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Phillip Morris #1 in carcinogen production

Phillip Morris have sought to reject the ‘plain packaging’ legislation approved by the Australian Parliament today via an appeal to the High Court. If the appeal fails this firm seeks compensation for the loss of the value of its brands of several billion dollars. It is interesting to note that the Coalition joined with the Government to approve the final bill.

Every effort should be taken by the Government to prevent Phillip Morris from overturning the legislation and compensation should be zero. Indeed once this round of reforms goes through a new round of anti-smoking restrictions needs to be devised – new taxes, no duty free cigarettes, restricting the sale of cigarettes to those who areknown to already be nicotine addicts etc etc.

The newspaper report mentions that this firm claims the measure has not been shown to be effective in reducing smoking. That is not their concern clearly – they are simply worried about lost profits. But yes there is no evidence on this issue because it has never been tried before. That of course does not mean there should not be a trial of the innovative idea of plain packaging. The stridency of this carcinogen’s claims suggest they believe the measure will be effective.

To make it simple Phillip Morris provide a product which kills people when it is consumed as intended. That Australia seeks the annihilation of such an anti-social entity should be a source of nationalistic pride not of doubt. There is no case for backtracking on this one and certainly no case for spending 1 cent of public money compensating this firm for having restrictions placed on their evil commercial activities.

As the menace of tobacco is progressively reduced more and more focused and explicit measures will be needed. Targeting particular groups of smokers – aboriginees and migrants – will become essential. I have aleady provided a plan to rid society of smoking almost entirely in one generation. No retreat is possible here. – get rid of these carcinogen-supplying merchants of death ASAP.

20 comments to Phillip Morris #1 in carcinogen production

  • capers

    “If the appeal fails this firm seeks compensation for the loss of the value of its brands of several billion dollars”

    Should it not be “if the appeal succeeds…”

  • Robert Wiblin

    What is the benefit of plain packaging as opposed to raising the tax by an amount that will reduce total cigarette consumption by the same level? Why not have a tax on smoking that provides government revenue, rather than a regulation that reduces enjoyment from smoking but doesn’t benefit anyone else?

  • hc

    Robert, Increases in tax cause intensification of smoking which can cause cancers deeper in the lungs – in short you puff harder and closer to the filter. There are also adverse distributional effects on low income smokers who cannot quit.

    Taxes are a good idea but they are bounded above by these considerations. The whole arsenal of weapons should be used.

  • Robert Wiblin

    Didn’t know about the intensification issue. I’m surprised there isn’t a technological fix for that, but if so it’s a legit issue.

    Assuming ongoing poor smokers are harmed by the new ugly packaging, their welfare will still be reduced. Is there an obvious reason why they lose less in that case than if the price went up but the pretty packaging remained? I guess the logic is that package appearance has a larger impact on the welfare (per cigarette) of new or occasional smokers, so heavy smokers lose less from a given reduction in cigarettes smoked.

    What do you see as the reason for wanting to discourage smoking in the first place though? Which issue makes aren’t people maximising their welfare in their smoking decision?

  • hc

    You answer your first query Robert. The uglly package limits purchases by new smokers.

    the second, the case for the rational addiction model, is something I have discussed many times. Youth start smoking at 14.9 years in Australia when they have high discount rates and regret their decision to have started by their early twenties when they can’t quit. estimation of ease of quitting is systematically exaggerated. Limiting smoking overcomes this knowledge internality.

  • observa

    Chinese manufacturers of cigarette cases and tobacco pouches here we come. When are you starting on the plain labels for the Fosters, Jack Daniels and the Grange Harry? Before or after the Maccas, fries and Coke?

  • hc

    Maybe cigarette cases will make a comeback.

    Alcohol and fast food don’t kill you when consumed as intended. The scale of costs also much lower.

  • conrad

    “rational addiction model”

    Curious name for something that should be predicting the reverse with 14 year olds, who obviously have more to lose than 84 year olds by smoking. Clearly the fact that they take more risks and think less is biological and has not a lot to do with any rational optimum processing.

  • hc

    The claim is 14 year olds have little to lose because they have high discount rates and the ugly consequences of smoking are a long way off. I’ve always found this reasoning a puzzle. How can they be rational when their discount rates drop as they move into their 20s and then regret the decision to initiate smoking? The ugly consequences still a long way off but this seems to suggest limited foresight rather than rational addiction.

    Not a big fan of the rational addiction model.

  • Rob

    If it were possible to stop people smoking until say, the age of 20, would you otherwise want to deregulate smoking (except where necessary to protect third parties)?

  • hc

    No. There are health benefits from encouraging people at any age from quitting smoking and I favour targeting gross health costs not only non-internalised costs. Even those with lung cancer derive health benefits from quitting smoking.

    After about age 25 – the age of brain maturation – very few people start smoking.

  • conrad

    “How can they be rational when their discount rates drop as they move into their 20s and then regret the decision to initiate smoking? ”

    I agree, and the first argument doesn’t really work either, because if the average time until consequences is, say, only 30 years, then it shouldn’t make much difference if they are 14 or 40, since the both groups will still be exposed to the problems at the same time lag. This limited foresight of course applies to many other things which I assume you are aware of (crime, gambling, risk taking etc.), and isn’t very controversial in any of the biological psychology literature. Indeed, I can’t think of any area evidentally apart from economics where it wouldn’t be one of the starting points of tackling problems like this, and then you could stick economic factors or other things like attitudes in as mediating variables.

  • Rob

    “There are health benefits from encouraging people at any age from quitting smoking and I favour targeting gross health costs not only non-internalised costs.”

    But lowering health costs is not always desirable if it comes with some other cost (low enjoyment from smoking).

    “After about age 25 ā€“ the age of brain maturation ā€“ very few people start smoking…”

    And after 25 very few people will start playing sport who weren’t doing so before – but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing to do. It’s just people are drawn to things they prefer when young.

    The regret issue is interesting, but isn’t the right solution to that we develop a smoking precomitment device?

  • hc

    Suggestions on precommitment devices?

  • Rob

    Smoking licenses you need to order months ahead? Probably very messy, but then so are the n-th best policies we are using now.

  • observa

    Harry, we addicts accept it’s best not to advertise a highly addictive drug to kids or adults, the externalities of smoking as well as locking the packets of doom away from prying eyes. We don’t give a fig about what you put on the packets so long as we can identify and purchase our favourite puff. So stop kidding yourself plain packaging will have any effect whatsoever on smoking rates after all the aforesaid.

    However once you accept that as we have, then you need to do likewise with the booze, because there’s little doubt alchohol has similar or worse social externalities. How far you want to take that with fast food and fizzy drinks with the obesity and diabetes epidemic is anyone’s guess, but one benefit for smokers is we’re a skinnier lot as everyone who quits smoking knows only too well.

  • observa

    “Suggestions on precommitment devices?”

    We need a ‘prosribed substances licence’ for all drugs whereby consenting adults only, are free to imbibe their own drug of choice PROVIDED it doesn’t impact others directly. Then we can stop the hypocrisy re legal/illegal drugs and say sorry kids, all out of bounds while your young bodies and minds are forming. User pays licensing with full information and you lose it for drug driving,being in control of machinery at work, etc rather than losing your drivers licence when your drug taking is the problem. Then we treat any licensee giving their drugs to the non-licensed as akin to paedophilia with kids.

  • hc

    Rob, That will not work. How on earth would you monitor adherence to licence conditions? Precommitment devices have been suggested for quitting but have not really caught on e.g. I will pay you $10,000 if cotinine is detected in my urine in the next year.

    Obsereva, I am mainly interested in adolescents for whom pack design does seem to drive smoking behaviour. So we do not disagree.

  • Rob

    You can only buy cigarettes with a license? I think you would/should support that even if you want to keep other restrictions too.

  • Rob

    The fact that people don’t sign themselves up for compulsory precommitment testing (or Stikk type mechanisms) is a sign that their ‘regret’ may not be completely sincere.

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