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.