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RED HOT: Labor to burn battlers who smoke with massive new tax

laborsmoking There are well-sourced News Limited reports today that Rudd Labor is proposing an enormous new tax increase on cigarettes that could be about $6.50 a packet.

Like Liberal leader Tony Abbott – who has also proposed big new taxes on smokers – we don’t like smoking one bit. And we don’t like passive smoking much either.

But if all these federal politicians think it is so damaging that it merits massive punitive new taxes on smokers then it really should take the next step and ban it completely.

But they won’t do that because it would look extreme and could provoke a huge voter backlash

So instead they’ll continue to disproportionately tax smokers, with today’s leak being just the most recent chapter in the bi-partisan history of smoker bashing coming out of the nation’s capital.

Who are these victims of Canberra’s wrath?

Cancer Council and ABS stats show smokers are young people, with the highest rates of smoking in the 18 to 23 year old demographic for men and 25-34 age group for women.

They are manual and factory workers, around 39.8% of them smoke. Only 13.3% of professionals smoke.

They are people who’ve left school early.

They are indigenous. 50% of indigenous Australians smoke.

They are poor. The lower your income the more likely you are to smoke.

They are more likely to be more rural and regional Australia than the big cities.

They are – in many cases – addicted. Nicotine is highly addictive.

And yes, they get sick, with tens of thousands of smokers going to hospital, usually many years after they’ve been puffing on. But not all of them, smoking is just one of many factors impacting health.

Based on that list, our guess is that many smokers are also Labor voters and many would have been in the Howard’s battlers block that turned to Rudd in ‘07 over Workchoices.

So the federal Labor government – apparently with Tony Abbott cheering them on – propose to impose a tax that will impact on those least able to pay it. The proceeds will be spent on hospitals or some other worthy activity.

We’re probably far more enthusiastic for a user pays approach to many government services than most of the Canberra politicians and bureaucrats who plan to massively increase cigarette taxes.

But there is a profound logical disconnect here.

If smoking is so evil, so deadly, so damaging and so expensive to cure the illnesses caused by it, then ban it just as we have banned marijuana, cocaine and other deadly drugs of addiction.

But if we’re not going to ban it for expedient reasons or because a ban cannot be sensibly justified then we must think very carefully before unleashing massive new tax increases on the most disadvantaged and excluded Australians.

A lot of nanny-state politics seems to go this way. Do what the state wants or we’ll hurt you, seems to be the attitude.

In no other context would any government contemplate a regressive tax on the lowest-income earning Australians.

The government ought to think very carefully about what it’s doing because after the smoke clears we think this measure will end up looking a lot like the alcopops tax.

Paved with good intentions, that plan was aimed at discouraging young women from drinking vodka cruisers. Of course most of the impact was felt by Aussie battlers who enjoyed a bundy and coke mix in a can.

Labor politician and Health minister Nicola Roxon had devised a way of hurting voters in seats like Holt and Calwell that ultimately has done nothing to impact on young people’s drinking habits.

Taxing pokies to a disproportionate extent has the same effect.

It takes money from people least able to afford it and gives it to the rest of us to spend on warm-inner-glow government programmes.

Those old-style Labor politicians in three-piece suits, with pipes and hats (not Kim Carr he’s still alive and kicking butt) must spin in their grave every time Roxon appears on-screen to preach at us about something or other.

Cigarettes will soar from $13.50 to $20 a packet over three years: this is not the way a government interested in the real welfare of working people and battlers should ever behave.

While Abbott might feel trapped into supporting the measure because of his previous streams of consciousness on the issue, he’d do well to oppose it as a cruel, ineffective and nanny-state measure that attempts to plug government budget holes by slugging those least able to pay.


Comments are disallowed for this post.

  1. Good. Ban them and be done with it.
    The money that is gained from tobacco by the government has to be pumped back into health and preventative education anyway.
    There is no real profit for the Government’s coffers just a fostering of a bunch of dormant cancer carriers.
    Bring on the booze tax next!

    Posted by Chavista | April 14, 2010, 12:38
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    Posted by Tweets that mention VEXNEWS 2010© | RED HOT: Labor to burn battlers who smoke with massive new tax -- Topsy.com | April 14, 2010, 12:49
  3. It may be bad politics but how do we address the massive health costs that we all bear the brunt of from cigarette smoking?

    Do we just look the other way while the big smoking elephant in the corner continues to cost us billions?

    Posted by Clam Man | April 14, 2010, 13:14
  4. All taxes on cigarettes, alcohol and the like should be removed with all support from the health system for diseases stemming from the use of these products removed also.

    If you want to puff on a few faggs and ruin your lungs you should be able to do so without anyone stopping you just as long as we don’t have to pick up the tab for pumping the tar out of your lungs.

    PS: Andrew, ppl on welfare are the most reliable labor voters so Rudd probably wants to keep them alive so they can vote for him in the future.

    Posted by Mitchell Observer | April 14, 2010, 13:49
  5. I like putting long thick things in my mouth.

    Posted by Pisstopher Chryne | April 14, 2010, 14:06
  6. Many studies have shown smoking is responsible for more statistics than any other human occupation. Stop farting about with this stupid, dangerous, anti social, baby killing (yep, look that up in your Funk and Wagnall)expensive, nasty, cancerous activity and just ban it. Now would be good.
    The eye-watering amount of statistics used in the anti-smoking lobby is just a smoke screen (heh heh)for legislative inactivity.

    Posted by Wayne | April 14, 2010, 15:17
  7. why do Tony Abbott and the Liberals continue to take tens of thousands of dollars in donations from the tobacco lobby?

    Posted by Digby | April 14, 2010, 16:25
  8. Obviously the Mitchell Observer likes having a few fags around him

    Posted by Confused | April 14, 2010, 17:19
  9. Please give me something long & thick in my other orifice.

    Posted by Pissy Chryne | April 14, 2010, 18:02
  10. You light it and put it where?

    Posted by screamin mee mees | April 14, 2010, 21:00
  11. Couldn’t Get the bullshit carbon tax through, so they can tax you for breathing, so they have decided to come at us another way..if you “NoN” smokers think this is a good thing then you are very much mistaken, all it does is set the precedence to tax whatever they want..once they go after the the smokers you are next, that i can promise you..we are n the road where the Government is going to run, decide every aspect of your life..The US is trying to put a Bill through to Tax Salt to raise revenue..do the research..if you allow the government to grow like it it you will be a slave..wake up you fools..the only people who will benefit from taxes like these are the governments..all you sheeple out there are destroying our sovereignty and our freedom of choice..you all deserve whats coming you fools..

    Posted by ross | April 14, 2010, 21:22
  12. Good article. With 16% of the Australian population as regular smokers, logically many of them will be seriously pissed with a massive increase to taxes. Some will be pissed enough to change their votes. Just a few in every marginal seat could make the difference.

    Whatever their reasons for the tax increase, surely roxon and her team cant be that stupid? Surely they understand the politics of this decision?

    A decision such as this doesnt win you any votes. Maybe it brings in extra cash. But there isnt any electoral upside.

    Cigarettes are already taxed at close to 70%. If we want to look at socially harmful goods then similar taxes should apply to liquor or fast foods.

    Posted by anon | April 15, 2010, 0:57
  13. I’m a cigar smoker, so I don’t like cigarette smokers.

    That said, if Labor were serious about helping smokers quit, they’d reduce the taxes for nicotine patches – not raise taxes. This is all about money.

    Posted by Ben | April 15, 2010, 11:16
  14. Put a 200 per cent tax on the dirty fithy f@#king habit. Smokers don`t give a f@#k about non smokers, standing around blowing out their filthy s@#t for innocent people to passively inhale, inconsiderate ba@3teds. Besides that, what is it good for? At least with alcahol fat ugly sheila`s can get layed. All smoking creates is fat ugly sheila`s with bad breath.

    Posted by Beerpussy. | April 15, 2010, 12:03
  15. Raising the price of cigarettes is the best thing Labor could do for battlers. All the research shows that the higher the price the more people give up. And young people especiallty are less likely to get addicted if they can’t afford to buy packets. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that poor people “deserve a break” by smoking. Tax dollars should be spent on educating and supporting poor people to give up.

    Posted by Health First | April 15, 2010, 13:55
  16. yes of course – banning something means that noone will do it anymore, because that would be like breaking the law

    Posted by tosspot | April 15, 2010, 14:29
  17. smokers out 4 times as much into the health system that they take out. They die quickly and simply pay high taxes to cover the healthy non smokers.

    Posted by big boy | April 15, 2010, 14:33
  18. Health First, if smoking is deadly and dangerous (and I concede it is but acknowledge that many other lawful activities are also) then why not ban it?

    If you think it only worthy of discouragement not prohibition then why only $20 a packet, why not $100?

    It strikes me the only justification for all this is to maximise the potential revenue to the Commonwealth, from people who can least afford it.

    If educating and supporting people not to smoke is such an important priority (and I recall reading that anti-smoking ads in some cases remind smokers to smoke) then why must it be funded by taxing smokers? Taxpayers currently pay for all kinds of nanny-state programmes urging us to do this and that so why must there be user-pays when it comes to smoking discouragement or “education”?

    As for higher prices discouraging smoking, we recall microeconomics lecturers demonstrating otherwise, which makes sense when you consider smokers are addicted to nicotine.

    Taxing cigarettes and alcohol and poker machines are a politically expedient way of maximising Cth revenues. Rudd/Roxon/Abbott might fool some of the people most of the time on the issue, but we’re not so easily duped.

    Posted by Andrew Landeryou and the VEXNEWS Orchestra | April 15, 2010, 14:56
  19. Cigarettes are a dangerous drug that kills people. Cigarette company executives know that yet they continue to attempt to hook people on this dangerous filth and they stop at no corrupt ends to affect decisions of government in a way that allows them to allow them to kill people,

    We ban heroin and casnnabis. Why not tobacco. Interestingly, however, we hear those people who condemn harm minimisation strategies with respect to narctics, suddenly wheel out the same arguments indefence of not banning tobacco.

    Reality is no one will have the balls to do it. But let’s at least make this deadly substance as hard and expensive to get as possible.

    The drug pushers that inhabit this industry will stop at nothing to hoik children and young people on their deadly product.

    Interstingly, not many of these dogs consume their own filthy product.

    And maybe let’s drag all the executives (drug dealers) from the tobacco industry before court and allow them to explain why they should not all be jailed for manslaughter.

    If the Government wants to to make people pay more for the for the harm and social costs derived from smokes good on them. Why should the rest of us subsidise the health costs of smokers. And if it makes the product less acessible, that is also a good thing.

    If the government loses a few votes so be it – but it will lose the voters anyhow when the product of the traffickers from the tobacco drug industry has its inevitable effect on the health of these people.

    The attempt to put alcohol and gambling in the same bag is falacious, as these products only have social costs if abused. Tobacco has social costs in any quantity and if we won’t ban it let’s at least tax it out of existence and make it a criminal offence to encourage anybody to take it up.

    Posted by The Marlboro Man | April 15, 2010, 17:35
  20. Smokers and drinkers get taxed at mega-absurd levels, probably double the levels of fellow Aussies. Unfortunately there are nannies, like many of the above commenters, who are tiresome in their finger-waving pontifications.

    Get off our case, stop screwing us with horrendous indexed taxes, and attend to your own secret foibles.

    Smokers don’t smoke because they WANT to, we are addicts who are quickly going broke thanks to greedy goverments.

    Posted by Puff | April 16, 2010, 0:26
  21. Smoking is enjoyable, it is not just victims of addictions. Ban this ban that, lets round them all up and take them to church too.

    Posted by blah blah blah | April 16, 2010, 14:35
  22. It may be bad politics but how do we address the massive health costs that we all bear the brunt of from cigarette smoking?

    Do we just look the other way while the big smoking elephant in the corner continues to cost us billions?

    Posted by Amy | April 19, 2010, 4:59
  23. I am wondering if the government will ever bring in a FAT TAX for all the obese people who have massive health costs to the Government because they cant stop eating, fast food and just pure FAT!!!!!!!!!!!

    Posted by Smoker who enjoys it!!!!! | April 21, 2010, 12:22
  24. The history of smoking restrictions and popularity in Australia since the 1970s*:

    •1973 – Direct cigarette advertising on radio and television begins to be phased out over three years.
    •1976 – 43 per cent of Australian men smoke, as do 33 per cent of women.

    I begin smoking aged 12

    •1983 – Federal excise and customs duty on cigarettes linked to the Australian consumer price index.
    •1986 – 34 per cent of Australian men smoke, as do 28 per cent of women.
    •1990 – Cigarette advertising banned in locally produced newspapers and magazines.
    •1992 – 29 per cent of Australian men smoke, as do 24 per cent of women.
    •1995 – Most forms of tobacco sponsorship phased out, however exemptions granted to international events that couldn’t exist without it.
    •1996 – Billboards, outdoor and illuminated signs advertising cigarettes banned.
    •1998 – 27 per cent of Australian men smoke, as do 25 per cent of women.
    •2000 – Laws passed removing sponsorship exemptions.
    •2004 – 24 per cent of Australian men smoke, as do 21 per cent of women.
    •2006 – Tobacco industry sponsorship completely phased out. New, graphic anti-smoking ads go to air.
    •2007 – Indoor smoking bans begin to be introduced. 21 per cent of Australian men smoke, as do 18 per cent of women.
    •2008 – States start banning smoking in cars carrying children.
    •2009 – Local councils move to make alfresco areas smoke-free.
    •2010 – Smoking inside pubs and clubs banned in every Australian state. Tobacco excise increased by 25 per cent.

    *Sourced from Quit Victoria and Tobacco in Australia: Facts and Issues, compiled by Cancer Council Victoria.


    Posted by blackmambo | April 30, 2010, 0:21
  25. Isn’t it rather poor form to treat smoking addicts like this

    Posted by blackmambo | April 30, 2010, 0:47


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