In the previous posts I’ve discussed new and welcomed European policy, and this week I’ve been reading a lot of news articles about a political debate happening these days in Australia.
Basically, a few days ago, the Australian Labor party proposed a plan to rapidly raise the taxation of tobacco products, and it sparked quite an interesting argument:
Those in favor of raising the tobacco taxes claim it simultaneously increases the government’s income in a short period of time, and saves lives (and a lot of money) in the long run.
Those who stand against the proposed reform argue that raising taxes on cigarettes deepens inequality. This is because the majority of the smoking population is already in the lower income bracket. Furthermore, even if these reforms are successful at preventing non-smokers to start smoking, this is mostly a burden for heavy users who are already addicted. Oh, and of course the fact that this law might be unpopular among smoking voters (well, in the end, they are politicians).
Personally, I don’t have a strong opinion on the topic, though I do believe the numerous statistical results that prove tax increases on tobacco and alcohol products reduce their consumption, primarily through discouraging new users.
Of course, this raises the broaderquestion of whether or not it’s the government’s place to discourage its citizens’ “bad habits”? (The relative merits of the proverbial “nanny state” is beyond my interest here)
What I DO know is that it is up to the elected government to decide. In a democratic way.
And here is where the Big Tobacco campaigns come to the scene:
It is no coincidence PMI is targeting Australian audience with its spooky “illegal tobacco” video. Australia has already led a worldwide revolution when it comes to its promotion of plain packaging (as I’ve mentioned in my blog in earlier posts).
PMI feigns concern about smuggling in order to shoot down every policy that is actually harmful to their business strategy.
In both cases, PMI brings in the smuggling boogie man argument:
– If you raise taxes incidents of smuggling will increase
– If you promote plain packaging it will be harder to verify if the product is genuine
– Bottom line, if you do anything to harm Big Tobacco’s business interests it will be impossible to prevent illegal products from flooding the streets
These are simply scare tactics. A campaign to raise panic. Which brings me back to one of the most important tools in this campaign’s toolbox – (yep, you probably guessed it by now…) Codentify.
Oh grand savior of states, the smuggler beast slayer, “free of charge” system!
As I said earlier, I don’t know if raising the tax on tobacco products is the right thing to do in Australia, or in any other country. As we all know, even statistics and facts might be misleading (or at least confusing).
But the information, the statistics in question, as well as the control over the regulation, must stay in the hands of governments. Governments should not give the Big Tobacco companies the means to decide whether or not they can make taxation reforms. Definitely not on controversial and interest-laden issues such as these.