Thursday, 22 January 2009

I join the compassion junkies

Today, I have decided to jump on the compassion junkie bandwagon, and see what it feels like to propose a propose a solution to poverty that has no hope of being implemented. But I am sure it will feel good, which is the important thing. Actually solving the problem is secondary to making the appropriate noises and gestures. I'll start my hand-wringing now.

One thing low income people do more than high income people is that they smoke. Gallup has a great graph illustrating this, and although the data is American, I am pretty sure this would hold true in most western countries. Poor people spend a higher proportion of their income on tobacco products than other income groups, and they are more likely to suffer financial stress.

NSW also has one of the lowest smoking rates in the Western world (13.9%). Thanks to years of anti-smoking campaigns and high taxes, pretty much the only people still smoking are a hard core. They are unlikely to give up, come hell or high water.

So let's cut tobacco taxes in order to help the poor. Smokes cost, what, over ten bucks a pack? A huge chunk of that is tax. Let's say your average tattooed, uggboot wearing, unemployed bogan in a housing commission slum smokes a packet a day - that's over $70 a week going up in smoke. That's a huge hit for someone on welfare, unless they are supplementing their income with a bit of drug dealing, theft and welfare fraud on the side.

If we cut the cost of a pack to $5, that will immediately put at least $35 a week into their pocket. That's $35 more that they can spend on booze, tyres for their sports car, tattoos, chunky gold chains, mobile phones and fast food. We need that kind of economic boost right now. Or $35 less per week that they have to garner through credit card fraud, extortion and break and enter.

Face it, these bogans are never going to stop smoking until the coffin lid is being nailed shut. They smoke because they like to smoke. Their friends smoke, so it's very social. They have enormous amounts of time on their hands, because they don't work, and smoking is a great way to kill time. That is why enormous numbers of prisoners smoke - they have all the time in the world.

Government programs of all types fail badly when aimed at these people - they don't read the SMH, and they are all watching cable TV, so they don't see the anti-smoking ads. Or any ads that cajole them to lose weight, not throw their rubbish in the street, not speed or street race or hoon generally, not to do drugs, not to binge drink and not to bring stupid stuff in through customs. They have very thick hides when it comes to government do-gooding messages.

So why continue to punish them with high tobacco taxes? It's akin to charging cancer patients a huge tax for chemotherapy drugs - I know that is a terrible thing to say, putting smokers and cancer patients in the same bucket, but both desperately need their drug, and both will pay or do anything to get it.

Governments are simply being needlessly cruel by continuing to punish smokers through high taxes. The burden falls most heavily on the poor. All those whining social justice baboons would be doing their client base a huge favour if they supported this change.

Ahhhh, I feel better already.


Prohibitor said...

A well-reasoned article BOAB but I would say that perpetuating the poor's dependency on smoking hardly does anything other than put pressure on the already crumbling NSW state health system, increase second hand smoke and increase the risk of littering (case and point the world's largest ashtray: Martin Place).

The ads are a waste of time and government money because why would the Department of Health knowingly keep tobacco legalised after they are aware of the effects of smoking through their graphic, educational pablum.

Get rid of smoking and the poor aren't as poor as they used to be.
Please visit:

Keep up the great work!

Prohibitor said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Margo's Maid said...

Who knew you had this soft side, BOAB?

Also, whenever some poor pensioner keels over with lung cancer, the Australian taxpayer is a winner.

Boy on a bike said...

LSO, you are so correct - they'd have a lot more money if they gave up smoking. And even more if they gave up drink, dope, gambling and stupid feckless spending habits. Spending good money to get the barber to give your 4 year old kid a mullet to go with his ear ring is not wise spending in my books.

But if they gave up things like smoking, how would they pass the time?

Prohibitor said...

Learning a musical instrument?