The excise on cigarettes is now AU$0.61054 each, or $109.90 of the $178.50 cost of a carton of 180. The ever-increasing excise – it was $33.97 per 180 in 1999 – has successfully “forced” many smokers to give up the nasty habit.
There are multiple downsides, however. Contrary to propaganda from anti-smoking busybodies, smokers more than pay for any costs associated with smoking thus subsidising non-smokers. Also, as the number of smokers decreases, more people will live longer, requiring increased medical treatment and residential care into older age. These costs will be considerable.
The artificial increase in tobacco costs is producing other, more sinister, consequences:
In an exclusive interview with the ABC’s 7.30 program and Fairfax Media, Australian Federal Police assistant commissioner Wayne Buchhorn — who has been seconded to Australian Border Force (ABF) — said he had “significant” concerns that some of the proceeds of the booming illicit tobacco smuggling trade into Australia were flowing to extremist groups overseas.
“We are seeing crime gangs here in Australia, oftentimes Middle Eastern organised crime gangs, and the connections back into the Middle East … [are] a significant concern for us in the current environment,” he said.
“The funding of extremist activities, we are seeing some elements of that.”
There is one additional, perhaps supremely important, problem with government interventionism:
Smoking undoubtedly warrants some modest public measures, most of which have already been taken in the industrialised countries: moderate tobacco taxes, public education, and prevention of unreasonable nuisance to non-smokers. But smoking is not like tuberculosis or air pollution or drunken driving; it is not, strictly speaking, a public-health or public-safety problem at all. Rather, like motorcycling or overeating or skiing, it is a private health problem. To be specific, it is a problem for smokers. In seeking to obliterate this point, the anti-smoking crusade is in imminent danger of becoming a campaign against liberal principles, which is to say, a campaign of intolerance.
That’s from way back in 1997. Governments should stop trying to force us to do what they think is best for us.