Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Smokin' Gun

World No Tobacco Day is tomorrow, Thursday 31st May.
And (by really bad coincidence) a new NZ Treasury report says smoking actually saves the Government money!
That's because smokers often die earlier than non-smokers and thus the country doesn't have to pay them superannuation. The report says smokers pay $1.3 billion a year in tax...that's more than what they cost the country in health bills. It's long been a quirky anecdotal suspicion (much like the public perception of police speed cameras), that's now official!
Treasury then boldly goes where no smoker has puffed before to write that, due to smokers' shorter life expectancy reducing superannuation and aged-care costs, they're already "paying their way in narrowly fiscal terms"!! The report says smoking helps, not harms, the public coffers, because smokers' earlier deaths save huge pension costs of NZ$5.5-5.8 billion a year!
[The report was prepared for last week's Budget decision to raise the tax on cigarettes by 10% per year for the next four years, beginning Jan.2013. This, in addition to the annual inflation-indexed increase, will lift the average price of a 20-pack to over $20 by 2016.]
But then the whole subject moves from the sublime to the ridiculous: the NZ Institute of Economic Research oddly suggests that smokers should be able to pay increased prices into a special fund, and get the money back later if they can prove they've quit. Like their own little carcenogenic savings account!
These sorts of statements from officialdom actually undermine the very issue that's trying to be resolved ie: making NZ completely smokefree by 2025. Treasury could well be misconstrued, by those seeking any validation of their habit, as saying "Please keep smoking - it's good for NZ!"
Sometimes reports like these need to be released with discretion.


Madame48 said...

How ridicuous indeed! What utter rubbish the suggestion of smokers paying into a special fund then being able to claim back upon proof of quitting....the parameters around managing such a notion would not be viable. Who determines what the official "quit" time is before qualifying to receive their "compulsory savings" back and if they later fall off the wagon what then????

Anonymous said...

Yes, who would 'police' their quitting, to ensure they're not having a sneaky puff?
And if they DO give in, will they have to pay their Cancer Savings back again?
To say they're saving NZ money by continuing to smoke completely sidesteps the core issue, of their OWN health and those around them!
These statements are irresponsible at the very least!!

Mac said...

If you actually read the treasury report, its quite good. It says that tobacco taxes shouldn't be about revenue raising, and probably can't be justified on some narrow arithmetic of balancing the govt's costs - so the right argument for raising the taxes is to improve health, drive addicts to quit and reduce the harm smokers cause for their families.. You shouldn't complain about info being public because you wish the numbers were different. Now maybe we can focus on the social, human reasons for tobacco taxes, not the accounting arguments.

Writer Of The Purple Sage said...

Dear Mac:
I'm certainly not complaining "about info being public because you wish the numbers were different" - I have no problem with the info being released as such. It's HOW it is crafted that's of interest.
Journalists these days are generally all too eager to grab a 30sec.sound-bite or a line from a press release that's exciting or CNN-like. So to give them fodder, that says smokers cost NZ LESS if they continue to smoke, is just grist to the mill.
Those statements undermine the intention...and we all know journos would rather run with a sensational angle than something more pedestrian.
To my black-and-white rationale, the easiest way to make the numbers different, is to simply BAN all tobacco. Not phase it out over 10 years either: ban it FORTHWITH!!!