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Make that man a minister

Written By: - Date published: 11:50 am, March 12th, 2010 - 42 comments
Categories: capitalism, national - Tags: ,

British American Tabacco’s Graeme Amey has the brazen lie down pat.

The guy quit smoking himself but wants Kiwis to keep smoking and dying to make his company profits. When asked why he quit he said “it was just a personal choice”. But why? “It was just a personal choice”. Yeah. Was that personal choice not to get lung cancer?

Amey would be right at home in Key’s government. Beside a Finance Minister who lied about ripping off his housing allowance. Beside an Education Minister who has told more lies than I can count on national standards. Beside a Social Development Minister who has been telling us the tide has turned on unemployment for six months. Beside a Prime Minister whose ability to brazen out questions (‘why did you fire that minister?’ ‘why did you keep that shareholding secret?’ ‘why did you promise to close the gap with Australia when you knew you couldn’t?’) with bare-faced lies is second to none.

They should make Amey Smoking Minister. He could hardy be more pro-smoking than the government is already.

42 comments on “Make that man a minister”

  1. Peter 1

    Well , he is correct it is a personal choice. I hope that by the time my daughters are 16 or so (8 years away)that smoking has been consigned to history.. But I doubt it.

    Prohibition won’t work, Education and sky high taxes on the evil weed is my solution for what it’s worth.

    • Draco T Bastard 1.1

      Actually, it’s entirely possible that prohibition on tobacco will work. When the majority of people (greater than 80%) don’t want to smoke then there isn’t enough people to run a black market.

      • Peter 1.1.1

        one can only hope ….What is the % smoking now, only just over 25% ??

      • J. Andal 1.1.2

        All the evidence throughout history always shows that prohibition does not work.
        Let me repeat that, prohibition does not work.
        If there was a prohibition on tobacco, it would just spark an increase in people dying because of contaminated products and people afraid of going to the doctors about their smoking related illnesses, causing more death and harm that it already does. I’m all for restricting tobacco sales to tobacconists, and no advertising whatsoever for tobacco, however.

        • Matt 1.1.2.1

          During the prohibition on alcohol sales in the US rates of liver disease and other key indicators of alcohol related harm dropped – sure it didn’t stop people drinking and it may have contributed a bit to the growing organised crime in the US, but it did have a positive impact on people’s health. And there are different issues relating to illegal drugs and it may be different for tobacco also – but a blanket ‘prohibition doesn’t work’ is not correct. I also agree with tax as an answer.

          Re smoking, around 21% I think, its dropped a lot in the last decade and a half or so.

      • Nick C 1.1.3

        Only a tiny minority of New Zealanders would smoke P, but that trade is alive and well.

        • Draco T Bastard 1.1.3.1

          Make tobacco illegal and you may find that the numbers who smoke tobacco would be about the same as the number of people who smoke P but I doubt that tobacco would reach the same price level as P, ergo, not as much, if any, profit.

  2. How is National pro smoking????

    I wonder if you did a survery on how many labour party supporters and how many national party supporters smoke, what the numbers would be?

    Of course the greens have been promoting dope smoking for ages.

    BTW: I dont smoke and find the smoking compaines to be sick for promoting their product.

    • kaplan 2.1

      Well, when one of their health spokespersons accepts an invitation, linked to British American Tobacco, to attend rock concert and proceeds to blow cigar smoke in the face of a woman objecting to his smoking, you begin to see there are problems with their perception of the smoking issue.

      MP apologetic over cigar fracas

  3. Lanthanide 3

    “Beside a Prime Minister whose ability to brazen out questions (‘why did you fire that minister?’ ‘why did you keep that shareholding secret?’ ‘why did you promise to close the gap with Australia when you knew you couldn’t?’)”

    Using Amey’s logic to avoid answering questions designed to draw out incriminating information:
    1. It was a personal decision
    2. It was a personal decision
    3. I personally believe that we can close the gap with Australia.

    Also, to address Amey’s predicament in answering. The two biggest reasons for giving up smoking at cost and health. As an executive of a tobacco company can’t really claim “cost” as the reason…

  4. Kaplan:

    That was four years ago

    • Mac1 4.1

      So were the Hollow Men. And still are, methinks.

      Ever used the “They did the same thing, too” argument, Brett Dale?

      Ever learnt the lessons of history? They can be more than four years old, I’ve heard.

    • Bill 4.2

      And these long term relationships have no effect, right? I mean, that was then and this is now.

      So we will see a government initiative to have tobacco displays removed from public view? Obviously a simple and effective way of lessening the pressure felt by recovering addicts to smoke again. Avoidance of associations or prompts is after all a tried and tested technique when dealing with other addictions, so why not outlaw some of the more obvious and easy to deal with nicotine prompts…including, ironically, a fair bit of the anti smoking propaganda? Will we see the government engage in a positive fashion?

      Or will we see the government spokespeople behave as industry apologists and regurgitate big tobacco claims such as that displays ensure the authenticity of the product which in turn ensures that there is no black market in tobacco or that banning displays will make no difference?

      What you reckon? And if the latter, you think the views would have been arrived at independently? That their convergence with the views of the tobacco industry are mere coincidence?

    • Matt 4.3

      Backing down on the display regulations is another example of being pro-smoking lobby.

  5. Just because one politician got invited into a coropate box from someone from the tabacco industry and blew cigar smoke in someones face four years ago, doesnt make that Political party “Pro Smoking”

  6. mcflock 6

    What Amey could have said is that he had a family history of heart disease, so therefore it wasn’t wise for him to be a regular user of cigarettes but he did enjoy the occasional cigar. Goes with that personal choice thing.

    Personally, I’ve always felt that the fixation on tobacco is an obsession with the sypmtom, not the cause. The plant itself is just a happy wee thing that grows like a weed. The problem is the corporate model that took that plant, processed the crap out of it to make it more addictive, and then lied about the health effects of said processed crap. The same model that performs cost-benefit analyses on repairing fatal automotive defects as opposed to just paying the likely cost of damages when their behaviour is exposed. Or the asbestos producers that killed their employees with asbestosis. Or the toy companies that use lead paints. And the list goes on.

    Don’t tax tobacco. Make corporate managers legally responsible for more than a profit margin, e.g. social responsibility.

  7. Nick C 7

    This year i stopped drinking soft drinks because I wanted to improve my health.

    If i make that desision for myself, is it hypocritical of me to not want to ban soft drinks?

    • felix 7.1

      How much money do you make selling soft drinks to other people, Nick?

      • Nick C 7.1.1

        I dont see how thats relevent, a persons employment is in no way related to their lifestyle.

        It wouldnt be hypocritical for a Radio DJ to prefer watching TV, a condom manafacturer to be abstinent or a car salesman to use public transport. I dont really see how smoking is different in a relevent way.

  8. Alexandra 8

    Brett Dale- One of the first things this government did when it came into power was repeal the ban on displaying tobacco in shops. Now tobacco is back in our face while we wait to be processed at the counter. Who is the govenment supporting by that action?

  9. Quoth the Raven 9

    Here are an interesting couple of contrarian articles on smoking: Smoking Trials Again and The Scientific Scandal of Antismoking
    I cant vouch for the veracity of either, but I find it interesting nonetheless. It may well be that the anti-smoking case has been overplayed. It certainly doesn’t deserve the demonization that it receives beyond the scientific case for the harm that smoking causes. In any event smoking or not smoking is a personal choice and what one chooses to do with one’s own body and mind shouldn’t be up for dictation and regimentation from the state. I don’t smoke, but I like most other new Zealanders use a more harmful drug – alcohol and that’s my personal choice.

    • Bill 9.1

      Just curious here QtR.

      But, what’s your take on Objectivism?

      • Quoth the Raven 9.1.1

        I think there is probably better rape fanatsy out there 🙂
        I don’t think much of it in that I have a low opinion of it and I generally agree with the criticisms that Rothbard made in the article I know you’ve read. That being said there are some good Randians who aren’t Objectivists out there (aster you out there?) and I think the hysteria around Rand is about as useful as communist hysteria. The fact that some people wish to ascribe some great Randian conspiracy to the world as if it were the Jews in times past is absurd.

    • Puddleglum 9.2

      Capitalist ideology is a funny old thing. It’s supposedly premised on the existence of an entirely fictional beast – the rational, independent, autonomous adult thinker who makes decisions in their own interest. Yet, in reality it establishes and employs every conceivable structure and lever (marketing, advertising, PR, ‘lobbying’ governments, etc.) to ensure that individuals work and consume to the maximum. This is all done on the back of a far more realistic and scientifically supported theory of people that assumes that people are highly manipulable, habitual, develop in a way that is principally determined by their developmental environments (e.g., exposure to media) and have psychological tendencies that can easily be ‘stroked’ to ensure that they end up making decisions that are decidedly not in their own interests

      In fact, the invention of the fiction of a rational, autonomous adult is itself a brilliant bit of leveraging of our psychological tendency to want to perceive ourselves in the most heroic light possible.

      • Quoth the Raven 9.2.1

        Why did you reply to me? I suppose you’re insinuating that capitalist ideology has something to do with my comment. Since you started why don’t you start by defining capitalism.You see some people would see me as pro-capitalist others as anti-capitalist it all depends on who I’m talking to and how they define capitalism. Here’s an article that has a bit on that: Anarquistas por La Causa

        • Puddleglum 9.2.1.1

          Let me clarify. I’m probably more sympathetic to various anarchistic approaches than you suspect. My concern with capitalist ideology has at least two aspects. ‘Capitalist ideology’ has a common-or-garden sense as it is used in today’s world – it’s the body of rhetoric used by and for the owners of capital (the disputed components that comprise the means of production). I’m perfectly open to the notion that capitalism per se has hardly ever occurred in history, though the rhetoric about ‘capitalism’ has been used by those with considerable wealth to defend their possession of that wealth. The second sense in which I’m interested in it is more ‘internal’ (i.e., to the extent that one might accept that ‘capitalist ideology’ is some coherent philosophical approach to understanding material relations and behaviour – as opposed to the more ‘cynical’ and instrumental use of the notion I’ve just described). My interest in this sense is the focus, within that ideology, of the idea of the autonomous, etc. individual who is able to make ‘choices’ in some sort of void (e.g., the ‘negative freedom’ that is present in the absence of collective structures such as the ‘state’). I think that idea is a fiction.

          I’m sympathetic to anarchism in so far as it undermines the legitimacy of the ‘state’ (I think the state is basically a structure that evolved as a direct consequence of threats to the power of the ‘wealthy’ and so I have no particular liking for its primary function as an overarching structure). I’m less sympathetic to anarchist thought that co-opts and elevates the idea of the individual that I see as part and parcel of ‘capitalist ideology’ – the suis generis independent, autonomous, adult rational decision maker in charge of their own life. That idea has no counterpart in reality.

          My reaction to your comment was my perception – perhaps mistaken – that you seem to buy into that fiction.

          • Quoth the Raven 9.2.1.1.1

            Much of the problem is that capitalists use the rhetoric of the free market to defend actually existing capitalism, to use Marxist terminology, where none exists. Then leftists react against the market per se and see in the state their saviour when history will tell us the state is the enabler of the kind of corporate plutocracy they so detest and many of the policies they support (and I’m thinking of social democrats and progressives here) just further enable this.

            My interest in this sense is the focus, within that ideology, of the idea of the autonomous, etc. individual who is able to make ‘choices’ in some sort of void (e.g., the ‘negative freedom’ that is present in the absence of collective structures such as the ‘state’). I think that idea is a fiction.

            But who really holds this idea? Is it just a straw man? I would definitely consider myself an individualist, but I don’t think this means what you think it means. Since others have said it better than me here are a couple more articles from some more of my favourite anarchist blogs: Individualism, Abstraction and Authority
            The atomistic mindset.

            • Puddleglum 9.2.1.1.1.1

              We probably aren’t that far away from each other (which I suspected). But… at the risk of hair-splitting, while I agree that the individual is an idiosyncratic agent whose action cannot be predicted by gross characterisations of social role and structure (e.g., their class, gender, age, occupation, their socio-economic experience – being unemployed, winning lotto, inheriting a fortune, etc.), there’s still an important sense in which every individual remains a thorough-going social entity. They are created – developmentally – by the operation of social and cultural processes on the biological endowment. What they become is, inevitably, a product of that interplay. (There are now some very sophisticated accounts of what it means for something to be determined or caused, BTW).

              I wanted to ‘split that hair’ because it may highlight the different bodies of literature each of us is ‘depending’ on for our understandings. Yours is anarchist, mine is the body of scientific work that seeks to understand what it is to be a person and how we become persons. In the latter, the notion of a being that has an independent will, in ontological terms, is too close to that mischievous Cartesian ‘ghost’ to be the basis of theory. ‘Atomism’ is not only socially impossible it is also ‘cognitively’ impossible (thoughts don’t suddenly arrive ‘ex nihilo’ in the mind – i.e., out of nothing). This point is also linked to Ludwig Wittgenstein’s argument (often called the ‘private language argument’) concerning the impossibility of being able to have any knowledge of the contents of a thoroughly private psychological realm. (People find this surprising, but they shouldn’t.) But now I’m getting way off topic …

              Here’s an interesting point: The most ‘individual’ individuals arise in materially collectivist cultures (i.e., where material needs are met collectively). The classic case is hunter-gatherer cultures. Conversely, the greatest conformity arises in societies where material needs are met through individualised processes (not a good phrase but I can’t think of a better one at the moment).

              It might sound odd but here’s why: Where material needs are collectively met at the local level, democratic processes are required for the proper and efficient ‘production’ to happen, simply because command and control can’t achieve it. The collective, that is, needs to drawn on the diversity of opinion, perspective, etc. in order to maximise the possibility of material survival (and because of that can tolerate a very wide range of ‘idiosyncracy’ in other matters – even eccentricity). Societies that operate on individualised material production emphasise the substitutability of individual persons. if you’re an accountant and I don’t like you or your work I’ll get another accountant! You’re not an ‘individual’ (in the humane sense of the word), you’re a ‘unit’ of accountancy skills which can be replaced, more or less, by another unit. Hence, people with accountancy qualifications will conform to what is expected of an accountant (professional codes, etc.). Also, more broadly, where one’s life risks are individualised (i.e., life outcomes are supposedly determined by an individual’s actions) there will be a tendency to be conservative in how one operates (not to ‘offend’, etc.). That is, we become increasingly risk averse. This is Beck’s and Giddens’ notion of the ‘risk society’.

              All very interesting …

  10. worried 10

    but do you share the incredulity of those of us who prefer drugs (classified) to alcohol for our friday night thrill?

  11. Jared 11

    Ironically, Marijuana has never been formally legalised and there is a roaring black market trade. The smoke has similar toxins, but instead of keeping it a class c drug, people are trying to legalise posession. Do you really think making tobacco illegal would work? I agree, make it difficult to purchase (not over the counter at every dairy, servo, bar, supermarket) but making it illegal, wouldn’t work.

  12. The Baron 12

    Sooo here is a radical idea.

    How about we leave people to decide themselves as to whether they smoke? I see a number of references to tobacco marketing – ah, what marketing? BAT and their fellows are banned from every kind of marketing I can think of, apart from in-store displays.

    I could accept an argument for finally closing that angle of promotion. But, banning tobacco? Wow, why? Because it harms people? So tax it to the point whereby the cost of resolving/ameliorating that harm is met. Sure, that won’t stop all the suffering that that product causes – so warn people fulsomely about the rest of the risks.

    So have smokers pay their own way so there is no cost to society, via taxation; warn them at every opportunity; and pull down the last of the promotional angles. But then step back, let adults be adults, and resign yourself to the fact that despite all the information and cost in the world, some people simply like to smoke!

    • Quoth the Raven 12.1

      I think smokers already more than pay their way. No more ‘sin’ taxes, please

      In 1999-2000, smokers paid $950 million in excise, according to Treasury’s 2001 Tax Review, and it is now more than $1.1 billion. Treatment, by comparison, is estimated at $225m.

      Eric Crampton, a non-smoking senior economics lecturer at the University of Canterbury, says estimates of the cost of smoking are greatly inflated by including the cost of cigarette production.

      “You cannot honestly have a net measure on the benefit side and then double-count by including the resource on the cost side. Similarly, we cannot count the healthcare costs on the cost side, if we do not include the tax revenues collected on the benefits side.”

      Treasury says the Ministry of Health and anti-smoking groups ignore “the long average lag between the payment of tobacco taxes and the incidence of health costs”.

      Crampton: “The cost-benefit analysis presented is fundamentally unsound [and] its methods seem to have been chosen with the aim of maximising the monetised costs of tobacco use and minimising the monetised value of the [enjoyment] derived by smokers from tobacco.”

  13. John 13

    He should be Minister of Health! Mental Health?

  14. Jenny 14

    Maybe the mass marketing, packaging, distribution and retailing of cigarettes for profit could be made illegal.

    But possession for personal use and growing and drying of this drug by the user should still be legal. (None but aficionados could probably be bothered to do such a thing.)

    This to me, would be a sensible, balanced approach to take, and could save many lives without being punitive to those already chronically addicted.

    • felix 14.1

      Possession for personal use and growing and drying, synthesizing or otherwise producing of ANY drug by the user should still be legal.

      As an aside, I enjoy growing, drying, and curing tobacco. If anyone knows a good technique for shredding it I’m all ears.

      • Jenny 14.1.1

        First you get a huge factory and then you get a huge stainless steel machine equipped with high speed spinning blades and then when it is all nicely chopped you get other specialist stainless steel machinery to tightly pack it into perfectly formed little white tubes.

        Your only other alternatives are ripping it with your hands, or cutting it with scissors.

        Good luck with that.

        On the up side, though time consuming, the whole process is quite engrossing and addictive in itself.

        Another drawback of hand production of cigarettes as every user of rollies will tell you. Is you can’t quite pack it as tight as anally retentive big tobacco manufacturers in their $billion factories can. This problem is made even worse with hand cut tobacco. The final result is that hand manufactured cigarettes don’t give the same hit and are nowhere as addictive as the highly processed commercial product. Hang on, that could be a good thing.

  15. felix 15

    Yeah, scissors are the best method I’ve found so far – luckily I don’t smoke much ‘cos it’s far too slow to support a proper ciggie habit.

    Perhaps I could weld a whole lot of scissors together – has anyone else made a device like this?

  16. prism 16

    Edward Scissorhands?

  17. Roger 17

    The link between tobacco and cancer is clearcut. The cost burden on the public health system is significant. Why not increase tax on tobacco and boost anti-smoking education programmes?

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