out there yourself if you do not think that smoking causes expensive premature deaths in a vastly greater proportion that experienced by non-smokers.

              You are arguing against orthodoxy – make a point and spare us the silly anecdotes.

            • NickS

              So where is your data? Hmmm

              You mean the numbers which dear old Hone pulled out of his arse?

              Thats data??????

              Yeah right!

              Nice shifting of the goal posts there by not actually addressing why we should prefer anecdotes over data.

              As for finding Hone’s exact source, one would suggest emailing him, but a little bit of google hunting turned up this;

              Number of deaths annually attributable to cigarettes

              Cigarette smoking accounted for 31 percent of all annual Māori deaths during 1989-93 as compared to 17 percent of all deaths in the total population.

              Key words; maori smoking deaths

              Pretty simple, mayhaps too simple for Andrei.

      • Reggie 8.3.3

        Andrei, let’s try some numbers shall we? And let’s exclude lung cancer, throat cancer, heart disease, premature births and pregnancy problems. Let’s also exclude strokes, amputations and impotence. Let’s just stick to a single disease which only affects smokers, emphysema (or COPD). In 2003 the Thoracic Society of Australia and New Zealand, the body that represents respiratory specialists, commissioned a report to determine the prevalence and cost burden of COPD in New Zealand.
        •COPD ranks third overall in its impact on the health of New Zealanders after ischaemic heart disease and Stroke: 2nd in men & 5th in women.
        •220,000 COPD patients in New Zealand.
        •9,250 hospital discharges and predicted to be over 12,000 by 2007.
        •4th leading cause of death.
        •Estimated cost between $102 – $192 million in direct healthcare costs.
        •COPD mortality rates for Maori women in NZ are higher than reported in any other known population of women worldwide.
        NO WAY does dying earlier counter these costs.

    • burt 8.4

      I would also like to see an honest breakdown of the health related costs of smoking. My experience tells me that overweight people and people who live longer consume much more overall in health related resources.

      Easy to say smokers costs a lot in health terms to justify the revenue grab from addicted people – but is it accurate ?

    • nic 8.5

      Two points:

      1. Smoking is clearly bad. But smokers actually save the government on healthcare,costs over their life time, even before you take into account the very high tax revenues.

      See here:

      and here:

      2. Banning cigarettes would be a disaster. Prohibition has never worked. Tobacco can and will be grown in NZ. I think increasing regulation is the way to go. Things like banning retail displays and limiting outlets that can sell cigarettes. And we should also accept that a small minority of people will always smoke, no matter what we do.

  9. According to Hone on Back Benches last night, 5000 people in New Zealand die each year from tobacco, including 400 Maori. This suggests Maori mortality from tobacco is actually quite low.

    • Zetetic 9.1

      1 in 3 Maori deaths. Hone said it in his speech yesterday. It was on RNZ too.

      • yes – but with his numbers it would be even higher for non-Maori.

        • Zetetic

          yeah i understand that. suggests that number is out

          anyway. it’s not a Maori issue. it’s a class issue.

          • Zetetic

            actually, we’re assuming that Maori and non-Maori die in proportion to their share of the population. The Maori population is a lot younger, so that assumption might be wrong.

        • ghostwhowalksnz

          400 Maori out of 5000 total means that in proportion they are less likely to die from smoking related causes.If they were at the same rate it would be 600. Has Hone got his numbers wrong, I would have thought 800-1000 would be more like it

          • NickS


            The 5000 refers to the total number of those dead from smoking related causes, it doesn’t refer to all Maori deaths. Meaning going like you do “400 out of 5000” is actually wrong. What you need to do is “smoking related deaths for Maori, out of the total number of Maori deaths over time t”.

            It’s not that hard people.

  10. IrishBill 10

    Ah Zet, you obviously don’t understand the simple joy of putting your feet up with a nice glass of stout at the end of a long hard day, lighting your pipe and browsing your favorite passages of Das Kapital.

    • Rob 10.1

      No he does not, however he certainly wants to tell you what you can do with your pipe.

    • Zetetic 10.2

      with me it’s screeds of US leftwing websites, powered by rum.

      the occasional pipe is unlikely to get you addicted or lead you to an early grave. that’s why i like the falling supply cap, you could leave it at a low level.

      now i think about it, a supply cap on alcohol could be the way to go too. Rather than trying, largely ineffectively, to move stuff out of people’s price range with tax, just limit the total amount that can be sold.

    • ghostwhowalksnz 10.3

      Browse ? Its on You Tube! like most things from a two room flat in Soho

  11. Daveo 11

    Clearly you’d need an exemption for cigars.

  12. Quoth the Raven 12

    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.

    Spend it on enforcement?
    Accroding to the harm rankings in a lancet paper alcohol is worse then tobacco. See this graph. So does banning tobacco make sense?

  13. gobsmacked 13

    Hone might want to start by having a word with his colleagues in the National caucus:

    NZ Herald, October 2005:

    National’s political correctness eradicator, Wayne Mapp, is eyeing changes to the ban on smoking in bars and restaurants, which he says is an example of the “nanny state”. …

    “Non-smokers are entitled to have a smoke-free environment, but you can get a reasonable balance on this.”

    Note the familiar ‘balance’ line, the classic cover for reactionary policies, as heard daily from this National government.

  14. Seti 14

    Accroding to the harm rankings in a lancet paper alcohol is worse then tobacco. See this graph. So does banning tobacco make sense?

    Whilst there appear to be no redeeming benefits from tobacco there is some research that suggests alcohol indeed saves more lives than it takes –

    Alcohol saves more lives than it takes, according to new research from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
    While alcohol is blamed for more than 13,000 deaths a year, largely among heavy drinkers, a moderate intake saves 15,000 lives a year, says the study.
    Modest consumption of between one and two units a day is thought to give protection from coronary heart disease to men over 40 and to postmenopausal women. Alcohol is also known to help raise the levels of protective cholesterol.

    • Quoth the Raven 14.1

      The paper includes social harm not just physical. I think that number (13000) is just those from disease not accidents and such which you don’t get with tobacco and the benefits in terms of heart disease are only for older people. In any case we really don’t need any more restrictions on either of them.

  15. randal 15

    nah..they should make smoking compulsory and give them free pot to go with it.
    after the rupture rent in the social fabric with boy racers and p then tobacco and pot could hardly do any worse.

    • burt 15.1

      Think of the lost govt revenue. It’s not acceptable for suppliers to put the price up and make profit – but govt profit from cigs is OK. Hell Zetetic wants to add another $2 or more to each packet.

      • Maynard J 15.1.1

        Govt profit from cigarettes? Oh and all those costs they incur, that are paid by the government, are completely unrelated I guess.

        • Rob

          They profit today from having smoking. If they ban it they will pay the costs of the healthcare for another 50 years with no cigarette tax money to cover it.

          • Maynard J

            …which would imply they do not get enough money from smoking to cover the costs incurred.

            • Armchair Critic

              Which could be construed to mean that the government doesn’t make a profit from cigarettes. Now, what was burt’s point, again?

            • burt

              Advanced logic from Armchair Critic.

              Here is a tip: Base your argument on facts and reason rather than simple contradiction of what I say. There is no logical basis for saying that removing all tobacco related income now while costs are delayed proves that there is not a profit being made from tobacco taxes.

              Shees, that’s like saying if I stop earning now and live for another 20 years getting further and further into debt that I wasn’t earning more than it cost to live today….

            • Armchair Critic

              I restated MJ’s point and made a remark about your comment, I’m pleased you can see arguments and logical bases there.

  16. Rob 16

    Yep, so he can afford to build a special administration team to monitor consumption and jack up pricing. Off course the greater the price increase the greater the revenue the greater the team.

  17. BLiP 17

    Given that the Associate Minister of Health is a cigar smoking punch-up artist recipient of British American Tobacco largesse, it seems unlikely there will be any sensible policy in this area.

  18. Quoth the Raven 18

    Zet in agreement with the Wall St Journal?

  19. Rich 19

    It’s pretty clear that prohibition of any recreational drug doesn’t work.

    I’d suggest that the reason for most problematic substance use is that people have a lack of self-fulfillment that leads them to misuse substances. Better general education, living standards and social support will reduce tobacco addiction. That’s why tobacco addicts are predominantly in the poorer part of society.

    • Ari 19.1

      One of the interesting ideas around that was to make cigarettes prescription-only. Thus people who already smoke could continue to get them, but they’d become very inconvenient to get.

      Often making things annoying works better than making them expensive or illegal.

      Of course, it’s certainly possible that this approach would have some of the same problems as an outright ban.

  20. millsy 20

    The Maori Party has strong connections with the Mongerel Mob/Black Power.

    Guess who will benefit in black market cigarette sales if the Maori Party gets its way….

    • burt 20.1


      Can you demonstrate the strong connections with the Mongrel Mob/Black Power or are you just being racist ?

      You know gangs of Maori people, Maori political party – must be a link right ?

      However I don’t dispute the gangs benefit from banning desirable/addictive substances.

  21. Swampy 21

    And if you’re such a strong supporter of banning tobacco I assume you are also strongly in support of banning all other drugs and alcohol as well.

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