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Plain packaging case success

I am travelling in Asia but was delighted to read here that the legal carcinogen producers have lost their bid to show that the plain packaging legislation breaches the Australian constitution – these included carcinogen producers supplying the Australian market and one targeting Japanese citizens.  It is big news even in the country I am currently visiting – Thailand – and is given lengthy treatment here in both the major English-language newspapers published  here.  Moreover, I note in a report recorded in one of them that the Australian government’s costs must be paid by the carcinogen producers themselves.  There is also strong expression of support for the Australian Government legislation from the WHO who obviosly see the Australian developments as signalling an important global breakthrough.

Big tobacco and their paid lying supporters are against the ropes.  I haven’t visited Thailand for a few years but was further delighted to see that bars and restaurants here are now smoke free. That is a huge step foreword.  By coincidence I noticed in today’s Thai newspaper The Nation that smoking in a public place will now attract a fine of 5000 baht rather than 2000 baht. The screws are being applied on big tobacco in emerging countries like Thailand as well as countries such as Australia.

I’ll gloat further when I return to Australia but this is one news item I could not pass over at least without comment. The paper I wrote with David Prentice on the intellectual case for plain packaging did not discuss the constitutionality of the issue – that is now confirmed.  John Quiggin has more to say on this issue and puts this particular victory for common sense in a broader context. Those who sell products which kill those who consume them face a much less optimistic future than they did.

Update: The Australian Government however missed an opportunity to directly tackle smoking issues on the demand side by not allowing private health insurers to charge higher rates for smokers.  Charging uniform premia for smokers and non-smokers alike blurs the crucial truth that smokers have somewhat higher morbidity.  The claim that such discriminatory pricing would disadvantageously switch smokers into public health insurance is probably incorrect. Smokers die earlier than non-smokers and generate savings on this account.  The evidence suggests impacts on morbidity are rather low.

Update: A view from the ultra moronic right.  Note that the High Court have not yet articulated their reasons for asserting that property rights are not being infringed but that Sinclair Davidson, in this post, simply asserts they are being infringed.  Davidson (who is a Senior Fellow at the IPA) has gone rather quiet on his IPA colleague Tim Wilson’s claim that the Commonwealth would need to compensate the carcinogen producers by $3.4b annually for stealing their property rights.  No Tim they don’t and why (anyway) present this claim in the lead-up to the debate on plain packaging? IPA research has been part funded by big tobacco but I assume that would have no impact on the priors of this lot.

31 comments to Plain packaging case success

  • John Mashey

    Good on you, Oz.

  • Jim Rose

    why did the court even hear the case? there is no concept of regulatory takings in Australia. It is pretty weak even in the US.

    the actual australian constitutional protections against unjust acquisition are themselves very weak.

    let the tobacco companies waste their shareholders’ funds. I assumes costs will be awarded against them?

  • Uncle Milton

    If we’re going to raise private health insurance premiums for smokers, why not also the Medicare levy? And if it’s all done because smokers are less healthy and therefore higher risk, why not also do the same thing for people who are overweight, have a poor diet, drink too much, have a history of chronic illness, a family history of serious illness or a genetic predisposition to poor health? They are all high risk. Smoking is one cause of bad health, probably the major preventable cause, but it is not the only cause.

    I’d be very careful about giving the health insurance companies the excuse the price-out, or just straight out exclude, people with high risks, US style. This is taking a punitive approach to smokers. Aren’t they the victims of the tobacco companies?

  • conrad

    “why not also do the same thing for people who are overweight, have a poor diet, drink too much, have a history of chronic illness, a family history of serious illness or a genetic predisposition to poor health?”

    The first two of these are preventable, and the second 3 potentially are not, so you can make a moral distinction between those if your goal is to coerce people into living a health lifestyle.

    Also, we already make distinctions between groups based simply on genetics — young males have higher car premiums than any other group, so it’s not like the idea isn’t already here. We also make distinctions based on things like whether you happen to have an alarm in your house, a dog etc. Whether all of this is a good thing or not is another story.

  • Uncle Milton

    It’s true that much insurance is risk rated, which is why smokers pay much more for life insurance than non smokers. Also, men pay more than women (of the same age), and so on. It’s all defensible, if you think that insurance premiums should be based on risk. But there’s another view of insurance, which is that it should be about spreading risk, which is why we have community rating for private health insurance. In this case at any point in time the healthy subsidise the unhealthy, but even the healthy get old and sick eventually – for most people a vast proportion of life time health expenditures occur toward the end of their lives.

  • IC

    Harry – you’ve probably already heard/seen this, but if you havent: http://www.theage.com.au/national/bid-to-ban-cigarettes-for-anyone-born-after-2000-20120822-24liy.html

    A bold move.

  • Sinclair Davidson

    I am not employed by the IPA – can’t get the small details right and we have to worry about the large details.

  • hc

    Sinclair, The following descriptor should then be accurate – Senior Fellow at the IPA. I got the latter descriptor from here:

    http://ipa.org.au/people/sinclair-davidson

  • Jim Rose

    Should a view on the existence of a right depend upon who is benefiting from them?

    The courts are full of parties who are unpopular or unpleasant.

    If rules on regulatory takings are a good idea, then the unpopular and the unpleasant will be among their beneficiaries.

    It would be odd that the government can ban tobacco, tax it to the hilt, restrict its sale, require gruesome health warnings, but not be able to regulate for plain packaging.

  • Sinclair Davidson

    Harry – how does that make me ’employed’?

  • JB Cairns

    Senior fellows do get any stipend at all at the IPA?

    That explains their ‘quality’.

  • JB Cairns

    It appears from reading between the lines of the IPA annual report Sinclair is a ‘consultant’.

    Thus for tax reasons he gets a fee not a salary.

    I assume he believes if you do not pay payg you are not an employee.

  • Sinclair Davidson

    Actually Homer I’m an employee of one of Harry’s competitors.

  • JB Cairns

    One thing we know for sure you can never give a straight answer.

    You certainly get money frm the IPA whether via PAYG or any other means otherwise the term ‘Senior Fellow’ is meaningless.

  • Jim Rose

    see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fellow for the many meanings of fellows. the economics society even has them.

    by the looks of it, the flasher the title, the less you are paid.

  • Sinclair Davidson

    Homer – whether I am an employee is a question of fact.

  • JB Cairns

    You love to avoid questions when you are caught out.

    You do work for the IPA.

    It is entirely irrelevant whether you get paid via PAYG or by other means.

    You attempted unsuccessfully to give the impression you do no work for the IPA.

    By the way when treasury modelled electricity prices they did so in constant prices not nominal prices.You at present are comparing the two which one is taught not to do in their first introductory statistics lecture ( and is usually followed up in the first tutorial.)
    That is getting both the large and small details wrong.

    Something on which you have a consistent record on.

  • Sinclair Davidson

    Homer – I work for lots of people – mostly my children. Yet that doesn’t make me an employee.

    As to Treasury modeling, well they got it wrong. Voters will decide for themselves how much electricity prices have gone up and vote accordingly at the next election. Time will resolve uncertainty.

  • conrad

    “Yet that doesn’t make me an employee.”

    Sincair, if the IPA pays you, you’re an employee, unless you’re giving 100% of that money back to RMIT, in which case you’re basically an employee of RMIT doing a contract for the IPA. Why you’re worried about people knowing this really beats me — if your views align with theirs, then lucky you.

  • JB Cairns

    Another two non answers from Sinclair.

    He does work for the IPA and get paid.He simply won’t say this.

    He also cannot acknowledge getting something very basic wrong from the treasury model.

    We can all thanks our souls they never get it badly wrong as stagflation Sinclair and as many times.

  • Sinclair Davidson

    Conrad – I am quite simply not an employee of the IPA. There is no contract between them and me.

  • Sinclair Davidson

    conrad – let me expand; my actual employer would be quite annoyed to discover if any of its employees were employed at other organisations. Quite rightly so. So allegations that I am employed by another organisation would place me in breech of contract. Add to that the fact that I am not employed by the IPA and you may begin to see the reason why I am keen to sort this out.

    Over the years I have received money from several organisations – but I am not an employee of News Corp, Fairfax, the ABC, or any of the universities that pay me to examine theses.

    So Harry has the facts wrong and Homer wants to imply that I’m corrupt.

  • rog

    I think Sinclair has answered the question, he receives money for doing work for various organisations but is not technically employed by those organisations.

  • JB Cairns

    Rog,

    I said this was the case long ago.
    Of course he gets paid for work he does. The fact he sends them an invoice is really neither here nor there.

    Sinclair naturally provides no evidence for saying I was implying he was corrupt. There is none.

    It is a smokescreen to obscure the point he was comparing current prices in examining electricity prices with the treasury forecast which was in constant prices.

    That is merely corrupt research.

    Naturally no-one at Catallaxy ever picked this up when Sinclair made his specious argument.

  • rog

    Sinclair enjoys his little word games as a device to obscure however when it comes to illusions like Climategate he thumps the lectern demanding complete transparency.

  • Gab

    excellent. a post about plain packaging and it’s all about Sinclair. You own them, Sinclair. Well done 🙂

  • JB Cairns

    No Gab he attempted to mislead and was as usual caught out badly.

    In the mean time we also know he has been using misleading figures at Catallaxy but that is a tautology

  • Jim Rose

    JB Cairns, if you focused on arguments rather than on people, the thread might have remained about plain packaging rather than sinclair’s consulting work.

    the abstract in the clarke and prentice paper says that without an offsetting tax increase, the legislation will plausibly reduce prices but significant entry into the industry and greater consumption of counterfeit/illegal cigarettes are unlikely.

    Turning cigarettes into a product with the advertising costs of a home brand product such as at the supermarket may reduce costs and increase smoking.

    Plain packaging is a good example of expressive voting. Voters cheer for it despite the fact that it may contribute little to reducing smoking and may even reduce industry costs.

    Would it not be much better to lobby for proposals that increase the price of tobacco?

    Would legal requirements for very expensive but still plain packaging reduce or increase tobacco consumption? gold plated plain boxes?

    Is advertising a normal part of the market process and drives down prices? Laws against advertising reduce competition, increase prices and reduce smoking.

    would a tobacco cartel ringmaster also require plain packaging? would a tobacco cartel ringmaster regulate advertising by members?

  • JB Cairns

    Jim,

    you clearly, like Gab ,have not bothered to read anything.

    The ‘sinclair’ interruption came about by sinclair saying saying he wasn’t employed by the IPA and clearly implying he did little work.

    It was oh so easy to see through this charade as e did.

    If sinclair had have been honest in the first place no further comments would have been made but sinclair being sinclair that rarely eventuates.

    Of course he also ends with a slur with which he provided no evidence.

    so nice of you to not to notice any of this but of course you never do!

  • hc

    I’d prefer the discussion of Sinclair Davidson’s relationship to the IPA to now end. Thanks. HC.

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