Padraic P. McGuinness, The Australian, March 1, 1994, p. 43.

Unlike President Clinton, when I tried smoking pot I did inhale; but when I smoked tobacco I preferred not to. The trouble with smoking pot is that most times you get it mixed with that filthy tobacco stuff.

This is said only because once again I am writing about the economics of smoking. Perhaps it is necessary to state, as I have done before, that I do not smoke and never have been a smoker; that I detest smoking and its effects on the environment (I prefer to stay in dedicated non-smoking hotel rooms); and that I find most smokers incredibly ill-mannered and careless of other peoples’ comfort and sensibilities. The same is true of course of many people who use offensive scents and deodorants instead of washing.

But good manners are a matter of upbringing and education, and should not be imposed as a matter of social policy except in the most extreme cases.

Similarly, I do recognise that there are smoking-related diseases and extremely serious medical conditions which are either caused or aggravated by smoking.

But the fact remains that there is increasing evidence that most of the anti-smoking propaganda is either composed of deliberate lies or relies on carelessly, often wilfully, misconstrued evidence. Moreover, the evidence supports the proposition that even if smoking is harmful to the smoker, far from being a net burden on the community the smoker is a net contributor. Further, there is still not convincing evidence as to any harmful effects of passive smoking.

(The Full Bench of the Federal Court has made it clear that anyone who says either (a) there is no evidence that passive smoking has harmful effects, or (b) that Australian courts have found that it does have harmful effects could be found to be in breach of the Trade Practices Act or in contempt of court.)

Since I last wrote on the fact that smokers contribute far more to the community than they receive from it, the Tobacco Institute has released its submission to the Industry Commission inquiry into the tobacco growing and manufacturing industries together with a study commission from Canberra academic consultants ACIL on “Smoking: Costs and Benefits for Australia”.

This summarises and updates the various critiques of the Collins and Lapsley paper, disseminated assiduously by the Department of Health and Community Services, which is the shaky basis for much policy-making. In essence, the ACIL study repeats the fact that smokers’ taxes far outweigh the costs they impose on community medical and other services — in current terms they pay an excess tax burden (over and above that paid by the non-smokers) of $2.2 billion annually.

The ACIL study points to the fact that obviously smokers enjoy a benefit from smoking (pleasure, relaxation, aid to concentration) which they estimate to be worth about $9 billion a year. In addition, the added value contributed to gross domestic product by the industry is about $3.4 billion. Thus it puts the total “net benefits” of smoking to the community at more than $12 billion a year.

It also adduces evidence that far from consumers making mistaken judgments as to their smoking as a result of the addictive properties of nicotine, there is a rational basis for their behaviour; and it cites evidence that far from being unaware of the health risks of smoking most people, including smokers, greatly overestimate them as a result of the barrage of anti-smoking propaganda to which they are subjected.

The fascinating thing about this controversy is that despite the deep conviction on the part of most doctors and health professionals that smoking is peculiarly evil, and the tobacco industry full of accomplished liars and peddling coffin-nails to children, virtually the reverse is true.

Nobody says that because careless car-driving is dangerous, because there are many lives lost on the roads, and because injuries from car accidents can be horrifying and painful, therefore the motor vehicle industry should be closed down. Why then argue this with respect to the tobacco industry?

There are, of course, important insurance and liability issues involved. Most employees have been bullied into denying their employees the right to smoke because of warnings based on evidence which is simply not conclusive, that passive smoking is harmful. Similarly, some public venues like airports, or like bars and restaurants, are being made intolerable for smokers. Since class actions are becoming all the go, it cannot be long before a group of offended smokers launches an action against, say, the Federal Airports Corp for unjustly depriving them of their rights.

Moreover, there would seem to be a clear basis for superannuation contributors who smoke to demand better treatment with respect to the purchase of annuities, to contribute less to other than lump sum superannuation and pensions than do those with a greater life expectancy, and even to claim compensation for the ill-effects (which are very real) which they suffer from being denied their right to smoke at work. Perhaps the non-smokers who are against smoking in the workplace should pay higher taxes and receive lower wages than those who are habitual smokers.

While personally I would suffer not at all if smoking, football and cricket (all dangerous activities) were banned I am not so presumptuous as to think I have the right to deny these pleasures to others, still less to tell lies about their real dangers.

(in order of appearance on Economics.org.au)
  1. Where Friedman is a pinko
  2. The Economic Guerrillas: A lecture in honour of Maxwell Newton
  3. The Libertarian Alternative
  4. Libel laws block insider's revelations of Australia's industrial mess
  5. But perhaps the merchants of doom have a point
  6. The Origins of Paddy McGuinness
  7. The Itch for Influence
  8. LA safe from religious poverty
  9. Aunty should hang up her boots in face of premature senility
  10. Warning: health is a budget hazard
  11. New ABC Tory chief won't rock the boat
  12. Time to sell the ABC
  13. Youth victims of the welfare con
  14. Paddy McGuinness on class sizes (1991)
  15. More teachers won't solve the problems in our schools
  16. Paddy McGuinness on Catholics and wealth distribution
  17. Paddy McGuinness proposes inheritance tax equal to handouts received by deceased
  18. Let them swim nude
  19. Time to legalise heroin
  20. State-sponsored sports rorts
  21. The blight of the baby-boomers
  22. To reduce the problems of crime and corruption, legalise heroin
  23. We should ban Olympics
  24. Evidence shows heroin policy is not working
  25. Wowsers deny society while killing children
  26. New Paddy McGuinness slogan for ageing feminists and their ideological children
  27. The ABC and the self-evident
  28. Will Australia compete?
  29. Canberra's social revolution
  30. Paddy McGuinness in 1994 on the 2012 class size debate
  31. Why not pay for the ABC?
  32. Paddy McGuinness on David Stove
  33. Sometimes the truth hurts
  34. Paddy McGuinness on compulsory, informal and donkey voting, and breaking electoral laws
  35. Only government-backed monopolies are monopolies, says Paddy McGuinness in 1983
  36. Thomas Sowell, McGuinness, Aborigines and other minorities
  37. Genocide with kindness
  38. Hyde, McGuinness and Sturgess on Chaining/Changing Australia
  39. Government intervention institutionalises bullying
  40. The wrong kind of help for those most needing the right kind of help
  41. Paddy McGuinness defends comparing IQ of races
  42. The Fringe Dwellers: an honest look at the Aboriginal culture of poverty
  43. Impotent priesthood of the global casino
  44. Can primitive black and white minds comprehend nuance?
  45. Class action may be smoking gun
  46. Extend compulsion of compulsory student unionism to voting, paying back student loans and more
  47. Do-gooders should glorify smokers
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