Well, the Budget has come and gone and I have some observations to make from the smokers’ perspective.
As my readers will know, I lobbied Minister Noonan beforehand asking him to consider a price drop of one Euro on the pack in an attempt to thwart the smuggling epidemic, if only slightly. He was in a difficult situation with that suggestion because, if he had listened to my advice, the very people he funds would have rounded on him savagely. He has seen them do so to many former Finance Ministers who have not done their bidding to the letter. They can be quite vocal, cutting and persistent, and certainly we have seen proof that every single Minister for Health fearfully does exactly as they instruct when they pronounce on Tobacco Control.
It seems to have escaped the attention of successive Ministers that all they need to do to quieten these extreme militant voices is to cut their grants substantially. But I digress. I am disappointed therefore that Michael Noonan lined up like so many before him and bowed the knee to these well-heeled charities by upping the price by ten cents. Given the already ludicrous price we pay for cigarettes, the reasonable smoking population might consider that they have gotten off lightly. But I disagree.
The tide might be turning in our favour, but smokers should remember that a bunch of lazy professionals declared war on us when we were not looking and they have been relentless in their pursuit of us for their own enrichment. In that context I am disappointed that Michael Noonan did not finally slap them down and declare: "Enough is enough!"
Instead, he made a gesture in their direction, most probably to lessen their ire in the aftermath of his budget.
But Forest Eireann will keep open the line of communication to this Minister and those that follow him. We will fight the creeping prohibition so desired by a minority in certain quarters and we will continue to fight for the right of consenting adults to enjoy a smoke in peace. Together, we can roll back many of the extremes imposed on us in recent years and return to normality in the future.