Wednesday, February 22, 2006

A step too far

The Maori Party wants to ban smoking. I can see where they're coming from, given the havoc tobacco addiction wreaks among their community, but this is a step too far. You can justify banning smoking in offices and bars in order to defend the rights of people who don't choose to give themselves lung cancer. You can justify age limits on sale and larger and larger warnings on the grounds that people should know what they are getting into. And you can justify taxing the crap out of it to ensure that smokers pay the full social cost of their addiction. But actually banning what people do in their own homes, or outdoors when it won't affect anyone else, is grossly illiberal.

And OTOH, as DPF points out, cigarettes would almost certainly fail to gain approval from product safety authorities if they had been invented today. We only accept it because its already widespread. And many of the policy problems against prohibition (such as the risk of simply creating a black market) are consequences of this fact. Policywise, we have to work with the world we've got, a world where regulation of tobacco consistent with other goods we allow on the market simply will not work.


Creating sensible public policy is heartily needed in other drug areas too because black markets exist there too. If only the Maori Party would be a bit more practical about it all rather than coming on all fundamentalist. Or do we need to be very cynical about this since a black cigarette market would increase profits of Maori gangs now already involved in marketing other drugs like dope and P?

Posted by Hans Versluys : 2/22/2006 06:20:00 PM

> Policywise, we have to work with the world we've got,

thank god not everyone makes the silly "it must be treated the same as other drugs" argument.

Posted by Genius : 2/22/2006 07:20:00 PM

Genius: Actually, I think that "working with the world we've got" is also supports Cannabis decriminalisation. Prohibition has clearly failed in that case.

(That's quite apart from the lack of a case based on harm).

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 2/22/2006 07:37:00 PM

So a mad idea off the top of my head without any real considerations of the implications.

How about a licence to smoke. You can only sell cigarettes to people with one. Make it fairly easy to get, but with just enough to give people that "I'm doing something very stupid" feeling.

Apathy will win the day.

Posted by Anonymous : 2/22/2006 11:23:00 PM

All well and good, but it'd be nice if other more immediate forms of suicide were legalised to boot.

Posted by Anonymous : 2/23/2006 08:59:00 AM


I'm happy enough with you being rational - you don't have to agree with me !

Besides it is possible that making cannabis legal might be a good thing - I would be interested in a proper cost/benefit analysis. I am however equally intrested in the cost/benefit of making tobacco illegal.

Posted by Genius : 2/23/2006 09:35:00 PM