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Thursday
Jan102013

Bar sense

I actually went out for a pint yesterday, and I can't say enough about the pleasant atmosphere in my local, The Cotton Ball in Mayfield.

As I sat relaxed on the high stool, a reasonable book taking me effortlessly to the sands of Saudi Arabia, the owner Jack appeared before me on the other side of the bar. As always with him conversation is interesting, informative and refreshing.

Discussing his plans for the pub in the coming years, he mused that the business of being a publican had always come and gone in waves. He summarised this as, "Change comes and then it changes back". I was intrigued by his observations as he has been in the business for what seems like a thousand years.Listening to him talk about the old days, you can almost imagine that he was serving Republicans in the front bar and the Black and Tans in the back bar.

Today, he says, the habit of just going to a pub for a drink is dwindling. His plans then include extending his menu to feature something novel in the food line. He suggested other changes, looking for feedback on the desirability and feasibility of each. But his earlier comments on things changing back, were still in my head, so I asked about those in light of his plans.

His humane and intelligent observation was that, possibly a war or an extreme weather event, will completely change public perspectives and the pub as a location or destination, will revert to how it has always been, and that included smoking too. In the meantime, he will play along with the politically correct nonsense that passes for society today.

It has been a long time since I have heard plain common sense talked so well.

Wednesday
Jan092013

New Year numbers

At the beginning of any year, the previous year’s activities appear in numbers.

The Journal.ie informs us about some of these. "Revenue officials seized a total of €49.3 million worth of drugs in 2012. Cocaine and heroin made up the vast majority of the drug seizures, accounting for €33 million worth of seizures. Just over €50 million worth of illegal tobacco was seized throughout the year, including 95.6 million cigarettes".

The ridiculous irony in those numbers is that the illegal substances were outdone by the legal substances. What is even worse from the Government's point of view is that only about ten per cent of smuggled goods are apprehended. It would suggest that the market for illegal tobacco in Ireland stands at around €500bn per annum.

I respectfully suggest that ten years ago, before the start of this unnecessary war on smokers, the illicit trade in tobacco was probably worth less than a million a year. Simply put, the so-called war included falsely driving up the price of tobacco to the point where the smugglers flourished.

That particular genie will not be easily put back in the bottle and I confidently predict that revenue from tobacco products for Michael Noonan will now begin to fall, leading to ward closures by the HSE. Meanwhile, the fat charities will announce that the fall in revenue is due to their hate-filled messages finally getting through.

Crazy, isn't it ?

Tuesday
Jan082013

Now it's the drink

An article in the Irish Independent last week suggests that there is no safe level of alcohol consumption.

Even a pint of beer is too much, they say, and in support of this they rattle off a list of cancers whose risk is increased due to contact with the booze and your good self. We are only a short step away from second hand alcohol or environmental alcohol fumes ("EAF").

The "they" behind this bad news are, of course, an array of doctors and researching white coats who are playing with numbers, not actual people. These same people thrive on their own inaccuracies and are capable of torturing any data set to suit a pre-determined outcome. We have seen this with the hysteria they created around the humble tobacco leaf.

But even as they struggle to become the white coat that sets the official level of drinking, they have a dissenting voice. In 2007 Richard Smith, one of the members of the group and a former editor of the 'British Medical Journal', said it could not say what a safe limit was because of this lack of data. "Those limits were really plucked out of the air," he said. "They were not based on any firm evidence at all."

For the trusting citizen then, you need to understand the difference between scientific research and propaganda. One is biased information designed to mis-lead you, the other is an honest attempt to present the truth to you. What this Independent article shows is that all of the so-called warnings on safe levels of drinking to date have been false because they just don't have enough information to know for sure. Nevertheless, this bullshit has already filled decent ordinary people with guilt and dread and has also made them far easier to control en-masse.
And that, folks, is what propaganda is all about. It is the power to control the stupid masses. It is the power to impose crippling austerity without a peep of opposition and critically, those in power who make those decisions, ensure they themselves are never affected. So you should be deeply suspicious of any kind of propaganda you read on any topic in 2013.

Wednesday
Jan022013

New Year's Resolutions

If you are reading this then you have got through the Christmas holiday, one way or another.

The traditional Christmas gives way to the traditional New Year resolutions and these always entail self-denial in one shape or other. We Catholics love that, don't we? As night follows day, then, smokers are under extra pressure to quit smoking at this time of the year, and I want to address that here.

Dr Fenton Howell, that old warhorse and smoker-hater, is in the news this week to announce yet another HSE sponsored campaign aimed at marginalizing us even further. Public money, which is in short supply everywhere else, is being lavished on an on-line assault on smokers’ freedom via Facebook.

While any of you out there who are actually thinking of quitting have my full support, and I sincerely wish you well in your quest, I will also continue this year to defend the rights of those of you who freely choose to smoke instead. Shortly after Christmas Day I did review things with an eye to a New Year's resolution of my own. The question I had to ask myself was what would I attempt to give up or deny myself this year?

My conclusion was rather simple and may apply to you also if you think about it. With four years now of continued austerity, I have already been forced to give up much of what I enjoy and want, as you will have also. Indeed, in response to austerity, I made a pledge to myself three years ago not to buy anything that I wanted, but rather to only use my dwindling resources on paying for what we need. So, I will not be trading my Fiesta for an Aston Martin in 2013. I paid one Euro for the Fiesta (it's a long story), it passed its NCT and critically, I need it. The Aston is desirable, but I don't need it.

I have already severely curtailed my alcohol intake week-on-week and patrol that quarter closely. As I patrol my eating habits too, that just leaves smoking then. Fenton Howell tells me that 70% of smokers want to quit, which places me squarely in the 30% category. Five years ago now I switched from packets to 'rollies', saving a fortune in cash every day by that move alone. Shortly afterwards, I switched from rolled tobacco bought in Ireland, to the same bought almost anywhere else in the EU, reducing the cost of smoking drastically. I am not even half way through the stash I brought in legally from Spain last June. So, smoking for me is a mild luxury and now it is the only real one I have left.

Therefore, my New Year's resolution is that the Government and the EU have made all of my resolutions for me already, and they have taken care of the next ten years of them too.

Simples!!

Thursday
Dec202012

The money spinners

Our friends in the Irish Cancer Society are in the news a lot this week and the subject of all the coverage is money, that root of all evil!

The story begins on a high note for them when a donor left €2.5m to the Society. That donation allowed it to increase its revenues by 21.5% last year from €17.5m to €21.2m. Excluding the donation, the society managed to buck the recessionary trend by increasing revenues by 7%. They also have fixed assets to the tune of €6.4m.

We learned that Daffodil Day brought in €2.4m after costs, the Shave or Dye campaign run by Today FM raised €1.3m, and the figures for the Movember campaign numbers are not in yet. Throw in revenue from their string of shops and their corporate sponsorships, and you can see that this "charity" is a right old money spinner.

The bad news for smokers is that they are earmarking an additional €1.5m of the mystery donor's money for 'additional research' into cancer, and we smokers know what that means. Chosen researchers will send out loads of questions to the general public, feed the answers into their computer and then politely ask the Irish Cancer Society what answers they want to hear in return for their generous grant to them. "Would you like us to show that smoking causes road-rage?" I can hear them ask.

Continuing on the theme of money for themselves, we learned that the ICS is a member of the Charitable Lotteries Scheme, who are in line for a big injection of compensation should the Government offload the National Lottery. Many years ago at the inception of the Lotto draws, our home grown charities jumped around protesting that they also ran their own lotteries and they would lose out to "the big one". It is one of the perks of charitable status that the 'Gaming Act' is waived for these quangos. Anyway, as a result of their protests, the Government earmarked even more money from the Lottery profits and the ICS found itself once again at the public trough.

Now, fronted by REHAB, the combined charities are attempting to prevent the sale of the National Lottery going through, apparently seeking to protect their free money. The real reason of course probably has more to do with kicking up enough of a stink now so that they will get a big one-off payment when the sale actually takes place. As far as these clever cancer lads are concerned, charity begins at home!!!

Friday
Dec142012

New 'health' warning

I’m tickled by an idea proposed by John McDarby in a letter to the Irish Times.

Instead of cigarette packs displaying gruesome images of sick people, they should carry photos of plump politicians with a caption warning the smoker that much of the money they have spent goes to the man in the picture.

That might really get people giving up!

Thursday
Dec062012

Budget blues, but...

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.

Wednesday
Nov282012

Lies, damned lies and statistics

If I said in an authoritative voice that 82.4 per cent of Irish people wanted abortion on demand, would you believe me? If I said the Gardai arrested and convicted 12,947 drug pushers already this year, would you be inclined to believe that ?

I made up those two by way of illustration. I have noticed over the last ten to fifteen years that politicians and "experts", as they are often christened, will begin a debate with a set of figures and these are never checked or queried as to where they came from. But as soon as they have spoofed the figures onto the table, the debate must centre around those numbers, whether they are falsifications or not. It is a trick as old as deception itself.

Yesterday in the Irish Times the retailers were again pressing the Government for more action on tobacco smuggling. It is all pretty predictable stuff, you would have to say, until you look at 'their' numbers. I just do not know anymore who is telling the truth.

Excise and VAT make up 80 per cent of the price of a packet of twenty, according to the Revenue Commissioners. This 80 per cent translates into €1,500,000,000 in actual money every year for the Government from the smoker. This is apparently an official fact and is available at www.revenue.ie. The other 20 per cent must therefore translate into nearly another €500,000,000 in money for everyone else involved bringing the total value of the cigarette market in Ireland to around €2bn a year.

That is simple enough maths as far as it goes. However, it also means that the average smoker in Ireland smokes ten cigarettes a day, if the Government's statistic for the numbers smoking (29 per cent) is correct. To put that in perspective, the European average daily consumption is 21 cigarettes according to Eurobarometer. There is a bit of an anomaly there, you would have to think.

Now add the retailers’ figures to all of this. According to them "sales of illegal cigarettes are running at about 20 per cent of total cigarette sales, with a face value of some €900 million a year." If €900M is the value of 20 per cent of all sales, then total sales should stand at €4.5bn (including the smuggled ones) and not the €2bn the Revenue are claiming.

Before you dismiss this as some kind of nit-picking on my behalf, we are talking about a lot of dough here. There is a difference of two thousand, five hundred million euros which is either missing, or simply never existed at all.

If the retailers are right, then smokers actually pay €3,600,000,000 in taxes to the Government each year, besides all of the other direct and in direct taxes they already pay. That is ten million euro A DAY in tax, every day of the year! It values the tobacco market far larger than the combined drinks trade. The retailers’ figures also point to Irish smokers having the same daily consumption as their European neighbours, which again makes sense.

What baffles me, though, is that both the retailers and the Revenue Commissioners, having an important stake in the tobacco market, could disagree so completely with each other when it comes to the value of that market. Doubtless the Tobacco Control Racket, have yet another set of figures of their own to further confuse everybody.

So, in an effort to clarify things and get to the truth of the matter, here are the real facts.

1. Nobody knows for sure how many people in Ireland smoke or how many cigarettes a day they consume either.

2. Nobody knows for sure how many cigarettes are illicit or have not had Irish taxes applied to them.

3. Nobody knows for sure what it costs to treat smokers.

4. Nobody knows for sure how much the 'charities' get from the public purse each year, nor what they spend it on.

5. Nobody knows for sure how much the Pharmaceutical Industry pump into tobacco control to switch the smokers’ money over to their products.

But, there are statistics for all of the above that vary enormously depending on what you read and who you listen to!

Friday
Nov232012

Smugglers turn to booze

I have written about my local watering hole several times before.

The Cotton Ball in Mayfield is quite conveniently within stumbling distance of my front door. They also do their utmost to deliver low priced beer. For three years a pint of Fosters cost €3.00 there. Then Heineken bought the brewers of Fosters, Beamish & Crawford, and the price of Fosters shot into Carlsberg Country.

The hero in the Cotton Ball, tasked with responding to this, replaced the Fosters taps with Tuborg and the €3.00 pint returned. Starting early last spring I switched and it was surprisingly easy to do so. Then in September they raised the price to €3.10, to muted grumbles. In October they put it up again to €3.30 to muted growls. I was up there last night and the Tuborg is now €3.40, so I decided to find out why. The Manager of the Cotton Ball explained that the Brewery was getting their price hike in ahead of the budget. If Baldy Noonan listens to the puritans, I may be forced to switch to the €3.00 Carling option, still available up the hill.

Coincidence, then, as this morning the Irish Examiner reports that "a joint operation involving gardaí and customs officers has stopped nearly 30,000 litres of illicit alcohol from flooding the black market in the lead-up to Christmas." I have long maintained that high pricing equals big smuggling in the tobacco market and it appears this holds true for alcohol also. Indeed, perhaps it has a lot to do with diesel laundering also, don't you think?

As the fanatics from the Tobacco Control Industry make more money for themselves by falsely jacking up the price of cigarettes, the smugglers must be looking at an emerging market in booze as well. It looks as if it is going to be a very happy Christmas for the criminal gangs.

Tuesday
Nov202012

Tobacco tax refund

Earlier I wrote a piece about how the 'charities' are urging the Government to go after the profits of the ‘Evil Tobacco Companies’.

The purpose of this of course has nothing to do with your physical health. Faced with a Health Minister telling them sadly that the gravy train is slowing dramatically, the self-important in the Tobacco Control Industry are scampering about, frantically looking for money for Stubbs Reilly so that he can give it back to them. Addiction to the high life is difficult to fight.

To put it in perspective, Stubbs and his cronies already get 80c out of every Euro spent on tobacco in Ireland. This amounts annually to €1,500,000,000 in tax money each year. Of the remaining 20c in the Euro, this is shared between the retailers, transport companies, shippers, handlers and the tobacco companies themselves. It's the profit on the tobacco company's portion of this that the 'charities' have targeted for themselves.

I did warn that targeting the profits of multi-nationals sited in Ireland, regardless of the excuse, will send shivers down the spines of all of them. Smoke-free Ireland could quickly become Jobless Ireland. But then, bad and all as our legislators are with economics, I feel sure some mandarin in the Department of Finance is ringing loud warning bells in their ears about this one.

Interesting then that the ECJ, which is the EU's highest court, found itself hearing that the UK Government has been falsely taxing the tobacco companies for years and now it is in the frame for a seven billion euro refund to them. Incredibly, the EU court found in favour of Evil Tobacco!!!

It would appear then that far from going after the future profits of our cigarette suppliers, as the charities are urging, Stubbs and his cronies could be faced with their day in the Four Goldmines, looking at a bill that runs to millions for taxes already falsely stolen from these legitimate businesses.

So our supply of legal tobacco products are safe for a while yet.

Friday
Nov162012

A ray of truth

There was a retailer on Joe Duffy's Liveline on Wednesday who didn't seem to know what he was doing.

This lad owns a shop up near Croke Park and he spoke exclusively on the topic of tobacco and smoking. But I don't think he has ever been on the media before because, believe it or not (and I'd advise you sit down before I tell you this), quite incredibly and on live radio too ………… HE TOLD THE TRUTH.

Personally, I was off my perch and laid out on the floor from the shock of it. He said high prices caused smuggling, and you could hear Joe gagging in the background. He said plain packs didn't make a whit of a difference and smokers would just continue enjoying their fags. He even said he was going to start selling the E-cigs as well and thought they were a great way to give up smoking.

Researchers and sound engineers in the studio must have been trying to bring poor Joe around because he hasn't heard common sense like that in years. As for the old gent with such obvious wisdom, he'd best be careful because doubtless the uniforms from Customs & Excise will raid his place for such a blatant disregard for all the official lines. And the smoking police will arrest him on sight for any reason at all.

Still! For a few blissful minutes on the radio earlier, a ray of truth shone through the clouds of propaganda.

Normal service has now however, been resumed.

Wednesday
Nov142012

It’s all about the money

Where will the money come from to cover the lavish lifestyles of the important people in the Tobacco Control Industry?

I suspect the corporate pharmaceutical partners are disappointed with sales of their nicotine products in Ireland and are beginning to look at expenditure on marketing in this area. A lot of their big money spinners are now out of patents and the counterfeiters are cranking out similar drugs at a fraction of the cost. This must mean their generous sponsorship of, ahem, ‘charities´ is coming under some pressure.

Of course, for a pharmaceutical giant, marketing is done slightly differently than for conventional companies. Political lobbying and paid-for research results are their tools of advertising. They have a web of sponsorships on medical campuses around the world's universities, churning out highbrow justifications for why everybody should be hooked on their lotions and potions. Golf junkets for GP's in every country ensure compliant prescribers of their medicines, and pressurised politicians roll out legislation that suits their bottom line purposes.

Smokers are being coerced and herded towards a plethora of nicotine gums and patches by bad laws and restrictions, lobbied for by state sponsored charities. Endgame is the €1.5bn that smokers spend every year on tobacco and has nothing at all to do with health. Indeed, good health would put the pharmaceutical industry out of business.

Never mind that these replacement products don't work - that is beside the point. The task the charities have is to convince the government, Stubbs Reilly in particular, to put replacement products on the medical card and get the state to pay for them. This has already happened in the UK. You will know from past blogs here that Professor 'Looney Luke Clancy is being paid by Pfizer to help develop these products for them, while simultaneously advising the Irish Government on tobacco control. Now there is a man who could make the case to Stubbs.

But the portly Reilly has problems of his own. The HSE is €400m over budget this year, the consultants have effectively told him where to go on their salaries, and he had to resort to squeezing a reduced deal from the pharmas on the state's drug bill. As a result, advertising for replacement products has dropped off dramatically. Our new Government Troika has now told Stubbs to cut €800m off his annual health budget, so it's hard to see how Nicotette is going to find its way onto the medical card anytime soon.

This will be bad news for the ICS, the IHF and ASH Ireland, who must have been expected to achieve this goal by now. Reilly too may be hinting to them that they can expect far less from him next year as well. The war on smoking may be running out of its fuel, that of hard cash.
It would explain their latest moves, though. The 'charities' are back to Reilly with a proposal for a cost free initiative that will pay them their millions, without costing the state a penny. All he'll have to do is to get his sick Government to pass a law appointing a new tobacco industry regulator, preferably from their own ranks no doubt.

This 'Dirty Doctor' would be tasked with dipping into the profits of the tobacco companies for the funds needed to close them down. You certainly can't fault these bold boys for their route one approach. Dr Chris Macey (IHF) reckons they could get their eager mitts on up to €150m that doesn't belong to them and you could buy a lot of our politicians with dough like that. You could buy media opinion as well and think of all the researchers queuing up for their grants to prove anything the charities tell them to prove. Serious Irish medicos could continue to jet around the World first class, to enjoy the gravy train lecture circuit of International Tobacco Control. Stints at the World Health Racket beckon for the laziest of them too. Their self-importance would know no bounds.

There is a small problem, though, that the 'charities' may not have considered. Setting the precedent of stealing private corporate profits, regardless of the justification offered, will make every other corporate in the country very nervous indeed. The big IT companies, the pharmas themselves, and all of the other foreign multi-nationals will be very uneasy in a country where the government empowers itself to steal their money on a whim.

Low corporate tax rates on profits and light regulation attracted these big boys here in the first place. A move that sees intrusive legislation that permits the stealing of their profits would have all of them making provision for an orderly departure. These guys are not sentimental about ‘the 'ol sod’. Rather, Ireland Inc can sod off if it thinks it can just write laws for its home grown extremists. That is the kind of carry-on in places like Iran, and there aren't too many of the big boys working out of that hellhole. A lot of hot air about smoking deaths just won't cut it with these guys. Obama already wants them all to come home and he's going to make it worth their while too.

In its panic Tobacco Control (Ireland) Ltd may be biting off more than it can chew!

Tuesday
Nov132012

The state marches on

The early counts in the referendum on the rights of children in Ireland are showing that 60% are in favour with 40% against.

At first viewing, it certainly appears that all of the public money spent by the Government has had the desired effect. Ireland, then, is obsessed with its 'precious children'.

Or is it?

Well, firstly, only one-third of the eligible electorate actually bothered to vote yesterday. So the 60% in favour amounts to less than 20% of the total available voters. This raises the knotty question "what do the other 80% think or want?”

This is often the problem with democracy. Now that the final tally is in, the picture has remained the same. The motion is carried, as it were, and our 'precious children’ are now guaranteed to be protected or abused, depending on which if these you believe the state is most likely to do. And all it took was less than 20% of the available voters to ensure this.

One of my biggest worries at the introduction of the smoking ban here was the infringement on private property rights.

They have now positioned the state as the central character in the home and assumed the authority to override parental responsibility at a stroke. The new law means that a child can be removed from any home in the state by force and put up for legal adoption. This is a truly frightening development. The official text argues that it is only in extreme cases of child abuse. But, in this nanny state run by failed school teachers, smoking in front of a child has become extreme child abuse. Parents will no longer have the right to police their children's internet usage, and doubtless "childline" will be the first port of call for any teenager denied access to the bullying on the social networks.

Each month now, it seems to me, more of our rights are being taken away from us in the name of progress. We smokers have felt the wrath of the influence the vested interests vented upon us. There appears to be a mind-set evolving in government that they can get away with anything they like.

I'm a free man born into a free Republic. Our forefathers cast off the British to achieve our freedom. In my lifetime, we have cast off the Church to enhance that freedom. But, in a short few recent years, all of that has been mortgaged away to a faceless Europe who appears to want each and every one of us shackled for life in debt. Using that debt as leverage and the apparatus of a fawning state as a blunt instrument, we are being marshalled like some dumb herd into an aimless existence without rights or recourse.

The smoking ban started it and the twin vote on Lisbon showed it even more clearly. Socialising the private debt of the banks cemented it and our inability to respond has confirmed in the government's mind that they have actually got away with it.

But have they?

Friday
Nov092012

HSE waste

Since its inception the HSE has often been in trouble, usually on several fronts simultaneously.

As the old saying goes "follow the money and you will find the source of the problem" and it is no coincidence that the HSE's problems always seem to revolve around finance. It is the biggest recipients of our tax monies and boy, do they know how to waste it.

Smokers will already know that there is no shortage of funds from the HSE for anybody who wishes to demonise or coerce smokers. We saw an example recently when they decided to attack smoking in hospital grounds and a single sign in one area cost €11,000. Hundreds of these will be bought, despite the fact that it is perfectly legal to smoke anywhere outdoors. This means that smokers may simply ignore those signs rendering them a complete waste of money.

God alone knows how many millions they have channelled via ASH, the IHF and the ICS to support the war against smokers. Since they began wasting our money on this the numbers smoking have risen alarmingly.

And their scandalous waste continues.

An absolutely vital high tech machine, costing €1m five ago, still lies idle in Mallow Hospital because the HSE never budgeted for a trained operative to work it. Incredibly, no single individual accepted blame for this and the machine, still in its packing cases, will be obsolete fairly soon too.

Today we learn that our hospital consultants, who are struggling to get by on salaries over €200,000 a year, are being handed a further €43,000 to do a bit of hospital paperwork. And because they routinely make glaring errors (with nobody held accountable of course) the HSE finds itself a regular visitor to the Four Goldmines to defend the indefensible.

Yesterday a circuit court judge said it is amazing how the HSE claims to have funding shortages and yet has no problem in paying €800 an hour to legal teams to represent it in court. Well said M'lud!.

Tuesday
Nov062012

Sparring on the radio 

On Thursday morning, as I drank my second coffee (to get my heart started, naturally) I had a call from "Newstalk". They were inviting me to debate a call by ASH Ireland to increase (yet again) the price of twenty cigarettes in the forthcoming budget.

I was surprised to hear that the fanatics were not calling for €100.00 to be applied, but accepted the invitation anyway. That old pillar of intolerance, Professor Luke Clancy, was my sparring partner for the debate. I stuck to my beliefs on pricing that high price causes greater smuggling via the increased profit motive, unauthorised selling allows for easy access to children and the retail trade and the state are the big losers in all of this.

I am continually amazed that the Tobacco Control Industry persists in its denial that there is any link between price and smuggling. I suppose they would have to because otherwise, a case could be made that their lobbying was funding terrorism in some quarters. But, that kind of hysteria aside, high price is the first part of cause, course & consequence. Anyway, Looney Luke on the radio morning dismissed my concerns that pricing could be bad in any way and mis-defined it as "encouragement" instead of "coercion" which is what it really is. Coercion is a first cousin of force, as we know.

Interesting then that www.breakingnews.ie had a poll tonight with a question that said "an anti-smoking group is calling for an increase in the price of a pack of cigarettes in the budget. Do you think the price rise will force people to give up?" Amazingly, 2,246 people voted, of which, 407 declared that "yes, the price rise will turn people away from smoking". A further 629 said that "no, people will continue to buy cigarettes regardless of the price".

A staggering 1,210 people (or 53.8% of the respondents) said that "no, it will just force people to buy their cigarettes from illegal outlets". I rest my case.

In fairness to Looney Luke, he did say that my argument sounded intuitive.

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