Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Rather hopeless endgame vision contrasted with the view from the ground

Yet again the New Zealand government has declared that commercial sales of tobacco in New Zealand will cease by 2025. The most recent edition of Tobacco Control actually contains a section called The Endgame, which includes this beauty: How smoking became history: looking back to 2012. Here's a taste:
Of course, designing viable and effective policies is a matter partly of logic but mostly of trial and error. The cap reduction proved too complex administratively. Bhutan banned the sale of tobacco products in 2004 - but almost no one noticed!13 New Zealand went for a ban in 2020, which went so smoothly that many countries followed suit with much shorter lead times. Those who had been worried that a country adopting a ban would need, like New Zealand, to have ocean on all sides were reassured when the smoking rate dropped below 10% even before the ban took effect: it turns out that so long as cessation assistance, including a variety of non-combusted nicotine delivery devices, is available, along with regular tax increases and a focused media campaign leading up to the ban, there is little residual demand for smuggled cigarettes. 
Singapore went ahead with a ban on sales to anyone born in the 21st century. This was adopted in 2012 near the time the World Conference on Tobacco or Health was held there. There is obviously no peer pressure for young people to smoke, and the few remaining older smokers get the pity they deserve. A few other countries jumped on the 1999 cut-off date; later arrivals have used dates early in the first decade.
Easy, isn't it? I am actually quite taken aback that the BMJ has taken to publishing this kind of futuristic nonsense in Tobacco Control, which is meant to be a professional journal. It shows complete blind faith in its ideals and no notion that anything resembling an unintended consequence might imperil its ill-thought-out plans.

Back in the real world, grocers point out that there is already an enormous amount of non-duty paid tobacco being sold in the street.

Website author of Tichtich discusses illicit tobacco and the supply chain in more depth:
What this study confirms is the weakness of official statistics on the number of people who smoke. These are compiled from official sales figures together with a reasonably sensible guess of the number of legitimate personal imports under EU trade rules (thee and me bringing back our 16 cartons) and a rough guess based on the number of seizures of illegal cigarettes. Before this investigation they put the figure for illegals at less than 5% for the UK as a whole. Clearly their statistics are wrong, hence much of the so called "progress" made with smoking cessation is little more than wishful thinking. 
As an aside, it also rubbishes the notion that smokers are loyal to a brand. We couldn't care less about the brand, it's the price/taste of the thing that matters. Furthermore, to avoid the diseased photographs or foreign script, an increasing number of smokers never carry their cigarette packets, preferring to use a cigarette case. These packs go for recycling along with the rest of our cardboard. Market penetration is actually far greater than even these figures indicate.  
Trouble is the folk employed to run up all this information are several steps removed from what goes on in real life. They're unlikely to frequent the less desirable areas of towns, they're not part of the smoker experience and they're less likely to strike up casual conversations with us outside offices, shops, railway stations and beer gardens. Those who do all these things are not only aware of whats going on with cigarettes and tobacco of questionable origin, we also know that official statistics on youth smoking are similarly wide of the mark.
I make no apologies for finding this version more credible.


Unknown said...

When alcohol was outlawed in the US in the 20's, drinking rates doubled even as the price went up 10 fold, and then there was the mob....

Dick Puddlecote said...

While reading that end game fantasy, the word 'cuckoo' kept popping into my head for some reason. ;)