Home > Intellectual 'property', Science > Big tobacco loses again

Big tobacco loses again

August 15th, 2012

Until relatively recently, Big Tobacco appeared invincible. Despite the fact that tobacco smoke was full of known carcinogens that would have had a factory shut down if they came out of the smokestack, and ample evidence that exposure to tobacco smoke caused cancer, not to mention the violation of liberty associated with blowing smoke in public places, Big Tobacco effectively resisted even the mildest restrictions on its activities. It was aided by a team of scientists and other “experts” willing to claim that the hazards of smoking were non-existent or overstated (notable names here include Enstrom & Kabat, Gio Batta Gori, Richard Lindzen, Steve Milloy, Fred Seitz and Fred Singer – Google has details).

Virtually all the main rightwing thinktanks in the US and Australia went along with this fraud (AEI, Cato, Centre for Independent Studies, CEI, Heartland and IPA among many others). While they might legitimately have argued part of their case on strict libertarian grounds, that would not have been sufficient to resist restrictions on passive smoking. So, they published attacks on science which any reasonable assessment would have shown to be false. In doing so, of course, they encouraged people to take risks with their own lives and those of others, while happily accepting money from the merchants of death. Whether they were knowingly lying, or merely recklessly indifferent to the truth, this episode should have discredited them forever (it certainly has with me).

But the tide has turned. US litigation in the 1990s exposed a treasure trove of internal documents which eventually led to racketeering convictions for the main tobacco companies. And now the High Court has rejected Big Tobacco’s (legally preposterous) challenge to plain packaging legislation in Australia, made on the supposed basis that it represented a taking of intellectual ‘property’. Not satisfied with one preposterous claim, the tobacco companies are planning another, having bribed the government of Ukraine to make a WTO accusation of trade restraint. Actually, this is a good thing. This case is such an obvious abuse of process, and the litigants so clearly evil, that the WTO will surely not be crazy enough to support their case. In rejecting it, they will probably be forced to set precedents that make future interference with domestic health policy more difficult.

Coming to the policy merits, the current legal status of tobacco is, in my view, a pretty good model for drugs in general – legally available, but with all kinds of promotion prohibited and with an active public health campaign to give accurate information on the associated risks.

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  1. Freelander
    August 15th, 2012 at 16:54 | #1

    A terrible blow against freedom lovers everywhere.

    Oh! The humanity.

  2. Doug
    August 15th, 2012 at 17:12 | #2

    One bright spot to my day. The cause of the wicked shall not always proposer.

  3. Freelander
    August 15th, 2012 at 18:07 | #3

    Over at catalepsy they don’t appear to be celebrating.

    Oh, dear.

    Good that the Ukraine is still fighting on the side of freedom!!

  4. Katz
    August 15th, 2012 at 18:30 | #4

    Opium and LSD were legal until they were declared illegal.

  5. August 15th, 2012 at 19:33 | #5

    Understandable why “big tobacco” brought the case.
    I couldn’t give a continental either way. So the stuff now gets sold in generic packaging? Big deal (to me)!

    In defence of tobacco: The calming properties of its use have to be seen to be believed. At times I’d issue the stuff to people.
    But commerical branding on the packaging is irrelevant for that purpose.

  6. Michael
    August 15th, 2012 at 20:22 | #6

    @Steve at the Pub
    Irrelevant indeed. It’s just as well the tobacco companies are willing to spend a fortune fighting this health measure that they promise us will have no effect. Such selfless pursuit of principal! If I was a shareholder of these activist companies I would be appalled. Why spend this money instead of paying bigger dividends?

    Despite these corporate lackeys absence of scientific credibility they have been remarkable effective at stalling action and they continue to stall action on other areas of liberty inhibiting pollution in pursuit of the corporate dollar.

  7. August 15th, 2012 at 20:55 | #7

    That’s one of the deep philosophical problems with free-market fundamentalism (aka libertarians).

    They don’t deal with the problems/distortions caused by lies (‘marketing’ or ‘propaganda’ when done in industrial strength).

    Their ideology has no realistic way of dealing with success obtained through deception – other than to blame the ‘losers’ in the transaction. As an example: the miraculously calmative properties of tobacco would only apply when administered to addicts. Obviously the addict has to be created before there can be any problem needing the remedy. Pure free market genius.

  8. Fran Barlow
    August 15th, 2012 at 21:01 | #8

    Hard to improve on Blur today.

    The coffin nail sellers have another nail in their coffins. The RW Libs cop a slap across their chops. What’s not to like?

  9. Mel
    August 15th, 2012 at 21:17 | #9

    I agree with PrQ’s policy prescription re drugs but I would add one more thing- a compulsory trip to a medical or rehab facility for all teens so that they can see smokers with amputated legs and crack addicts looking like anorexic zombies.

  10. August 15th, 2012 at 21:20 | #10

    PS: It’s not just Ukraine that is dreadfully upset about our unfair laws (passed by our democratically elected – if hopelessly imperfect- sovereign government).

    Honduras and the Dominican Republic have also, completely independently and without any external collusion or orchestration, filed complaints with our democratically elected WTO:

    http://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/dispu_e/cases_e/ds441_e.htm

  11. August 15th, 2012 at 21:22 | #11

    Pr Q opines:

    Coming to the policy merits, the current legal status of tobacco is, in my view, a pretty good model for drugs in general – legally available, but with all kinds of promotion prohibited and with an active public health campaign to give accurate information on the associated risks.

    So Pr Q is in favour of legalising drugs. Would that be just soft drugs like pot and ecstasy? Or hard drugs like heroin and cocaine? Or is he in favour of throwing the whole spice rack into the mix?

    No doubt the world could cope with more pot-heads larding their asses on the couch or wall-eyed party ravers running the gauntlet of the clubs. But I have my doubts. As Steve Sailer remarks:

    The problem with marijuana is not that it’s some wild and crazy thing, but that it’s middle-age-in-a-bong. Smoking dope saps the energy from youth, turning them into sedentary couch potatoes.
    The parents of America already have a hard enough time getting their teenagers — and, increasingly, their adult children who have come back home to live — off the TV room floor when they are perfectly straight. Parents understand that changing laws to make marijuana more readily available — and, let’s not kid ourselves, that’s what these “reforms” would do — would create an even more inert and obese generation of young people.

    As for legalising hard drugs, I’d be interested to see how he proposes to avoid the kind of bedlam that evolved in the US during the Crack Wars. (Disclosure: I occasionally commuted through Bedford Stuyevesant during the early nineties, a good time and place to lose the last vestiges of liberal illusion.) Buying a kilo of crack down at Bunnings is not my idea of promoting a progressive society.

    Over the past century there has been no shortage of “accurate information on the associated risks” on drugs. But that never stopped teenagers and other at=risk groups from doing stupid things. A legal prohibition sends the strongest possible message to diverse social groups that drug abuse is a counter-productive way to elevate their mood.

    More generally, hard drug usage is intrinsically immoral, a self-evident truth to your great-aunt but apparently below the radar of the somewhat Aspergy libertarian economists who drive this debate. Hard drugs cause addiction, intoxication and sociopathy. They disable the key moral faculties: free will, a sound mind and a kind heart. Utilitarians, eager to maximise happiness, should be mindful of undermining the moral foundations of happiness.

  12. Fran Barlow
    August 15th, 2012 at 21:27 | #12

    @ (Father) Jack Strocchi

    Utilitarians, eager to maximise happiness, should be mindful of undermining the moral foundations of happiness.

    Lol

  13. John Brookes
    August 15th, 2012 at 21:47 | #13

    Big tobacco say that this will lead to illegal sale of cigarettes by drug traffickers. As opposed to the current legal sal of cigarettes by drug traffickers…

  14. Fran Barlow
    August 15th, 2012 at 21:57 | #14

    @John Brookes

    It’s hard to see how that could be made easier by this measure, but even if it was, so what? We can arrest them for selling contraband. We can’t do that in the case of the legal ones.

    It’s hard to imagine the illegal ones would be more harmful than the legal ones, but again, if so, so what? It’s not as if the legal ones are safe.

    If this further hurts the profits of leagl companies retailing tobacco then it’s all good AFAIC.

  15. August 15th, 2012 at 22:12 | #15

    Fran Barlow @ #12

    (Father Strocchi)…Lol.

    Obviously you haven’t had to administer CPR to enough OD’s. The novelty wears off after the first couple of times.

  16. August 15th, 2012 at 22:15 | #16

    CUSTOMER: I’d like a kilo of crack please.

    BUNNINGS SALES PERSON: Certainly, sir. Here you are. Have a good one.

    CUSTOMER: Oh I doubt it. I have to now engage in gang violence over the right to distribute this perfectly legal product I have just purchased. I expect I will have to participate in at least three or four drive by shootings before I finish work today.

  17. Freelander
    August 15th, 2012 at 22:29 | #17

    There will be illegal sales of cigarettes in non-plain packets, by ‘dealers’. The law change, making it illegal, will simply drive non-plain packet consumption underground.

  18. August 15th, 2012 at 22:32 | #18

    Ronald Brak @ #16 imagined:

    [fact-free fantasy]

    As if legalised drugs, such as alcohol, don’t massively exacerbate street violence. Lets add legal meta amphetamines to the mix and see how that works out.

    Have you perchance, spent the better part of your life living on, and frequenting, the low dens of the Upper Esplanade, Darlinghurst Road or Campbell Parade? I thought not.

  19. Alan
    August 15th, 2012 at 22:34 | #19

    The trouble with the break-the-business-model-of-the-drug-traffickers rhetoric adopted by Cardinal Strocchi is that there is no logical link between repressive prohibition and actually, ummm, breaking the business model. Prohibition only serves to massively increases the prices that drug traffickers can command. I would think the business model of the legal drug traffickers is doing a lot worse than the business model of the illegal drug traffickers precisely because of the policies His Eminence advocates with such passion.

    I would have thought the Crack Wars exemplified why prohibition is a hopeless model. Crack consumption did not decline. The adverse health impacts exploded in terms of the numbers effected. Vast numbers of people were jailed. It’s also fairly alarming that crack, a drug more prevalent in the African-American community attracted penalties far more severe than drugs prevalent in other communities. The prohibition model drives the carceral state in the US and that too falls disproportionately on African-Americans.

    Prohibition may give a warm inner glow. It may in fact be policy crack. But it does nothing to reduce drug consumption.

  20. August 15th, 2012 at 22:39 | #20

    As a denizen of the area, Jack, any opinion on the wisdom of the re-introduction of the six-o-clock swill (repackaged as the midnight swill for King’s Cross) proposed by the NSW Govt?

    Strikes me as guaranteed to produce the opposite outcome from the stated purpose.

    Your thoughts?

  21. Freelander
    August 15th, 2012 at 22:43 | #21

    The problem with things like the ‘war on drugs’ is that they concentrated on supply pushing up the price and largely ignore demand. Where users have been targeted the results have been better. I’d put electronic bracelets on users,have them under kerfew take their money and test them regularly until they reformed. No demand. Problem solved.

  22. Alan
    August 15th, 2012 at 22:53 | #22

    Yikes. Is there a real world example of your policy of electronic monitoring, curfews and income management? And is the government that applies these policies even vaguely familiar with the concept of human rights?

  23. Abhoth the Unclean
    August 15th, 2012 at 23:00 | #23

    Another, largely ignored problem, is that the court had to rule without reference to the acknowledged facts regarding health. Are we sure that it is sufficient to argue this issue on the basis of intellectual rights? Big tobacco have hijacked the main argument and have been allowed to focus on the supposed dangers of illegal packets and trade violations. This is a health issue and yet the court could not have thrown this out on the basis that tobacco manufacturers are a bunch of arseholes bereft on conscience or morals.

  24. Mel
    August 15th, 2012 at 23:02 | #24

    Freeloader: “Where users have been targeted the results have been better. I’d put electronic bracelets on users,have them under kerfew.”

    You sound far more psychotic than any crackhead I’ve ever met.

  25. Freelander
    August 15th, 2012 at 23:56 | #25

    @Alan

    There criminals. You give them a quick judicial process first of course. And its not so much manage their income as confiscate it. All done legally and above board of course. At the moment drug users are simply coddled.
    No wonder there’s a problem.

  26. Alan
    August 16th, 2012 at 00:00 | #26

    A quick judicial process? Criminals have rights and ‘coddled’ does not belong in a serious discussion. #21 you claimed this rather Chekist approach to the War on Drugs has worked. Where?

  27. Katz
    August 16th, 2012 at 00:07 | #27

    I’ll have what Strocchers is having.

  28. jrkrideau
    August 16th, 2012 at 00:23 | #28

    @John Brookes
    “Big tobacco say that this will lead to illegal sale of cigarettes by drug traffickers. ”

    People are going to pay more for pretty packages? Doesn’t work that way in Canada. A lot of our contraband cigarettes are sold in large zip-lock bags.

    Not even any colour etc which the marijuana packets have.

  29. Freelander
    August 16th, 2012 at 01:46 | #29

    @Alan

    You should read carefully to see exactly what I claimed (rather than what you thought I claimed).

    People don’t have to take illegal drugs so if they think the judicial consequences are a bit harsh they are entirely free not to take them.
    The US could rapidly solve its drug problem with a bit more effort on the demand side, and any revenue gained could go toward reducing the deficit.

  30. David B
    August 16th, 2012 at 04:31 | #30

    People scare me in today’s society. Not because they want bad things for themselves, what scares me most is that we think it’s ok to stop someone else from doing something he wants to do, just because we don’t like it.

    The smoking issue is not a health issue. It’s couched as one, but it’s a revenue issue. The government makes a lot of money from it. The health issue is also a cost issue. Who pays for the health damage. The smoker should pay for his own health issues. The bar owner should pay for the health issues, or quite simply make his patrons aware of the fact that he allows smoking… Then it’s a patron’s decision whether or not to risk the exposure. The bartender is responsible for his own health issues. He doesn’t have to perform that job, and anyone who says that’s not true is pulling an emotionally charged bait and switch. We refer to hazardous duty pay for jobs that have risk built into them. Then the person deciding whether or not to take the job is in the proper place to decide whether he values the money he receives more than the risks. It’s not my fault, or yours, or the employers fault that someone was willing to take that risk for that amount of money. If no-one is wiling to take the risk at a specific wage rate, then the employer raises his wage. At some point, the pay rises to a level sufficient to convince another man to take that risk. It’s still a risk. Coming back after the fact, after you agreed to the risk, and saying that someone else was responsible for the consequences of the smoke, is a lie. A baldfaced lie. If you argue, you didn’t know the risks, then you are a fool.

    We don’t reward foolishness in this society. We don’t reward naivety. Rewarding such negligence on the part of an employee, or a business owner, or a consumer, regardless of the emotional details of the result, will result in an increase in those behaviors.

    Fraud is a real thing that does happen, but it’s for courts to decide the boundary between fraud, and willful or avoidable ignorance on the part of the complainant. If you specifically and willfully deceive me shame on you. If you assume I know things that I don’t, then shame on me. I should have done the research.

    The libertarian viewpoint is one of respecting the rights of other men, especially if the actions he takes are ones you disagree with… The role of courts in the relationship is to arbitrate and redress where your actions directly harm me or my stuff, and I did not consent to it.

    The only way to make an argument that I can prevent you from ingesting any substance you want, is by making an argument that the damage you cause to yourself is also my responsibility.

    Any other effect that you cause, other than damage to yourself and your own property, must necessarily be damage to someone else and their property. That’s what courts are for. Civil law centers on restitution for harm.

    If you want to argue preemption, then we’re in thought crime land. So, anyone want to justify preventing thought crimes?

  31. August 16th, 2012 at 05:04 | #31

    Alan @ #19 said:

    The trouble with the break-the-business-model-of-the-drug-traffickers rhetoric adopted by Cardinal Strocchi is that there is no logical link between repressive prohibition and actually, ummm, breaking the business model. Prohibition only serves to massively increases the prices that drug traffickers can command. I would think the business model of the legal drug traffickers is doing a lot worse than the business model of the illegal drug traffickers precisely because of the policies His Eminence advocates with such passion.

    The aim of the war on drugs is to reduce drug abuse, especially amongst the lower-status (especially minors) who need to be protected from the consequences of their own folly. This goes double in the world that post-modern liberalism “made” where moral authorities such as clergy, sergeant-majors and even fathers are apparently bugs, not features, of the new system.

    In fact the authorities have the upper hand in the War on Drugs, as witnessed in the drastic reduction of smoking and more generally in the prohibition of alcohol consumption and growth of drug testing in occupations which are high-risk or high-responsibility. Drug prohibition has reduced or at least kept a lid on chronic addiction rates, especially for hard drugs, which I, AFAIK, stand at about 1-2% of the community.

    The state of the drug pushers “business model” (or business, as we used to say in English) is a seperate question. Asian and Arabian governments seem to have that matter well in hand. So far as this country is concerned, Howard as usual, made great progress with the War on Drugs by greatly restricting the import of heroin, especially in the aftermath of 911 when authorities had many more intrusive powers at their disposal. Supply and consumption went down, the price went up, yet crime continued on its secular decline.

    Alan said:

    Prohibition may give a warm inner glow. It may in fact be policy crack. But it does nothing to reduce drug consumption.

    Do you have any evidence to support this absurd claim? I thought not. In fact alcohol prohibition reduced alcoholism in the US and had many beneficial health and social effects.

    alcohol consumption declined dramatically during Prohibition. Cirrhosis death rates for men were 29.5 per 100,000 in 1911 and 10.7 in 1929. Admissions to state mental hospitals for alcoholic psychosis declined from 10.1 per 100,000 in 1919 to 4.7 in 1928. Arrests for public drunkenness and disorderly conduct declined 50 percent between 1916 and 1922. For the population as a whole, the best estimates are that consumption of alcohol declined by 30 percent to 50 percent.

    Statistics are sketchy on other social effects but anecdotal evidence indicates that the rates of domestic violence (wife beating and child beating) went down.

    Grog prohibition certainly helps in the administration of remote indigenous communities and protects indigenous health from the devastating effects of alcohol on their metabolism. (Have you witnessed these places at first hand? I thought not.)

    “Everybody knows” that Prohibition was a failure. But, as Twain once joked, “The trouble with the world is not that people know too little, but that they know so many things that ain’t so.”

  32. Freelander
    August 16th, 2012 at 05:58 | #32

    Smoking is a health issue, and libertarians ought to support the banning of smoking because smokers impose their smoke on others, and those others include children. But really, libertarianism is the antithesis of personal freedom because libertarians want to impose their political and legal system on everyone else regardless of other’s desires. Libertarianism is just another in a long line of monolithic world views that proponents wish to impose on everyone else, no matter what.

  33. Freelander
    August 16th, 2012 at 06:05 | #33

    Most people don’t wish to live in a libertarian hell, so libertarians should pack up buy some little island (hopefully about to be flooded due to climate change) and go and create their grotesque Nirvana and live there.

    That way they could respect our freedom.

  34. John Quiggin
    August 16th, 2012 at 06:10 | #34

    Jack, further side discussion etc to Sandpits, please

  35. Bring back Birdy at Catallaxy
    August 16th, 2012 at 06:44 | #35

    Perhaps the folk at Catallaxy could fund their proposed campaigns against the judgment by selling t-shirts with the slogan “I comment at right-wing blogs and I vote”.

  36. Alan
    August 16th, 2012 at 07:20 | #36

    @Freelander

    I did read carefully what you wrote. Where, I repeat, is that happy country that has adopted your program?

    Where users have been targeted the results have been better.

  37. Freelander
    August 16th, 2012 at 11:16 | #37

    Interesting. Can quote but can’t read what they quote.

  38. Alan
    August 16th, 2012 at 11:22 | #38

    Don’t play hard to get. Just tell us where your exciting drug-free utopia is.

  39. David Irving (no relation)
    August 16th, 2012 at 12:24 | #39

    Alan, I think you’ll find Freelander was being ironic.

  40. Freelander
    August 16th, 2012 at 14:21 | #40

    @Alan

    If you ask me to clarify claims I never made then you are not detailed response worthy.

    As for drug users, just a bit of tough love. And we love them so much.

    Seems like the Christian thing to do. After all, God loves as so much that he’s planning to sentence many of us to eternal damnation in the fiery pit of hell. Sadly, don’t love drug users that much.

  41. Alan
    August 16th, 2012 at 15:23 | #41

    Where users have been targeted the results have been better.

    Give us an example of where users have been targeted and the results have been better. We’re all most interested.

    I accept there is nowhere on earth that has adopted your actual proposals. Indeed I accept that there is nowhere on earth that is ever likely to adopt your proposals.

  42. Peter T
    August 16th, 2012 at 15:46 | #42

    “Coming to the policy merits, the current legal status of tobacco is, in my view, a pretty good model for drugs in general – legally available, but with all kinds of promotion prohibited and with an active public health campaign to give accurate information on the associated risks.”

    This is the big hands approach to policy. Which drugs matter – there is no generic “drug” out there. Marijuana seems to be socialisable so as to be tolerable, as does alcohol (with time). Heroin, crack cocaine and ice users get a short stick from their families and communities even where law enforcement or control are effectively nil – because most hard-core users end up anomic or psychotic (and a high proportion of users end up hard-core users). So prohibition is appropriate in some circumstances, regulation in others, socialisation in yet others. How to best do regulation, prohibition etc is another debate.

    David B: if governments only cared about revenue, they have been remarkably obtuse. A range of government interventions over three decades have reduced tobacco use from 70% of adults to around 16% today (and still dropping).

  43. John Quiggin
    August 16th, 2012 at 16:16 | #43

    @Peter T
    The idea of an inherent distinction between crack cocaine and powder has been thoroughly refuted. The difference was that (for complex reasons) one form was used mainly by poor blacks and the other (stereotypically at least) by rich whites. Similarly, when heroin was mainly used by medical professionals, it was at least as manageable as alcohol. So, the aim should be to treat all drugs in a way that discourages excessive use and encourages socialisation.

  44. Freelander
    August 16th, 2012 at 16:18 | #44

    @Peter T

    Quite right concerning revenue as the government is clearly not maximizing revenue, and if that was their desire they wouldn’t ban tobacco companies advertising and fund advertising and campaigns against the product. One of the most important libertarian freedoms is freedom of speech or as they would have it freedom to tell porkies.

  45. Gaz
    August 16th, 2012 at 16:45 | #45

    The air time given by the mass media to the claim by Big Tobacco that plain packaging will encourage counterfeiters is just free advertising.

    The argument is based on an implicit assumption that there would be some genuine difference between, say, real Winfield, and counterfeit Winfield and that assumption gains cerdibility every time the argument is aired without challenge.

    The problem for big tobacco is that most smokers wouldn’t be able to tell the difference – I certainly couldn’t distinguish between most brands when I, long ago, was a smoker, and the differences I could detect were mostly trivial.

    If the only way a smoker can tell it’s a counterfeit is by the packaging, then surely the argument mounted by Big Tobacco is a tacit admission that the branding is no indication whatsoever of the quality of the product, ie it’s bullsh!t.

  46. Fran Barlow
    August 16th, 2012 at 17:06 | #46

    More generally it seems to me that one need not try to make a policy covering all mood altering substances. They are, after all, pharmacologically different.

    With marijuana — I’d licence people to produce patches or a nasal spray to give a specified dose and retail these through licenced outlets. Same deal with heroin, amphetamines, cocaine and MDMA. This cuts problems with smoking in the case of THC and IV based transmission of blood borne disease via sharps in the case of heroin.

    People using excessive amounts of any of the drugs could be contacted and assisted onto programs to moderate their usage or “dry out”. Cocaine, speed, heroin would have fairly low threshholds for intervention.

    The packaging would separate out the legal market from the illegal market making it easy to track supply and throttle back non-official supply.

    If there were official channels to buy these substances at about the cost of production and handling + medical support and follow up, then it’s hard to imagine anyone would go to a street dealer, especially as there would be sanctions and no comeback for being ripped off.

  47. Freelander
    August 16th, 2012 at 20:05 | #47

    I’d rather outfit them with ankle bracelets.

  48. Peter T
    August 16th, 2012 at 20:31 | #48

    John

    How addictive a drug is, and what effects it has, are not a matter just of its pharmacology. Form of use, settings and so on matter. For instance, most professionals agree that heroin is no more physically addictive than nicotine – but the two have very different outcomes. Used by professionals firmly embedded in their social lives, heroin is manageable. Used by a wide spectrum of society, it is not (which is why heroin addiction is not socially tolerated in opium-producing areas such as the Shan States or Afghanistan). Ditto cocaine (this is not support for differential sentencing). Likewise, widespread use of ice leads to a high level of violence. Not all drugs can be socialised. Prohibition works to keep the user population small and access difficult – it does not seem to have much effect on price as such.

    Saying this after ten years working with drug professionals, including a few years on one of the key intergovernmental committees on drug policy.

  49. Freelander
    August 16th, 2012 at 20:43 | #49

    Crack is very addictive because it’s designed to give a nice big quick hit into the bloodstream and onto the brain in a way other modes of delivery don’t seem to equal.

  50. Mel
    August 16th, 2012 at 21:33 | #50

    I think Freeloader opposes drug legalisation because he is worried it might impact the cash flow of his street corner business. Yoh, is that right homey?!

  51. Freelander
    August 16th, 2012 at 23:06 | #51

    None too clever comment ad my attack the demand side solution would eliminate sales.

  52. Patrickb
    August 16th, 2012 at 23:39 | #52

    Agree that the restriction around tobacco are probably the best model for legalising other drugs. Zealots who want to ban tobacco altogether must be smoking something pretty wild as it would be a policing nightmare. We’d be an island of prohibition in a worldwide sea of legal supply. On the upside, I foresee a reemergence of the cigarette case as a designer accessory. The neo-liberal economists should be lining up for grants to test their theories of the market and innovation.

  53. Freelander
    August 17th, 2012 at 00:38 | #53

    No problem banning tobacco. Probably could do it without even breaking out the electronic bracelets.

  54. John Mashey
    August 17th, 2012 at 01:07 | #54

    Good on you, Australia!

    Cigarettes and alcohol are a bad comparison.
    See reviews of Golden Holocaust: Origins of the Cigarette Catastrophe and the Case for Abolition or pp.37-47 of PDF @ Fake science.

    1) Most adults smokers would quit if they could.

    2) In US, 30 years ago, typical starting age was 15-16, by now it’s down to 13-14. Addiction only really sets if done while brains are developing quickly. Very few adult smokers started after 18 and tobacco companies certainly knew this 30 years ago, as in The Importance of Younger Adults, which led to “Joe Camel.” Of course, tobacco freebasing helps.

    3) Cigarette company business model is simple and clever, they have the “best” marketeers in the world, dedicated lawyers and lots of money:

    a) Get children addicted by 18, but preferably much earlier, as people often stick with the first brand, so get there first. 11-12 is best.

    b) Kill them as slowly as possible.

    They know perfectly well that addicted adults will still buy no matter what, but higher costs and likely plain wrappers reduce the12-18 smoking rate, a direct threat to future profits. They’re on track for a billion cigarette-related deaths this century.

  55. Hal9000
    August 17th, 2012 at 08:43 | #55

    It seems to me that moral authoritarianism lies at the base of all the proposals to prohibit private behaviours, from gay s*x to pr0n to drugs. The main argument is along the lines ‘I am a superior moral being, able to resist temptation or to avoid addiction, but I’m concerned about all those lesser beings out there who are unable to resist. Those folks need to be protected by deploying all the force of the criminal law, and if force fails, apply more force.’

    As Jack’s rants show, the malign effects of prohibition and criminalisation are easily confused with the pharmacology of the substance in question. Prohibition of alcohol has similar effects – for example during WW2 the US Navy (unlike the permanently semi-sozzled Royal Navy) banned alcohol consumption by sailors, who duly found dangerous illicit sources such as the pure alcohol used to fuel torpedoes. Many died and many others were permanently incapacitated by this – high doses of industrial alcohol are extremely poisonous, especially when rapidly consumed. Similarly, the necessarily secretive and squalid circumstances of consumption and (by definition) uncontrolled purity of illicit drugs are the main causal factors in overdose deaths, not the magical qualities of the drugs themselves.

    Conversely, the cumulative effect of the measures adopted in relation to tobacco is, first, to remove tobacco as a third party hazard by restricting smokers’ freedom to practise their habit in public or confined spaces occupied by non-smokers; second, to limit the industry’s ability to propagandise and recruit new addicts, particularly the young; and, third, to use marketing techniques in the cause of public health by reinforcing accurate messages about the health dangers of tobacco smoking. No-one goes to prison, taxpayer resources are directed to more useful purposes, and yet we see a continuing decline in the numbers of smokers. This is what public policy success looks like – by contrast the ‘war on drugs’ is an unbroken record of public policy failure with vast resources deployed in order to deliver a rising problem as more users resort to ever more concentrated substances whose pharmacology is unknown, and law enforcement personnel are corrupted by the vast sums of black money in circulation.

  56. August 17th, 2012 at 09:07 | #56

    With regards to the Hal9000 unit: My God, it’s full of sense!

  57. Troy Prideaux
    August 17th, 2012 at 09:27 | #57

    @Hal9000
    “for example during WW2 the US Navy (unlike the permanently semi-sozzled Royal Navy) banned alcohol consumption by sailors, who duly found dangerous illicit sources such as the pure alcohol used to fuel torpedoes. Many died and many others were permanently incapacitated by this – high doses of industrial alcohol are extremely poisonous, especially when rapidly consumed.”

    Trivial nit pick- it was probably the denaturing agents (generally methanol) added to the ethanol that did most of the damage. IIRC, methanol is still added to ethanol (pure drinking alcohol) to denature it eg. methylated spirits.
    Obviously this doesn’t invalidate your points in any way.

  58. Hal9000
    August 17th, 2012 at 09:56 | #58

    @Troy Prideaux
    Actually, I understand toxic agents were added at least in part in order to make the fuel less palatable – a policy folly akin to adding high levels of strychnine to seized heroin and then releasing it to the illicit market. Sailors were also deriving their alcohol from other questionable, sources such as clandestine stills, medical and dental supplies, cleaning and polishing agents etc.

  59. August 17th, 2012 at 10:10 | #59

    Emetics can be added to make people vomit, which is actually quite sensible, but it’s not always effective. And also, the spirit of free market innovation has resulted in the development of a variety of ways for alcohol entrepreneurs to defeat emetics.

  60. Alan
    August 17th, 2012 at 10:24 | #60

    The other thing with the whole drugs/alcohol/tobacco issue is that you can always find a (usually) US billionaire who will happily fund your research if you say what they want. The piece posted by Strocchi appears on the website of ALCAP which describes itself as:

    an interdenominational ministry that, working together with the churches of Alabama, serves as “Alabama’s moral compass.”

    http://www.alcap.com

    ALCAP is the political arm of the Alabama Baptist Convention. It promotes laws against abortion, homosexuality, tobacco, drugs and alcohol and (just quietly) climate science. The piece itself was published in 1989 by the New York Times. It does not represent the consensus of historians and has been extensively debunked. Nevertheless a certain kind of activist will eagerly post a 30 year old opinion piece as if it were gospel truth with the customary conspiracy theory to explain everything.

    http://www2.potsdam.edu/hansondj/controversies/20070322134427.html

  61. August 17th, 2012 at 10:29 | #61

    Emetics: The Digital Rights Management of industrial alcohol.

  62. Alan
    August 17th, 2012 at 10:33 | #62

    And just because it is such a great quote (and very FDR)

    “What America needs now is a drink” declared President Franklin D. Roosevelt at the end of Prohibition.

    http://www2.potsdam.edu/hansondj/FunFacts/Prohibition.html

  63. Ernestine Gross
    August 17th, 2012 at 10:36 | #63

    @Hal9000

    “Conversely, the cumulative effect of the measures adopted in relation to tobacco is, first, to remove tobacco as a third party hazard by restricting smokers’ freedom to practise their habit in public or confined spaces occupied by non-smokers; second, to limit the industry’s ability to propagandise and recruit new addicts, particularly the young; and, third, to use marketing techniques in the cause of public health by reinforcing accurate messages about the health dangers of tobacco smoking.”

    Overall I agree with this summary. I have yet to meet a smoker who objected to the banning of smoking in confined public spaces as soon as the third party hazard became known. I don’t know of one who objects to banning smoking in a car with children as passengers. From there on it gets a little difficult. What is the sense of banning smoking in a garden pub where people go to drink alcohol? It is not true alocohol consumption does not cause third party hazards – some people become violent (others become jovial and yet others sleep in the street). Would pubs for smokers with vending machines, instead of staff, for alcoholic drinks be allowed; if not why not. I know many smokers who are happy to hear the rate of smoking among young people is declining and these people don’t smoke in front of children or teenagers. To the best of my knowledge these people do not object to the public education programs.

    But how much taxes should the established (adict) smokers pay on cigarettes? More than GST? Yes, I suppose. But 80%? Should there be a special tax on the profits of ‘big tobacco?

    I deliberately rely on my private observations regarding ‘attitudes’ and ‘social behaviour’ because I don’t trust the ‘research’ on either side.

  64. Ernestine Gross
    August 17th, 2012 at 10:45 | #64

    @Peter T

    “if governments only cared about revenue, they have been remarkably obtuse. A range of government interventions over three decades have reduced tobacco use from 70% of adults to around 16% today (and still dropping).”

    You may be right but you haven’t established this as yet with your numbers. The population size changed and the tax on cigarettes has changed.

  65. Freelander
    August 17th, 2012 at 12:28 | #65

    Smoking is not a private thing, neither is drinking alcohol nor taking drugs. Even gambling is not a private thing.

    Reading Harry Potter books is possibly a private thing and therefore should be tolerated (despite the self-harm).

  66. Jim Birch
    August 17th, 2012 at 14:48 | #66

    @John Mashey
    This suggests that the government should be putting pictures of unfashionabe old people on cigarette packets!?

  67. Patrickb
    August 17th, 2012 at 16:19 | #67

    @Freelander
    Er … so Freelander’s approach is just to ignore anyone points and assert that they have a solution without explaining anything. A fairly blockheaded approach. Why do they both posting here? The fact is Freelander that history makes a mockery of your assertions.

  68. Joihn Mashey
    August 17th, 2012 at 17:01 | #68

    “unfashionable old people”: maybe, whatever works. I’m not sure what the Oz laws expect.
    See this for US.
    ‘The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday revealed the nine designs that will adorn cigarette packages. At least four of the images are disturbing – featuring badly diseased lungs, tracheotomy holes, a cadaver or lips with open sores – and all but two of the images are pictures of real people.’

    Again, I conjecture that this will have little effect on well-addicted smokers who simply cannot stop. It may deter lighter smokers. But, I’d claim that the metric that really matters is the smoking rate at age 18-19, because most people are either addicted (or not) by then. If they want to start at 21,they can go ahead. All sorts of human societies go to great lengths to give children chances to make mistakes and grow up, while trying fiercely to keep them from damaging themselves permanently. Cigarettes are a strange exception.

    In the US, it’s been almost 50 years since the Surgeon General’s report in 1964.
    In round numbers, anyone born in 1952 was 12 then. 20% of adults in US still smoke, which means that any smoker age 60 or lower started as a child since the Report.
    Three years after “Joe Camel” started, his recognition among 6-year-olds was as good as that of Mickey Mouse. Those marketeers are “good.”

  69. Freelander
    August 17th, 2012 at 17:49 | #69

    @Jim Birch

    Old people, unfashionable or not, would give smokers false hope that they might live that long.

  70. Freelander
    August 17th, 2012 at 17:53 | #70

    @Patrickb

    But history doesn’t. There is evidence that simply targetting supply is stupid. But one should have expected that.

  71. Alan
    August 17th, 2012 at 18:44 | #71

    @Freelander

    Thank you for telling us there is evidence. Now could you tell us what it is?

  72. Freelander
    August 17th, 2012 at 19:36 | #72

    @Alan

    Can’t be bothered arguing with those who simply want to argue. Don’t seem able to understand what they read. And indicate a complete unwillingness to accept when they’re wrong. Only a fool argues with a fool (except maybe for entertainment).

    With all the marvels of the internet you could find the answers yourself if you wished. But that is not what you wish. You wish me to provide them for you, and in response you will simply deny.

    Now I would be a fool if I played into that game.

  73. Freelander
    August 17th, 2012 at 19:44 | #73

    @Hal9000

    How do you explain people who are not against consenting adults engaging in gay sex, or adults consuming most porn, but are against drugs? Doesn’t seem to fit your claims?

  74. Freelander
    August 17th, 2012 at 19:51 | #74

    Reprehensible as the practice may be, I believe even children ought to be free to read Harry Potter or Twilight.

  75. Patrickb
    August 17th, 2012 at 21:51 | #75

    err … after the embarrassing silence …. anyone care to respond to Freelander?

  76. Freelander
    August 17th, 2012 at 22:03 | #76

    Given the length of the silence, do you think you’ve demonstrated sufficient embarrassment?

  77. Alan
    August 17th, 2012 at 23:50 | #77

    @Patrickb

    If you engage them you get unsupported arguments accompanied by multiple evasions. Whatever you say is taken as proof of Freelander’s self-evident rightness. Apparently if you don’t engage him the same rules apply. Whatever you don’t say is apparently also proof of the self-evident Freelander rightness.

  78. Freelander
    August 18th, 2012 at 00:09 | #78

    Interesting. Can’t read, and now, dissolves into incoherent gibberish.

  79. John Mashey
    August 18th, 2012 at 09:45 | #79

    Ernestine:
    “From there on it gets a little difficult. What is the sense of banning smoking in a garden pub where people go to drink alcohol?”

    I’m not sure of Oz rules on children in such pubs, but that is certainly OK here, where there is lots of outdoor dining year-round and people like having wine or beer with their meals and some bring their kids. The idea of “pub” varies.

    While alcohol certainly can cause short-term or long-term problems, for most people it doesn’t and usually, the fact that someone at the next table is drinking moderately is not a problem. On the other hand, if someone is smoking nearby, that may or may not bother most people, but it might not be good for kids, or asthmatics of any age.
    See the references in this.

    Of course, in many places, the tobacco smoke is the least of outdoor air pollution worries, which argues especially for bicycles/electric cars, etc in places susceptible to them. But for sure, if an outdoor pub can allow smoking there, people should be warned ahead of time that no one with kids or asthma should go near it.

  80. John Quiggin
    August 18th, 2012 at 10:01 | #80

    Freelander, please take your side dispute to the sandpit

  81. Freelander
    August 18th, 2012 at 14:28 | #81

    @John Quiggin
    I don’t have a dispute so why don’t you tell them?

  82. Katz
    August 22nd, 2012 at 09:06 | #82

    The Baillieu government in Victoria plans to ban the display of bikie gang insignia.

    Is this an infringement of intellectual property rights?

  83. TerjeP
    August 22nd, 2012 at 09:22 | #83

    Katz – I don’t know. However it is outrageous anyway. The laws invented in the name of “getting Bikie gangs” are pathetic.

  84. Katz
    August 22nd, 2012 at 09:27 | #84

    The answer is that it isn’t an infringement.

    But I agree with you about the ham-fisted, populist political bullying of bikie gangs.

Comments are closed.