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Cheers - AE

Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Twenty Bensons? Would you like a mortgage to fund that?

As I've said before both here and elsewhere I'm an ex-smoker and I'm quite happy about it. But quitting was as much a personal choice as starting was in the first place* and I really don't have a problem if other people carry on. Partly because it really doesn't bother me enough and I can easily avoid it on the occasions that it does, partly because when the bastards have finished banning what I don't do I'm quite certain they'll move on to something that I do do, and partly because smokers are keeping taxes down for the rest of us. That will only carry on up to a point though, and if the latest suggestion from the self appointed tobacco gauleiters goes ahead I suspect the state government will see a drop in tobacco tax revenue. Twenty fucking dollars a packet? Are you out of your minds?
Doctors are calling for a new state tax on tobacco that would see the price of a packet of cigarettes rise to $20.
Let me stop there and, for anyone who's never been to Australia, give you an idea of what that means in real terms rather than fucking about with exchange rates. $20 will buy a little less than a dozen songs from the iTunes store. It will cover a McDonalds burger and chips for a couple of people or one big, fat, greedy bastard. Today it'll pay for about 17 litres, say 33/4 gallons in old money, of unleaded petrol. It will also buy about 1.5kg of either cat or dog food precursor chemicals for weapons grade cat sick and dog eggs. What I'm saying is that it's not a vast amount of money but it is for a pack of fags.
The Victorian branch of the Australian Medical Association (AMA) has proposed a 'tobacco transaction levy' that would increase the cost of a cigarette by 10 cents from next July, rising to 30 cents in July 2012.

The AMA is appealing to the Victorian Government to introduce the tax, saying the Federal Government remains silent on the issue months after receiving the Preventative Health Taskforce Report.
No idea how much British smokers are being stung for the price of fags but twenty bucks is not small change. The last ciggies I bought cost about $90-95 for a carton of 200, and since cartons tend to be a bit cheaper we're talking here is close to a doubling of the price over a period of barely three years. And what really fucks me off is that this seems to be as much about money as about health, though admittedly this is hardly new when it comes to tobacco.

Aside from the outrageous meddling in people's personal freedom I think this is terrible idea for non-smokers. Seriously. For two reasons I think it may lead to a fall in tobacco tax revenue that the rest of us will no doubt have to pay for. First, for some people it will probably work, and that means no more lolly from these new ex-smokers. Second, this is proposed as a state measure because, according to the gauleiters, the Federal Government isn't being a big enough bastard to the smokers. Now the thing with being a state, particularly the smallest mainland state, is that you don't have to stay in it. I imagine smokers in the Warnambool area in the west of the state would probably opt to hop over the border to South Australia and bulk buy their cigs in Mount Gambier or somewhere, thereby contributing the usual amount to Canberra's coffers and paying into the SA treasury at the expense of Victoria's. Similarly in the east people in Mallacoota and the Murray river region could buy from New South Wales. Smokers around Mildura in the top left hand corner might well do either being close to both borders. Ah, but that's a long drive for people from Melbourne and Geelong, which is probably three quarters of Victorians. True, but do you think for one minute that some of that bulk bought 'honest, it's all for me own consumption' baccy won't find it's way towards the state's big cities? And Melbourne does have a sort of state border in the form of the Tasmanian ferry. Even if not one single cigarette is ever brought across the Bass Strait to be sold on in Melbourne if the price of a car boot load of cigs bought in Victoria is higher than the price in Tassie plus the ferry trip people will start thinking about heading over there maybe twice a year to stock up. All that means is that Victorian tobacconists lose out, as does the government from the reduced taxes (though it of course it will get some back from fuel burnt by everyone fucking off to buy fags interstate). In short if non smokers want to see more tobacco smuggling coupled with an increased share of the state's tax burden we should get right behind this. If not then telling the gauleiters to shut the fuck up might be better.

The gauleiters themselves don't see it this way of course.
The president of AMA Victoria, Dr Harry Hemley, says a survey also found three quarters of smokers would quit if the price of a packet of cigarettes rose in price by half.

"That's why we're encouraging the state Government to introduce the tobacco transaction levy, which would give the Victorian State Government an extra $3 billion a year just in Victoria alone, which would allow us to fund a lot of the shortfall in our public hospital expenditure," he said.
Aside: err... 'just in Victoria alone'? Tell me, where else but Victoria would the Victorian State Government be allowed to raise taxes, fuck monkey?

Dr Hemley might want to consider that if tobacco is the insidiously addictive substance they keep telling us it is then three quarters might be a bit optimistic. I once swore I'd quit when it got to £3 a pack, and did I? Er, no. So aside from all the other caveats to bear in mind with surveys one of the tobacco gauleiters' own arguments makes this sound awfully wobbly. Next he should check his numbers. Let's forget what I just said and assume for the moment that the 75% figure is accurate. Elsewhere in the article the number of Victorians who smoke is put at 16%, which assuming that means the whole population and not adults only makes about 865,000 smokers (population roughly 5.4 million). Dr Hemley is saying that $20 smokes will mean that about 650,000 of those people will quit, but somehow despite this massive reduction in people paying fag tax the remaining 225,000 or so will somehow contribute an extra $3 billion to the state treasury. That's over $13,000 per smoker per year... and that's not actually on smoking. Oh no. That's just the tax needed above and beyond the existing taxes we have right now to make up this supposed extra $3 billion p.a. Clearly the 225,000 smokers who'll be left will have to be fucking minted to afford an extra $13 grand tax each before even getting to the current level of tax and the cost of the product itself.

Can we call bullshit now? Nah, fuck it. Let's carry on for a bit.

Apparently a couple of years ago a pack cost about $11.25 and roughly 62.5% of that was tax. Let's be conservative and assume that both have moved on slightly to $12.50 and 65% - not an outrageous assumption, I think. So if the price is to be $20 a pack duty needs to be an extra $7.50, and the non tax proportion drops from just over a third to about 22% - barely a fifth. Cheers fellas. Meanwhile that extra $7.50 per pack divided into that extra $3 billion Dr Hemley believes will magically come is 400,000,000. So despite 650,000 fewer smokers 400 million packets of cigarettes will be sold, which means the remaining 225,000 smokers will each be smoking more than 1,750 packs a year, or nearly five a day. That's just an average of course. Personally I never even found enough spare time to smoke more than one pack a day, tops. Five? Christ! Some people would need to be chugging through ciggies non stop just to make up for the ones who can only contribute a pack a day worth of tax. And all this would be at an average annual cost to each smoker of a little over $35,500. That's brand new family car money.

Now we can call bullshit.

Neither the arguments nor the figures add up. On the one hand if it's the dreadfully addictive stuff they say then I have a hard time believing the three quarters estimate and would expect nicotine addicts to simply steal to fund the habit. If, as seems more likely, tobacco doesn't get you hooked just because someone whispers 'Marlboro' in a tiny voice five miles away and anything like three quarters of smokers quit the habit then the state will be fucking lucky for tax revenue even to stay anywhere close to it's current levels, much less fucking go up by $3 bill. So what is it, Doc? Health or money? Or is it the ever popular third option: power? I mean neither of the first two options seems terribly realistic on the back of my cigarette packet envelope, and since all the kids I went to school with who wanted to do medicine were pretty bright and could add up I'm going to assume that you can too. So have I made a colossal miscalculation somewhere above, or have you just not bothered to actually take a pencil and work through the same simple arithmetic, or is the real draw that it appeals to the revolting vice that so many authoritarian, cock biting, freedom hating, nannying, paternalist cuntweasels have in common - telling people what to fucking do with their own lives and ruling on what they can and can't put into their own fucking bodies.

[Victorian State] Treasurer John Lenders say the (sic) AMA's suggestion will be examined.
Let's hope he does the maths and sees the obvious: smokers are still, just, prepared to put up with current levels of taxation. Taking the piss will likely lead to a drop in revenue that will need to be made up** by imposing far less popular taxes on the wider population. What do taxes cost, John? Yes, votes. I have little doubt it would appeal to the authoritarian streak so many politicians have, but when push comes to shove they'd prefer to increase their chances of staying in office.

On the other hand if it does go ahead British smokers be warned: banning smoking with kids in the car has only been suggested over there but is already happening in Oz. If we do get $20 packs of fags you'll be next.

* It certainly wasn't advertising because during my childhood tobacco ads went from being weirdly meaningless to well on the way to being banned - I just tried it once or twice and decided I liked it enough to carry on. Eventually I decided I didn't like it enough anymore and stopped, and that decision wasn't thanks to all the negative advertising either. Memo to the tobacco industry: don't moan about the advertising ban because a lot of that money was probably being wasted anyway. Memo to the health nazis and pharma companies making quitting products: hahahahahahahahaha, your turn now, cunts.
** It goes without saying that it won't occur to any of the fuckers that the state should cope with a drop in revenue simply by doing less.


microdave said...

You'll not be wanting to get banged up in the Isle Of Man:

Angry Exile said...

Mmm, yeah, saw that over at Chez Puddlecote. I really am starting to worry about who they'll go for next. I mean drinkers were always in line after smokers, but who then?

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