Wednesday, 3 November 2010

NZ: Tarania Turia fails to count the cost of smoking

New Zealand, we are told, is heading for total prohibition. The NZ press is full of stories about the Government's hopes for a tobacco-free New Zealand, with short term price increases a first step. Fortunately reactions from  tobacco retailers are being reported too: rapid increases in price will not suppress demand, but fuel crime rates. People will get tobacco if they want it. A rise first implemented in April will see the price of 25 cigarettes increase by 30 per cent by 2014.

Health minister Tarania Turia has cast doubt on the figures for smoking-related costs to the health services (scroll down for costs of tobacco). in a letter reproduced here. Her letter admits that the $ dollar figure provided by the Ministry of Health 'has never been portrayed as a measure of the money that might be saved if compared to a world where smoking had been eradicated'.

One might asks what on earth it has been flagged up to prove, if not how much money not smoking will save.

People are going to die anyway. They might die later, they might require more care of different kinds. Or some people might need something to replace tobacco and resort to something more dangerous, whether illegal drugs or a comfort that is quite legal like cream cakes or booze in copious amounts.

In the end they don't know, as Mrs Turia is right to point out, how much money would be saved if smoking were eradicated, or even if any money would be saved at all.

H/tip Dick Puddlecote


handymanphil said...

Best open up the smuggling routes to NZ then-anyone got a boat?

Anonymous said...

Just watch the Kiwi's scream when their tax rates climb through the ceiling to cover the health costs due to loss of tobacco revenue!

John Watson.

Eric Crampton said...

Turia is Associate Health Minister with portfolio responsibilities for tobacco control. She totally backs the $1.9 billion figure and can't see that her admission that it doesn't represent the costs that could be avoided in the absence of smoking kinda makes a nonsense of her use of the number.

The prior highest estimate in NZ, in a study commissioned by ASH NZ, was $350 million -- rather less than the $1B tax take. The number wasn't big enough, so Ministry of Health came up with a method dodgy enough to get a number higher than the tax take. And absolutely NOBODY in the press here batted an eyelash when she announced figures more than five times greater than the prior estimate. Infuriating.