Fags bad, piss good

Written By: - Date published: 5:54 pm, April 29th, 2010 - 11 comments
Categories: drugs, national/act government, tax - Tags: , , , , ,

Here’s a great interview by RNZ’s Kathryn Ryan with Professor Doug Sellman, Director of the National Addiction Centre, on Government’s bizarre inconsistency in raising the price of fags to discourage consumption while not raising the price of alcohol – despite its alleged interest in addressing alcohol abuse. Sellman also has some interesting things to say about how alcohol industry lobbyists always enjoy an open door to ministers’ offices while those who try to lobby against the alcohol industry are turned away. Gosh, I wonder why that is?

Update: I also recommend you look at the 60 Minutes link provided below by MollyByGolly, very telling and rather incriminating.

11 comments on “Fags bad, piss good”

  1. tsmithfield 1

    I don’t see the inconsistency.

    There is a clear distinction between alcohol and cigarettes.

    Cigarettes are bad regardless of how small the quantity they are used in. Alcohol is harmless in small quantities, and may even have health benefits. For instance, one of my workers had a heart attack recently, and the heart specialist recommended regularly drinking a small amount of alcoholic drink.

    Due to the fact there is this clear difference between alcohol and cigarettes, it is not accurate to claim the government is being inconsistent with its treatment of the two as the two are different in principle.

    • Yeah that little canard is immaterial to the argument – did you actually listen to the interview ts, or are you just sticking to National’s PR releases?
      I would sugest that as the Director of the National Addiction Centre, Professor Sellman has a slightly more expert view.

      • tsmithfield 1.1.1

        I actually put a very old argument that predates what National said on the news. However, its an argument that needed to be put. I thought you would have anticipated it and covered it in your article, actually.

        Anyway, yes I did listen to the interview. I also have good awareness of the effects of alcohol from my family backgroud. My mother’s first husband died of alcoholism and my mother and my older half brother and half sister endured quite a lot of alcohol induced violence in that relationship. My older half brother became an alcoholic and went through Queen Mary Hospital in Hamner three times before finally getting off the habit. So, I do know a little bit about the problem.

        However, having said that, I still think you are making an argument of false equivalence between cigarettes and alcohol. There is fairly strong evidence, although not universally agreed on, that the French paradox, for instance, shows that moderate alcohol consumption can have health benefits in terms of reduced coronary problems. I have also seen research that demonstrates why this might be the case. The research I have seen demonstrated that alcohol relaxes the artery walls around the heart, thus reducing the likelihood of a coronary incident. Also, as I mentioned before, my employee was advised to have a small amount of alcohol consumption after a heart operation.

        By increasing the price I have no doubt there will be a small reduction in consumption across the board, with emphasis on the word small. However any benefits might be offset by higher costs in coronary care etc. Also, it is price increases seem a fairly blunt instrument that target not only alcohol abusers but also the many people who drink responsibly, which seems hardly fair. On the other hand, my own experience is that people with major alcohol problems are extremely devious and resourceful in getting alcohol one way or another. Also, price increases might drive some people to even more harmful substances such as metholated spirits.

        Having said all this, it is clear there are major problems associated with alcohol. Therefore I think a better approach would involve:

        1. Concerted effort to change the drinking culture in NZ through education and publicity.
        2. More access to treatment for people with alcohol problems. On that score, Labour closing Queen Mary Hospital was a disgrace.
        3. Restricted access to alcohol. Perhaps maximum amounts being set for each purchase for example might have a similar effect to a price increase without penalizing those who drink responsibly.

        • the sprout

          My condolences for the manifold ills you and your family have suffered through alcohol and thank you for your considered response. I can’t disagree with the points you list above.

          Sellman’s point however is pretty simple.

          Alcohol consumption is very sensitive to price, more so than nicotine (because of the relative inelasticity of demand for nicotine). Those most in need of targetting for alcohol reduction are youth and high volume consumers – both are disproportionately sensitive to price increases when compared to moderate consumers. Raising alcohol prices also has the benefit of encouraging moderate drinkers to stay moderate and not drift into becoming high consumers.

          If you want to reduce consumption in those two problem groups, why not also include pricing as a mechanism?

          And why not introduce more sophisticated means of reducing tobacco consumption, such as those proposed for alcohol, rather than just hiking up the tax?

          That to me seems inconsistent.

          • tsmithfield

            I’m not sure if nicotine per se is universally a harmful substance. After all, there are nicotine patches etc. I think it is ingesting nicotine through the lungs along with other multitudes of chemicals that causes the problems.

            I don’t actually disagree that strongly with raising prices as I know something needs to be done about the problems caused by alcohol. However, my preference would be for some of the methods I mentioned above for the reasons I have stated.

            I do think, however, that if the government is not going to increase prices then they need to adopt other methods that will reduce the problems caused by alcohol. It is not sufficient just to shelve the whole report.

  2. :>the sprout -Cheers.

    I have just listened to this interview. It is so nice to hear some intelligence.
    Actually refreshing.

  3. MollyByGolly 3

    Read this:


    About Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne and his refusal to meet with Sellman and fellow medical experts on the problems of alcohol abuse.

    Why? (1) Dunne already knows their views and (2) some of the medical experts themselves drink so, according to Dunne, they are hypocrites with nothing credible to contribute to the issue.

    However, Dunne is happy to meet with alcohol industry reps despite their views being predictable…

    And here’s the 60 Minutes story:

  4. Lizzy 4

    Why would pollies want to met with fanatics – he’s quite right that Sellman is elevating himself if he feels ENTITLED to a meeting. He’s had more than his fair hearing and influenced more fools in his lecture tours than any fanatic is entitled to, as shown in the hysterical content of the Palmer Law Commission report. Which equates feeling any subjective effects of alcohol within the last year eg dizzyness, with having a problem of “abuse” of alcohol or heavy drinking.

    Um excuse me, but if you don’t feel psychoactive effects from an item that is an intoxicant then you are from what planet. And if it is such a problem to feel some mental shift and truly an unwanted effect then you must be very stupid to have bought alcohol instead of H2go – either that or booze cooks made a grave mistake when first they elected to include alcohol molecules in alcohol – so inconsiderate to the buyers who desire a clean sober head.

    Strong suspicions Palmer and Sellman belong to some secret society of church wowsers with Temperance league funds swirling around them to a point their vertigo is such no piss is needed.

  5. SPC 5

    Politically raising the price to reduce consumption – while promoting the line that people would be compensated for their higher GST cost was not a good look.

    The concept that younger people, beneficiaries, the low waged and many on Super can be excluded from participation by pricing them out of the market is not a new one. The same applies to affording Sky and fast broadband.

    The target should be drunkenness – that means criminalising being drunk (defined by a blood alcohol level), the same way we do drink driving. It’s not drinking or driving that are the problem its getting drunk and its driving after drinking. So target the problem.

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