Malaria, Ebola and a cigarette pack
I have no doubt that the anti-smoking lobby mean well, but sadly sometimes that can end up in a form of fanaticism that ultimately ends up doing more harm than good. Firstly, let’s make something absolutely clear. Making something illegal doesn’t stop it; it drives it underground with all the risks, crime and violence, not to mention lack of any contribution to the exchequer. (Just to prove my point: hard drugs. Wow, by making them illegal haven’t we done an exceptional job in controlling their use – hmmmmmm?)
So it was, with some horror, that I read about recent activities by the antis trying to make it illegal to smoke in parks and cars, making it illegal for young adults to smoke, and finally the plain packaging drive and the ban on shop displays. Jesus, sorry guys, but please get a commercial brain. It’s not what you ban, it’s what you stop that’s important. Anybody with an ounce of commercial knowledge will understand that increasing prices and offering quality education starting at a young age are the only ways to reduce smoking. So what drives prices? Imagery and brands. Basic economics. You make something a commodity, it sells on price (and no, not higher but lower). Add to that plain packaging (a smuggler’s dream), a ban on display (a criminal’s dream) and you have – hey presto – a recipe for disaster. Just for the uninitiated, you would get a flood of very low price, illegally manufactured products that would be basically impossible to stop or control, and made possible by people that purport to make us more healthy?
So, in line with my “enlightened capitalism” approach, I suggest the following (and no, before you ask, no tobacco company kick backs, just logical, experienced views):
Firstly, transfer everybody that works in the WHO anti-tobacco unit, and put them and their budgets in the Malaria and Ebola teams. (Let’s face it, these are illnesses that kill people who don’t want to die.) It’d be really interesting to see what the annual global spend on anti-tobacco activity vs Malaria and Ebola for the WHO and globally would be? Any takers? Let me know.
Secondly, stop the ridiculous plain packaging and display ban. Far more sensible would be to align, at the very least, European tobacco prices. (A decent cause wouldn’t you say, so why the hell not? Love to be told why this isn’t possible. After all, we’re meant to be a Union of States.)
Also, thirdly, how about something completely left of field. Get tobacco companies to agree to pay their staff bonuses based on reducing real smoking incidence. Poacher turned gamekeeper. Love it!
Fourthly, and finally, let’s face it, our war against illegal drugs has completely failed. Anybody that has had a chance to visit Mexico must surely understand that. And no, before we get the typical crap responses, no not a free for all, but an intelligently thought through approach that enables people to get their fix on a daily basis, taxed, regulated, controlled and most importantly offering the ‘Cartels’ a chance to go legit. Wishful thinking? We landed a man on the moon. Surely with a bit of lateral thinking we could crack this? Thoughts gratefully received.