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November 21, 2011 2:42 AM   Subscribe

Australian legislation mandating tobacco products are sold in plain packaging today passed the last hurdle today with plain packaging becoming a reality by December 2012. Some had misgivings, some disagree that plain packaging will be an effective deterrent; while some believe it will be counter-productive, while others take a different view.
posted by the noob (153 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
some believe it will be counter-productive,

Of course, the "some" linked to here is Phillip Morris, once of the least credible names in summarizing the science on a subject that affects their earnings.
posted by grouse at 2:47 AM on November 21, 2011 [13 favorites]


some disagree that plain packaging will be an effective deterrent

Also Philip Morris.
posted by grouse at 2:48 AM on November 21, 2011


So Philip Morris is against it because there's no proof that it will work? And moreso, they're worried because:

Like those consumer goods, generic packaging for cigarettes will effectively eliminate product differentiation at retail, other than through pricing. This will inevitably lead to increased price competition, which in turn will lead to an increase in low-priced cigarettes and other low-priced tobacco products. These consequences could actually lead to an increased consumption of tobacco products.

Yet it you lower price to compete with your competitors because you can't compete through branding, surely then you must believe that branding is important for increasing sales? Woops.
posted by Jehan at 2:50 AM on November 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


This is a nice start. Now let's do this with all consumer products.
posted by triceryclops at 2:55 AM on November 21, 2011 [32 favorites]


@triceryclops

Ay-men to that.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 2:58 AM on November 21, 2011


surely then you must believe that branding is important for increasing sales?

Well not sales so much as profits. This is the branding argument: that when the only thing differentiating packages of cigarettes is price, then this invites price competition, which means that the price is likely to decrease and this would likely result in more people smoking.

This is actually not an unreasonable argument and if the goal is to reduce smoking, then such a policy would seem to be counterproductive to this end - no matter how self-serving it may be for Philip Morris to be the ones to point this out.
posted by three blind mice at 3:10 AM on November 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


previously
posted by wilful at 3:11 AM on November 21, 2011


> you must believe that branding is important for increasing sales? Woops.

Technically it's using the brand to maintain the number of people buying that (more expensive) brand as opposed to a cheaper non-brand cigarettes. They're right in the fact that if they can't compete with advertising they will have to compete with price.

Imagine Levi's jeans couldn't say Levi's on 'em. While Levi's does have a particularly high level of quality, if buyers can't tell the Levi's from the non-Levi's, they are more likely to just get the cheapest jeans then can, which will cause Levi's to compete for price and reduce quality.

Essentially they are trying to turn cigarettes into a commodity, and in a commodity market the cheapest method of production wins regardless of everything else. (Think oil and the tarsands.)

With the total cost going down it is possible that people will smoke more because they can afford more. So I can see, in effect, how this measure could theoretically increase the amount of smoking.

The good news for the government is that while number of cigarettes sold might go up, total sales by income should stay level, meaning this won't decrease the piles of money they make in tobacco taxes. So there's that.
posted by sixohsix at 3:16 AM on November 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


> which means that the price is likely to decrease and this would likely result in more people smoking

I could believe "people smoking more", but "more people smoking" I'm not so sure about.
posted by adamt at 3:17 AM on November 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


According to this BBC article, Phillip Morris has already moved to sue Australia, saying that this is a breach of one of our free trade agreements.
posted by wilful at 3:20 AM on November 21, 2011


Wonder if the incoming Abbott government will make repealing this (in the interest of protecting Aussie battlers' liberties from the “nanny state”, of course) their third priority, after scrapping carbon trading and dismantling the National Broadband Network (which the Free Market could provide far more efficiently with tin cans and lengths of string).
posted by acb at 3:20 AM on November 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


the price is likely to decrease and this would likely result in more people smoking

So we might need to jack up the tobacco tax a bit more. PM and BAT lose, everybody else wins. What's not to like?
posted by flabdablet at 3:25 AM on November 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Abbott will not have the balls to repeal any of this stuff. What he will have the balls to do is look straight into a camera and tell barefaced lies about never having been opposed to it.
posted by flabdablet at 3:26 AM on November 21, 2011


which means that the price is likely to decrease and this would likely result in more people smoking.

This is true, but the manufacturer's part of the price in a modern pack of cigarettes is very small. The bulk of the price is tax. No matter how ferociously they cut costs, they simply can't reduce the cost of cigarettes very much.

It sounds reasonable at first blush, but if you actually examine it, the argument is mendacious bullshit.
posted by Malor at 3:32 AM on November 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


My favourite was when the British American Tobacco guy basically came right out and said, If you introduce plain packaging we'll sell discount cirpgarettes to children.

No, really:
"Could cigarettes halve over time? I think in the longer term potentially yes," Mr Crow said.

"When you look at the four Ps (product, price, place and promotion), pricing's the big one and that's the only one we have left. We will end up fighting on price."

He said that the cheap prices "basically means more people will smoke, more kids will smoke".
posted by robcorr at 3:33 AM on November 21, 2011


Sixohsix: only about a quarter of the cost of cigarettes is actually production cost and producers' profit. 62% is taxes; 13% is retail profit. So even if the producershalved their price it would only reduce the retail price by about $1.50 a packet or so. But realistically they can't do that and remain viable.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:35 AM on November 21, 2011


If price falls due to enhanced competition then the only solution will be to raise taxes. I am pretty relaxed about that. Also, with an enquiry to see whether competition is not working properly in countries without the plain packaging law.
posted by biffa at 3:54 AM on November 21, 2011


It sounds reasonable at first blush, but if you actually examine it, the argument is mendacious bullshit.

Mendacious bullshit is the idea that just because PM advances the argument it is somehow flawed. Whilst PM is certainly trying to protect their portion of the pie, it does seem reasonable that price competition resulting in lower prices might well increase the size of the pie. You can't really argue that higher taxes reduce consumption without admitting that lower prices will increase it.

they simply can't reduce the cost of cigarettes very much.

Right. More child labor, more tobacco sourced from corrupt regions, more use of pesticides, substituting chemicals, less filtering, smaller cigarettes, more sales to children... there is plenty of room for price competition and increasing sales volume. Use a little fantasy.

If price falls due to enhanced competition then the only solution will be to raise taxes. I am pretty relaxed about that.

Not so easy. You cannot continue to increase taxes without encouraging a larger black market. There is a balance here. Once the tax becomes so high that it becomes profitable to smuggle, the smuggling takes over. A black market doesn't pay any tax lowering state revenues, the sales are uncontrolled making it easier for minors to buy, and you get all that nice organized crime that comes along with the business.
posted by three blind mice at 4:02 AM on November 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


What I don't understand is why, if it's pretty much agreed upon that smoking has no upside for the public or the individual, governments don't stop pussyfooting around the issue and just ban smoking tobacco as a commercial product altogether?

I know almost no smokers who wish to remain smokers, but so long as the product is legal and readily available, their addiction is incredibly hard to break, and no amount of warnings, taxes, packaging changes or PSAs do much to curb that.
posted by xingcat at 4:17 AM on November 21, 2011


This is a good thing.
posted by Wolof at 4:18 AM on November 21, 2011


Well not sales so much as profits. This is the branding argument: that when the only thing differentiating packages of cigarettes is price, then this invites price competition, which means that the price is likely to decrease and this would likely result in more people smoking.

This is actually not an unreasonable argument and if the goal is to reduce smoking, then such a policy would seem to be counterproductive to this end - no matter how self-serving it may be for Philip Morris to be the ones to point this out.


Sure, but why does a person buy a more expensive brand in the first place? If it is for no reason except the branding itself, then branding is an additional factor in selling cigarettes. The brands might also be differentiated on, say, quality, but the generic packaging would not prevent consumers choosing on those grounds, as the different cigarettes are still discernible by name. They're effectively admitting that they use the branding, of which packaging is a big part, to manipulate a consumer's choice. That's no revelation, but "the price of cigarettes would drop hugely without branding" complaint doesn't reassure that consumption itself is unaffected by branding.
posted by Jehan at 4:18 AM on November 21, 2011


Are smokers really going to switch so easily, over price, though? All the smokers I know have a favored brand, and they at least claim that it is due to taste and so on (and very few smoke the absolute cheapest cigarettes available). I'm pretty dubious of the theory that if brands were no longer advertised in special colors people would immediately buy whatever wood shavings cost two cents a pack less. Sounds like Homo economicus nonsense to me.
posted by No-sword at 4:21 AM on November 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


All the smokers I know have a favored brand, and they at least claim that it is due to taste and so on

I think the issue is that this puts the lie to the idea that there are in fact any significant differences between brands.
posted by wilful at 4:27 AM on November 21, 2011


Of course there are. Peter Jacksons smell the worst, as anybody who has lived in a house with smack-heads will confirm.
posted by flabdablet at 4:46 AM on November 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


> What I don't understand is why, if it's pretty much agreed upon that smoking has no upside for the public or the individual, governments don't stop pussyfooting around the issue and just ban smoking tobacco as a commercial product altogether?

Because the government makes too much money from smoking. If they were serious about health, they'd be giving electronic cigarettes - which are showing to have a significantly higher success rate than 'accepted' NRT products.

It's not about health. It never has been. It's about money.
posted by davelog at 4:54 AM on November 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


there is plenty of room for price competition and increasing sales volume. Use a little fantasy.


Dude, most places I've been, the actual cost of the cigarettes is about 75% tax. So, even if they cut their cost basis in half, that means maybe a 12.5% reduction in prices.

In other words, it's mendacious bullshit.

Anyone who discounted the argument purely because it came from Phillip Morris, now Altria, got the right answer in one, and saved themselves analysis time.
posted by Malor at 5:08 AM on November 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh, I meant to answer this part, too:

Once the tax becomes so high that it becomes profitable to smuggle, the smuggling takes over.

That part's right. I think we're right at the ragged edge, most places. There's not much room for more tax on tobacco products. In places with exceptionally high taxes, like New York, you're already seeing exactly that behavior.
posted by Malor at 5:12 AM on November 21, 2011


Once the tax becomes so high that it becomes profitable to smuggle, the smuggling takes over.

If there is a country in the world that is naturally well-placed to defend its borders, it must be Australia. Unless, of course, Big Tobacco itself helps the smugglers.
posted by Skeptic at 5:17 AM on November 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also, the argument that "tobacco companies will be forced to compete on price, increasing overall tobacco consumption" is an old Big Tobacco talking point that was already used against tobacco advertising bans.

Quite frankly, they could at least make the effort to come up with fresh bullshit.
posted by Skeptic at 5:28 AM on November 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


What I don't understand is why, if it's pretty much agreed upon that smoking has no upside for the public or the individual, governments don't stop pussyfooting around the issue and just ban smoking tobacco as a commercial product altogether?

Because that has worked out so well for other addictive drugs. The current approach is in fact a lot more efficient: warn the consumers and tax and regulate it heavily. If only the same was done against currently illegal drugs, the cartels would be in big trouble.
posted by Skeptic at 5:35 AM on November 21, 2011 [10 favorites]


If there is a country in the world that is naturally well-placed to defend its borders, it must be Australia.

While Australia's border is hard to get to, Australia has a hell of a lot of border to defend and a much smaller population than the US to defend it.
posted by localroger at 5:40 AM on November 21, 2011


While Australia's border is hard to get to, Australia has a hell of a lot of border to defend and a much smaller population than the US to defend it.

I'm sure they should be able to save some of the resources that have been dedicated to holding off boat people.
posted by Skeptic at 5:53 AM on November 21, 2011


Phillp Morris bans Australiana

In a tit-for-tat regulatory war with a ludicrously shaped land mass, Philip Morris today banned all Australian employees from displaying any identifying marks. From now on, the 4,637 Australian staff of the global Phillip Morris group may not wear cork hats, flip-flops, speedos or shorts to work. Idiomatic Australian phrases are also banned, and employees may not say "get a big dog up ya", "ya flamin' galah" or "Cooee, throw another cozzy on that lamington and give it a root mate digger Anzac she'll be right gumtree barbie". The following names are also banned: Wazza, Bazza, Dazza, Shazza, Kylie and Abdullah. "This foul Australian menace must be purged from our corporate intestines," said a company executive dying of inoperable lung cancer.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 6:09 AM on November 21, 2011 [31 favorites]


In places with exceptionally high taxes, like New York, you're already seeing exactly that behavior.

Only because the cost of smuggling in this case is so cheap -- drive across a close state border, almost no to no risk of punishment. Nobody is the US is going to prosecute you if you bring back five cartons.
posted by eriko at 6:14 AM on November 21, 2011


Smuggling is probably not going to be as big a deal as folk growing a bit of chop-chop (note:autoplay) in with their weed. We've got a whole lot of land down here you can hide plants in.
posted by Jilder at 6:18 AM on November 21, 2011


I can never decide who I loathe more—the evil, disingenuous, dissembling tobacco conglomerates, or the insufferable, tongue-clucking, finger-wagging anti-smoking types.

I will say that having recent sat through a co-op board meeting wherein a nasally-voiced thirtysomething hipster/yuppie (he was sorta both, it was weird) tried to explain to the entire rest of the building's population that he was entitled to tell everybody else what they could and could not do within the walls of their own homes, including smoke, at this precise moment I find the anti-tobacco lecturing just slightly more insufferable than the demonstrably evil smoke merchants themselves.

Which goes to show just how unendurably sanctimonious the lecturing has gotten these days.

I don't even smoke, but I'm thinking of starting just out of spite.
posted by pts at 6:28 AM on November 21, 2011 [9 favorites]


Young Master Flabdablet recently took up smoking to prove to his mates that he was tough enough to give it up any time he felt like it.

He isn't.
posted by flabdablet at 6:36 AM on November 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't even smoke, but I'm thinking of starting just out of spite

As a paid-up insufferable tongue-clucking finger-wagging anti-smoking type benefiting directly from the tax you'll be paying to support your new habit, I will point at your blackened lungs and empty wallet and LAUGH and LAUGH and LAUGH
posted by flabdablet at 6:49 AM on November 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Think of all the pension money that could be saved if people dies prematurely of smoking related illnesses.
posted by Renoroc at 6:49 AM on November 21, 2011


Mr. Yul Brynner had something to say about smoking. Lest we forget.
posted by kinnakeet at 6:56 AM on November 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


at this precise moment I find the anti-tobacco lecturing just slightly more insufferable than the demonstrably evil smoke merchants themselves

Well, we could always put it in terms of body count:

Anti-tobacco lecturers = 0
Evil smoke merchants = millions

So yeah, it's a pretty close run thing.
posted by Summer at 6:59 AM on November 21, 2011 [6 favorites]


I can never decide who I loathe more—the evil, disingenuous, dissembling tobacco conglomerates, or the insufferable, tongue-clucking, finger-wagging anti-smoking types.

wow what a mindblowing contrarian i need to buy your tshirt
posted by DU at 7:02 AM on November 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


tried to explain to the entire rest of the building's population that he was entitled to tell everybody else what they could and could not do within the walls of their own homes, including smoke

I know it's maddening to be told what not to do inside your own home, but many apartment buildings have a shared air system. So if you're smoking, I'm smoking, and that's not ok with me. Maybe you could move to a detached residence?
posted by toodleydoodley at 7:10 AM on November 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


So now the free matches will come along with a slip-on protective sleeve for the cigarette packs, with the old branding materials printed on it. No need for warnings!
posted by StickyCarpet at 7:13 AM on November 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


at this precise moment I find the anti-tobacco lecturing just slightly more insufferable than the demonstrably evil smoke merchants themselves

This is true. I, for example, can never get over how much insufferable, tongue-clucking, finger-wagging progressives complained about lead pipes in people's own home just because it frequently killed people or affected their health on a life-long basis too!

Also see people who foolishly claimed it was a good idea to require wearing seatbelts in people's private cars and require people not to use asbestos in their own shared building!

Screw those guys! (there's a certain ;) in here, pla, and I assume there was in yours too).
posted by jaduncan at 7:21 AM on November 21, 2011


God, stop with the nanny state already. This is getting absurd. Does Australia have nothing better to do?
posted by shivohum at 7:24 AM on November 21, 2011


That's right, Australia -- you're way the hell behind your quota on Yahoo Serious movies and Men at Work albums! So cut out this civic health bullshit, plaster hip cartoon characters all over your bubblegum-flavored cigarettes and get crackin' on Young Einstein 2.
posted by griphus at 7:34 AM on November 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Mr. Yul Brynner had something to say about smoking. Lest we forget.

I swear I remember this commercial differently. I remember him in bed, hooked up to oxygen, sounding terrifying. Couldn't find that searching around.

Am I simply remembering wrong or was there another Yul commercial/PSA?
posted by rough at 7:38 AM on November 21, 2011


Totally counter-productive. Now they will just fit in better when featured in American Apparel advertisements. Cool-kid smoking increase of at least 50%.
posted by resurrexit at 7:44 AM on November 21, 2011


As an Australian, and a smoker, one gets tired of the finger wagging. Also, the dehumanising that I apparently deserve, being incapable of determining my own life choices, I'm just some dupe according to the anti-smoking lobby.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 7:48 AM on November 21, 2011


Premium cigarettes are much less vile tasting than dirt-cheap cigarettes. If they did this here in the states, I would continue to ask for the same brand as I've always smoked. It's not like I spend time staring at the pack.

I've smoked for 25 years and have been trying to quit for 24 51/52 years. I hate smoking and I hate everything about smoking. I'm all for strangling the whole rotten system. Hopefully there will come a day when nobody smokes.

The best part about smoking are the sanctimonious people. Sanctimonious people are awesome. I'm sure that the people leading the temperance movement were a blast to spend time with. For those of you who hold yourselves in such high regard for having never smoked, I'm very glad for you that you didn't.

That doesn't mean you should be a dick about it.
posted by double block and bleed at 7:48 AM on November 21, 2011 [6 favorites]


I guess what I'm saying is that in the species-wide long run, self-righteousness is a way more destructive vice than tobacco addiction.
posted by pts at 7:53 AM on November 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


omg MetaFilter, while we're at it, can we lecture the pot smokers among us about how they're ruining the lives of everyone else and should just fucking stop it already? ur right to toke up ends where my lungs begin. at least world governments have the decency to criminalize marijuana.
posted by indubitable at 7:58 AM on November 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm just some dupe according to the anti-smoking lobby.

Nope, just an addict.
posted by Skeptic at 7:59 AM on November 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm just some dupe according to the anti-smoking lobby.

Nope, just an addict.
posted by Skeptic at 7:59 AM on November 21 [+] [!]


I should flag that, but really?
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 8:05 AM on November 21, 2011


For all of you proudly sanctimonious anti-smokers here, who've taken the opportunity to step up and show us your t-shirt, take a hint: I was a smoker for twenty years who quit a month ago, and I live with a woman who's quite happily a member of your tribe. She never lectured me, she never wagged her finger at me, she was simply always 100% supportive of my desire and eventual efforts to quit.

In other words, smarten the fuck up. Being a shit to smokers just makes them go into their smokey, foul-smelling bunkers.
posted by fatbird at 8:11 AM on November 21, 2011 [6 favorites]


I'm just some dupe according to the anti-smoking lobby.

Nope, just an addict.

I should flag that, but really?


Not? You smoke for a taste of ashes, smell of smoke, cancer and because you have so much extra money you don't know what to do with it?
posted by DU at 8:14 AM on November 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Think of all the pension money that could be saved if people dies prematurely of smoking related illnesses.
posted by Renoroc at 9:49 AM on November 21 [+] [!]


Actually, think how society invests a lot of money in people who are sick due to their choice* of smoking. It's not like smokers magically disappear leaving us to play with their pensions. Smokers often suffer slow and painful deaths costing the health service lots of money, even if they die younger.

*leaving aside social inequality etc
posted by a womble is an active kind of sloth at 8:15 AM on November 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I mean, I expect this rubbish from the comments section of The Age,


but I thought we were grown ups here.


ffs
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 8:15 AM on November 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


I never realized what a bunch of whiny babies smokers are until this thread. Get over yourselves. Your habit actively annoys everyone around you and hurts the health of nonsmokers who are forced to breath in your smoke. At least heroin addicts have the decency to leave my air as clean as they found it. The entire industry is absolutely evil, and yet you want to attack your neighbors, coworkers, and friends for being kind enough to tell you the truth? Sometimes the truth hurts. Don't blame the messanger. Some pale young guy with a funny voice who has asthma trying to keep your smoke out of his air vents is not a bad person. Someone insisting on smoking inside in a building with a shared ventilation system? That is a bad person.

And limiting advertising is not the same thing as a "nanny state." It seems like some people want any and every regulatory change to be labeled with that phrase, particularly changes that empower consumers and disempower large corporations. If I hadn't met so many people like that in real life, I'd assume everyone saying that kind of thing here was being paid to astroturf because I can't imagine an informed, thoughtful consumer holding that opinion. A private business's advertising woes should mean nothing when societies get together and try to figure out a way to increase the common good. Corporations exist at the whim of the greater society that offers them infrastructure and a legal framework within which to do trade, and they should be thankful for every day their existence is allowed to continue.

Now get off my lawn.
posted by jsturgill at 8:16 AM on November 21, 2011 [12 favorites]


...just makes them go into their smokey, foul-smelling bunkers.

I think this is actually the goal in the majority of cases. Either stop smoking or go smoke in a bunker. Just don't do it in my workplace, restaurant, stores, etc where I have smell it.
posted by DU at 8:16 AM on November 21, 2011


You smoke for a taste of ashes, smell of smoke, cancer and because you have so much extra money you don't know what to do with it?

As a ([sort of] former) smoker: most cigarettes do, in fact, taste like ammonia, litterbox scrapings and burnt paper. Your brand tastes like that scene in Ghostbusters where Dan Aykroyd gets blown by a ghost.
posted by griphus at 8:18 AM on November 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm smoking at home. My house.

how about you get of my fucking lawn.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 8:19 AM on November 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


And limiting advertising is not the same thing as a "nanny state."

Sanctimoniously forcing all cigarettes into ugly green packs is absolutely a nanny state measure - both ineffective and obnoxious.

This is absolutely part of a larger campaign to make sure people don't eat anything but Approved Healthy Foods and do Approved Healthy Activities and regard each other with Approved Politically Correct Attitudes. After all, it's good for them. What's the problem, right?

Let's not presume that people have minds of their own and sometimes want what's bad for them. No, it must be Evil Corporations That Brainwash Them Into Wanting Unhealthy Things. It's neo-puritanism.
posted by shivohum at 8:23 AM on November 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


Let's not presume that people have minds of their own and sometimes want what's bad for them. No, it must be Evil Corporations That Brainwash Them Into Wanting Unhealthy Things.

This explains why so many protohominid fossils have been found having died of lung cancer from smoking too much.
posted by DU at 8:35 AM on November 21, 2011


Let's not presume that people have minds of their own and sometimes want what's bad for them. No, it must be Evil Corporations That Brainwash Them Into Wanting Unhealthy Things. It's neo-puritanism.
posted by shivohum at 8:23 AM on November 21 [+] [!]


Yes, I'm not happy with my smoking, but it would be nice for once if the anti-smoking people could understand that I have agency. That I'm a grown man with complicated things going on. And that I can make my own decisions.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 8:38 AM on November 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


davelog called it above with the e-cig comment. If this were primarily about harm reduction and health rather than puritan attitudes toward drugs, we'd subsidize those things until they were in every store for a quarter of the cost of cigarettes. Then we could all stop worrying about second-hand smoke and the tragic effects of life-long smoking, and Philip Morris et al could put the Marlboro Man on cute little vials of carefully-regulated nicotine. Everyone wins... except those who are primarily upset that others won't stop enjoying things they're not "supposed" to, of course.

I say this as someone who hates cigarettes, by the way. I don't smoke and I will never smoke, and I kinda wish smoking would go away... but the simple fact is that Prohibition does not work. No amount of aggressive law-making will do what harm reduction will, because the problem isn't nicotine -- it's the harm that smoking tobacco does, a harm we already have a remedy for.
posted by vorfeed at 8:38 AM on November 21, 2011 [8 favorites]


Let's not presume that people have minds of their own and sometimes want what's bad for them. No, it must be Evil Corporations That Brainwash Them Into Wanting Unhealthy Things.

This explains why so many protohominid fossils have been found having died of lung cancer from smoking too much.
posted by DU at 8:35 AM on November 21 [+] [!]


Well, I guess it also explains all the protohomimind fossils who also didn't die of late 20th century lifestyle diseases. Or did you have a point.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 8:40 AM on November 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Where in life were you given a piece of paper that said "the things you, shivohum, wish to do will be facilitated by everyone else, and you should never have to feel like you are part of a marginalized group?" Because I want that contract with life. Sounds awesome.

Life isn't always easy. Sometimes it costs a lot to be able to exercise your freedom of speech, your right to vote, or your ability to simply exist as yourself as a minority, GBLT, atheist, or believer in a non-mainstream religion. Meanwhile, smokers everywhere will still be able to pick up a pack of smokes at the Australian equivelent of a 7-11 whenever they want, and probably for less money than they are paying right now.

Pardon me if I don't think you're being oppressed here, but there are people with real problems in the world.

And call me crazy, but corporations being limited in how they can brand their product is a feature, not a bug. I guess at a fundamental level, I want laws that protect me and support me and give me the tools I need to succeed at my goals. I guess that's my burden as a rugged individualist, to think that empowering the individual should be the goal of government.

On preview, since when is it prohibition to place limits on branding? Did the english language change while I was asleep last night? Do I need to RTFA again?
posted by jsturgill at 8:44 AM on November 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Hey guys, I don't smoke but I think cigarettes smell good and when I walk through secondhand smoke it brightens up my day a little. Is this exceptionally odd?

(I have to read tobacco-addiction horror stories every so often to remind myself why I don't smoke.)

On topic: my intuition tells me that the Phillip-Morris economic argument is right, that these packages will mean price competition and therefore lower prices. But at the same time, no branding probably means fewer new smokers, because obviously a big reason why people start is the marketing, image, etc..

My question is this: how do things balance out, in terms of health consequences? Are there like diminishing returns on the health problems that smoking causes? Is stopping new smokers worth increasing the damage to current smokers?
posted by vogon_poet at 8:45 AM on November 21, 2011


All these other "lifestyle diseases" have some sort of payoff or advantage for the sufferer. Eating yummy food, being forced to sit for hours to make money to buy a house, etc. Smoking's advantage is....conforming to peer and advertising pressure? I mean the first cigarette. The second and onward are to satisfy a craving.
posted by DU at 8:45 AM on November 21, 2011


All these other "lifestyle diseases" have some sort of payoff or advantage for the sufferer. Eating yummy food, being forced to sit for hours to make money to buy a house, etc. Smoking's advantage is....conforming to peer and advertising pressure? I mean the first cigarette. The second and onward are to satisfy a craving.
posted by DU at 8:45 AM on November 21 [+] [!]


or sitting on your arse coding all day
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 8:50 AM on November 21, 2011


And to repeat:


Yes, I'm not happy with my smoking, but it would be nice for once if the anti-smoking people could understand that I have agency. That I'm a grown man with complicated things going on. And that I can make my own decisions.

You've made your choices, I've made mine.

fucking deal with it.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 8:57 AM on November 21, 2011


Guys, maybe cool it a little.
posted by cortex at 8:58 AM on November 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


davelog called it above with the e-cig comment.

I've been a rabid anti-smoker, but for now, just please don't do it near me.

To be objective, cigarettes have more psychoactive components than just nicotine. Some reduce levels of irritability and social anxiety. Some increase scores on standardized tests. Any benefits are grossly outweighed by the negatives, but you can't say they have nothing appealing about them.

e-cigs and patches don't provide a true replacement. The Swedish SNUS (kind of a mini tobacco teabag placed in the mouth), but not the US SNUS, has been somewhat cleaned of the worst carcinogens, and is a more complete replacement, with partial harm reduction.
posted by StickyCarpet at 8:59 AM on November 21, 2011


On preview, since when is it prohibition to place limits on branding? Did the english language change while I was asleep last night? Do I need to RTFA again?

I was using Prohibition as a catch-all term for the opposite of harm reduction: attempts to get people to stop using certain drugs, via law. I do think these laws are prohibitionist -- just look at the language used to defend them ("continue to reduce smoking rates across the country".) The goal here is behavior modification, not health, despite the fact that healthy nicotine use is not just possible, but easy.

The idea that "pictures of diseased body parts, sickly babies and dying people will cover 75 per cent of each packet, and tobacco industry logos, brand imagery, colours and promotional text will be banned" should be seen as simply "placing limits on branding" is pretty laughable, too.
posted by vorfeed at 9:01 AM on November 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


If I was in charge of Australia, anyone who smoked would be IMMEDIATLEY extinguished with a very small fire-extinguisher.

A team of tiny firepersons, only three inches high, would be specially bred in CSIRO laboratories for this purpose, and given their own tiny fire engine. These miniscule minutemen would scour the land in search of tobacco-puffing smoke-belchers. When they found one, they'd access the smoker's face with tiny ladders and shoot tiny streams of water directly onto the anti-socialist's pollution-stick.

Then they'd jump inside the neck of his or her shirt and tickle their way down to the pant-leg, from which they would egress.

If the smoker was a repeat offender, they might even pause in the groinal zone and graffiti a few words of warning onto the criminal's testicles or labia. "If youse smoke, youse are a bloody fucken idiot I reckon" - this would be the kind of official pro-community health message that my lilliputian lovelies would leave.

So vote #1 quidnunc kid.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 9:03 AM on November 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


All these other "lifestyle diseases" have some sort of payoff or advantage for the sufferer. Eating yummy food, being forced to sit for hours to make money to buy a house, etc. Smoking's advantage is....conforming to peer and advertising pressure? I mean the first cigarette. The second and onward are to satisfy a craving.

Did you seriously just explicitly exempt food from an argument about doing things out of a craving? This is obviously a hot button issue for you, but you're being obnoxious, and your last few posts have been a lot more snarky than logical. Non-smokers and smokers alike probably don't care about your presonal condemnation; this really isn't the place to be the judge.

I know it's maddening to be told what not to do inside your own home, but many apartment buildings have a shared air system. So if you're smoking, I'm smoking, and that's not ok with me. Maybe you could move to a detached residence?

Except plenty of apatment complexes totally ban smoking. It is not reasonable to go in a demand other people follow a rule that doesn't exist. Especially when smokers probably moved their specifically because that place allows smoking.
posted by spaltavian at 9:03 AM on November 21, 2011


That's a decent plan quidunc but what about 4XXXX drinkers?
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 9:05 AM on November 21, 2011


When they found one, they'd access the smoker's face with tiny ladders and shoot tiny streams of water directly onto the anti-socialist's pollution-stick.

Strange, I once pitched a film to a pornography company that sounded exactly like this.
posted by griphus at 9:07 AM on November 21, 2011


I'm just some dupe according to the anti-smoking lobby.

Nope, just an addict.
posted by Skeptic at 7:59 AM on November 21 [+] [!]

I should flag that, but really?
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan


I'm sorry if I've offended you, but "addict" is not an insult. It's a neutral description of a medical condition. Your brain chemistry has been affected by a regular intake of nicotine, and you would probably suffer withdrawal symptoms if you decided to quit. You may have agency, but it is substantially affected by this.

That I'm not addicted to nicotine does not make me a better person than you. I've even had the occasional smoke in the past, but I simply wasn't hooked. Lucky me.
posted by Skeptic at 9:07 AM on November 21, 2011


Well perhaps reread what you've written mate.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 9:09 AM on November 21, 2011


Your brain chemistry has been affected by a regular intake of nicotine, and you would probably suffer withdrawal symptoms if you decided to quit. You may have agency, but it is substantially affected by this.

Unless you are a medical doctor who has examined the poster in question, you're being a jerk. Stop diagnosing people to win an arugment on the internet.
posted by spaltavian at 9:11 AM on November 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


Unless you are a medical doctor who has examined the poster in question, you're being a jerk.

Or simply well-read.
posted by Skeptic at 9:15 AM on November 21, 2011


e-cigs and patches don't provide a true replacement.

True, but there's no reason why they couldn't. Given the impetus, I'm sure Altria could roll out a convincing e-cig Marlboro within a few years. E-cigs are still much better as-is than no harm reduction, also. I agree that Swedish snus would be another good option, but it's been largely co-opted by the American kind (which is no more harm reduction than chewing tobacco is) outside Sweden and Norway... and snus also fails to replace the cigarette ritual. That's a big part of the addiction for many people, even if they don't have a negative view of oral tobacco use.
posted by vorfeed at 9:17 AM on November 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


That's a decent plan quidunc but what about (4)X(XXX) drinkers?

Hmmm ... how about a team of tiny teetotalers to crawl up the drinker's anus and suck the poison out FROM THE INSIDE ... but just vote #1 me and we'll deal with these minor details later.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 9:19 AM on November 21, 2011


Vorfeed, are you opposed to governments attempting to shape behavior in general, at all times? Because to me it seems impossible to avoid. Governments set the rules of the game, and the rules of the game dictate the outcomes. Regulating the market is by definition an attempt to pick winners and losers.

Seeing that, and then deciding to use that power for good instead of evil, is not a negative to me. This style of regulation is also decidedly weak. Anyone and everyone can still engage in the behavior on their own terms. In this case, the consumer is as free as ever! It is no harder to purchase the death sticks, and they can differentiate themselves by blend and features (filtered/unfiltered) as much as ever. The limits are being placed on the corporations, not the individuals, and in order to serve a clear public interest. This is as it should be.

Compare this regulation to subsidies of oil, corn, and processed foods in the US. Those subsidies also shape markets and behaviors, just as surely. Those subsidies directly lead to more obese people, more carbon emissions, more heart failure, more asthma caused by particulate matter in the air. Markets will be shaped by governments and internal collusion; it's a fact of life, no more capable of being overturned than one could travel faster than light.

Grant that premise, at least hypothetically, and ask if this really seems like such an outrageous act. Everyone is free to come up with their own answers, of course, but I don't see a problem. I do see a huge sense of entitlements on the part of smokers.
posted by jsturgill at 9:21 AM on November 21, 2011


Unless you are a medical doctor who has examined the poster in question, you're being a jerk.

Or simply well-read.


And now you're disingenuous. You didn't say "smoking is addictive", (nor would you have to be "well-read" to have done so.) What you actually said was:

Nope, just an addict.
Your brain chemistry has been affected
you would probably suffer withdrawal symptoms if you decided to quit

The person you are speaking to there is a font to you. You have no idea what their brain chemisty is like, what would happen if they quit or if they are an addict or not.

But an addict's statements don't have to be taken a face value, of course. You're right and they're wrong, because, as you were happy to report to us, you're not an addict.

Again, stop diagnosing people to win an argument on the internet.
posted by spaltavian at 9:22 AM on November 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


All these other "lifestyle diseases" have some sort of payoff or advantage for the sufferer. Eating yummy food, being forced to sit for hours to make money to buy a house, etc. Smoking's advantage is....conforming to peer and advertising pressure? I mean the first cigarette. The second and onward are to satisfy a craving.

"We found significant positive effects of nicotine or smoking on six domains: fine motor, alerting attention-accuracy and response time (RT), orienting attention-RT, short-term episodic memory-accuracy, and working memory-RT (effect size range = 0.16 to 0.44)."

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20414766
posted by gyc at 9:23 AM on November 21, 2011


Regulating the market is by definition an attempt to pick winners and losers.

No it isn't; that's actually the main distinction between "regulation" and "command and control". Regulation evens the playing fields, softens the blow of defeat, and limits the power of victory. But it still allows for the market to ultimately sort out the winners and losers.
posted by spaltavian at 9:23 AM on November 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hmmm ... how about a team of tiny teetotalers to crawl up the drinker's anus and suck the poison out FROM THE INSIDE ... but just vote #1 me and we'll deal with these minor details later.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 9:19 AM on November 21 [+] [!]


yep. sold!!!
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 9:26 AM on November 21, 2011


"Safe nicotine"? Is someone suffering from the mistaken notion that nicotine is only dangerous when smoked? My arteries have a different opinion on that matter. My angiologist too.

I am sorry, smokers, but seriously, the harm is WAY more subtle than lung cancer. I smoked 40 years, and then was basically forced to quit cold-turkey, because when ever I smoked more than a few drags, the angina would hit. Angina isn't fun.

My lungs are fabulous, amazingly enough. My legs are crap with inflamed arteries and the resulting cramps. My arms will get the cramps too, if I reach behind myself too much. It's annoying, and I'm quite lucky, they tell me. Mine is just bad enough to be painful and annoying, and not nearly bad enough to justify medical intervention. (after they fixed the heart, that is). So I have to struggle to convince my body that it's 30 years younger than it is, and starve it into self repair. Ha! This actually is bringing improvement!

But geez, some times, I REALLY want a god-damned stinking cigarette. So I grab a nice piece of hot cinnamon gum and think about something else. Nothing else to do. Seriously, the things are WAY more evil than lung cancer.

And having quit, all manner of things are vastly easier. Like flying and getting acceptable hotel rooms. Restaurants are more enjoyable, and shows, too. Only occasionally does something pop up where smoking would be a perfect accompaniment (oh, but it does happen, and sometimes that's a stab).
posted by Goofyy at 9:29 AM on November 21, 2011


Yes, me and my ability to make choices about my own life, on my own terms, your mileage might vary, I'm going to bed.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 9:31 AM on November 21, 2011


But I could still buy clove cigarettes in Australia, right? They would just have the boring package?
posted by RobotHero at 9:32 AM on November 21, 2011


No it isn't; that's actually the main distinction between "regulation" and "command and control". Regulation evens the playing fields, softens the blow of defeat, and limits the power of victory. But it still allows for the market to ultimately sort out the winners and losers.

Yes, it is. Regulation might not pick the winner of the super bowl (to use a sports metaphor), but it certainly establishes that there must be a super bowl, and there must be a winner, and never will that winner be a baseball player.

Limiting the percent interest that a userer can charge is controlling the market. Deciding the level of toxins a factory can legally dump into a river is controlling the market. Deciding how to enforce these rules is controlling the market. Every action leads inevitably to an array of industry responses--often unforseen ones, yes. But it is absolutely true that the rules of the game determine the outcome.

You do understand that evening playing fields, softening the blows of defeats, and limiting the powers of victory are ways to control markets and influence outcomes? The idea that we will not allow monopolies is in and of itself a decision to force an abstract ideal onto the marketplace.
posted by jsturgill at 9:33 AM on November 21, 2011


If governments really want their population to quit smoking, why not sponsor free nicotine gum and patches, along the lines of methadone clinics for heroin addicts?

Well, at least here in the US, the government gets a lot of money from tobacco taxes. So I guess the trick is to make it LOOK like you're doing something, without actually cutting into tobacco sales to any significant extent.

Presto: the ugly package. No cigarette addict is going to give a rat's ass what's on the package. Because they are addicts, and that is how addiction works.

(Smoked a pack a day for 20 years, finally quit 2 years ago thanks to the AskMe "Easyway to Quit Smoking by Alan Carr" Brigade.)
posted by ErikaB at 9:47 AM on November 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Swedish SNUS (kind of a mini tobacco teabag placed in the mouth), but not the US SNUS, has been somewhat cleaned of the worst carcinogens, and is a more complete replacement, with partial harm reduction.

I'm guessing the part-not-reduced is where it feels like you've just been kicked in the face.

posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:57 AM on November 21, 2011


If governments really want their population to quit smoking, why not sponsor free nicotine gum and patches, along the lines of methadone clinics for heroin addicts?

Is that not a thing, generally? I know NYC has a pretty aggressive "whatever the hell you need to quit smoking, just call us an ask for it" campaign.

Methadone is its own bag of worms, meanwhile.
posted by griphus at 10:05 AM on November 21, 2011


I will say that having recent sat through a co-op board meeting wherein a nasally-voiced thirtysomething hipster/yuppie (he was sorta both, it was weird)

He was that teacher guy on Beavis and Butthead, right?
posted by telstar at 10:11 AM on November 21, 2011


Vorfeed, are you opposed to governments attempting to shape behavior in general, at all times?

As compared to harm reduction? Yes. "Behavior" is very rarely the actual problem, save for a few acts which are directly and inherently harmful to others, most of which have been banned for hundreds of years (e.g. assault). Our national narrative around "choice" and "behavior" makes it almost impossible to address this -- everything's got to be couched in terms of "consumer choice" or in moralistic terms, neither of which address health in the least. And even if we did want to shape behavior, I think it'd be much more effective if we were to shape our environment... secure, well-adjusted people are less likely to partake in harmful behaviors, and less likely to be harmed by them when they do.

Instead, we've created an environment which encourages widespread drug use, and then we punish and shame people when they partake (and, of course, we use their behavior to generate revenue). Nothing about this has anything to do with health -- it's all about moralism and money.

"Safe nicotine"? Is someone suffering from the mistaken notion that nicotine is only dangerous when smoked? My arteries have a different opinion on that matter. My angiologist too.

It's harm reduction, not harm elimination. The baseline isn't teetotaling, it's tobacco use.
posted by vorfeed at 10:14 AM on November 21, 2011


> e-cigs and patches don't provide a true replacement.

Yeah, I thought that too, until I took my first hit off a decent PV and walked away - without even planning to - from a 30+ year habit. Overnight.

Anyone that says e-cigs don't work probably hasn't actually tried one better than the overpriced mall-kiosk crapsticks. On the right gear, it's better than smoking.
posted by davelog at 10:20 AM on November 21, 2011


That's a decent plan quidunc but what about 4XXXX drinkers?

Queenslanders should be taught how to spell "Beer" once and for all.
posted by Talez at 10:31 AM on November 21, 2011


Once the tax becomes so high that it becomes profitable to smuggle, the smuggling takes over.

The experience in Ontario is that while taxes do encourage smuggling, they also decrease smoking. This is not a "damned if you do, damned if you don't," formula.
posted by mobunited at 10:44 AM on November 21, 2011


I think it'd be much more effective if we were to shape our environment...

What a strange line to draw in this particular instance. This law directly speaks to shaping the environment of consumer packaging. Do you think it is doing something else?

I also disagree with the assertion that packaging, warning labels, and emphasizing certain messages at the point of sale is/must be framed as a moral issue. Shame or not shame come from groups of people, worldviews, communities, etc. Most sane people acknowledge that medications should have warnings, and that it is a good thing for there to be font-size and legibility requirements that they must comply with.

This law and others like it is a way of stating that certain kinds of over the counter medication require an elevated level of clarity with their labeling. Somehow conflating that with freedom and prohibition is an odd and seemingly extreme stance to take.

As an aside, great strides could be made to make modern life less psychically damaging. But this sort of act does not prohibit other changes being made in those other areas. It is a false dichotomy to say that because cigs are required to use standardized labels, we cannot improve the mental and emotional health of citizens in other ways. The two things are entirely unrelated; one can move without affecting the other.
posted by jsturgill at 10:48 AM on November 21, 2011


Smoking's advantage is....conforming to peer and advertising pressure? I mean the first cigarette. The second and onward are to satisfy a craving.

Thank god for the internets, because otherwise I wouldn't know how I feel.
posted by Dr Dracator at 10:51 AM on November 21, 2011


Does the hipster/yuppie also demand that there be no smoking of marijuana in the co-op?

Even though it is marginally illegal in most places, I have yet to see any outcry about it here, especially compared to to that against cigarette smoking.

I'm completely cool with people smoking pot, but you're not going to argue that it's good for your lungs, are you?
posted by double block and bleed at 10:57 AM on November 21, 2011


double block and bleed, has anyone said that?
posted by jsturgill at 11:07 AM on November 21, 2011


why not sponsor free nicotine gum and patches

For any British Columbians who would like to quit, there is a program doing just that right now. I'm not a fan of our current gov't generally, but: credit where it's due, etc..
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 11:15 AM on November 21, 2011


No, they haven't. I just happen to know several people irl who are pugnacious in their anti-smoking fervor yet think nothing of toking up themselves, which seems pretty hypocritical to me.

Like I wrote earlier, I hate smoking and wish that I had never started. I welcome anything that would actually deter smoking. I don't think that this particular measure will do a damn thing to deter established smokers. If it helps deter future smokers, then perhaps it has merit.

I don't use the argument that my smoking is a personal lifestyle choice. I made a lot of dumb decisions when I was a teenager. This one happened to put a monkey on my back for decades.

As for heroin addicts being gracious enough to leave your air pristine, I've been gracious enough not to break into anyone's car or home to buy a pack of smokes.
posted by double block and bleed at 11:20 AM on November 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Unless you are a medical doctor who has examined the poster in question, you're being a jerk. Stop diagnosing people to win an arugment on the internet.

Kid: My Mommy says smoking kills.
Nick Naylor: Oh, is your Mommy a doctor?
Kid: No.
Nick Naylor: A scientific researcher of some kind?
Kid: No.
Nick Naylor: Well, then she's hardly a credible expert, is she?
posted by TungstenChef at 11:25 AM on November 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


double block and bleed, I have no problem with people choosing to smoke. I hope I haven't made you feel unwelcome, or attacked. I am fully behind people having the ability to do what they want with their own bodies. And yeah, I pretty much take that stance to its logical extremes: right to use recreational drugs, abortion, and right to decide when to end one's own life are all pretty okay with me.

The thing is, your right to smoke ends where my breathing space begins, you dig? You don't get to make that decision for me. And regulating the packaging of recreational drugs and medicines is one of the benefits of living in a society, along with potable water and electricity.
posted by jsturgill at 11:30 AM on November 21, 2011


If governments really want their population to quit smoking, why not sponsor free nicotine gum and patches, along the lines of methadone clinics for heroin addicts?

The Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme does this to a certain extent. They're not free, but subsidized for 12 weeks with a required patient involvement in a support program. If the 12 weeks of patches don't help, there are stronger alternatives available for prescription which are also subsidized. It's not free, of course, but it's a step in the right direction that became available to the general public (And not restricted to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders) at the beginning of this year.

http://www.pbs.gov.au/info/publication/factsheets/shared/Extension_of_the_listing_of_nicotine_patches

I quit smoking in 2007 after about three years of it. Dad got throat cancer and quit on the spot in the doctor's office, and I felt that was a pretty strong incentive to stop as well.
posted by Silverdragonanon at 11:35 AM on November 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


TungstenChef, I don't know if you haven't actually read the thread or if you're being deliberately obtuse, but I specifically pointed out that Sceptic wasn't just saying smoking kills. He was making authoritative statements about the medical and psychological state of another poster whom they have never met. I specifically did not make the appeal to authority caricature you have there.
posted by spaltavian at 11:51 AM on November 21, 2011


This law directly speaks to shaping the environment of consumer packaging. Do you think it is doing something else?

I'm not talking about "the environment of consumer packaging". I'm talking about the environment -- the immediate surroundings we all have to live in. This is not about specific acts of "shaping" which have specific moralistic goals, it's about broad changes which are aimed at improving well-being across the board.

I also disagree with the assertion that packaging, warning labels, and emphasizing certain messages at the point of sale is/must be framed as a moral issue. Shame or not shame come from groups of people, worldviews, communities, etc.

Sure. And in this community, printing pictures of sickly goddamn babies on consumer goods is an act of shame. I don't see the point in pretending otherwise.

It is a false dichotomy to say that because cigs are required to use standardized labels, we cannot improve the mental and emotional health of citizens in other ways. The two things are entirely unrelated; one can move without affecting the other.

I disagree that they're unrelated; in fact, I think the moralistic impulse behind anti-cigarette laws like this one is largely behind our utter failure to improve the mental and emotional health of our citizens. As long as we can frame life as a series of free choices which all have universal moral value, we can always blame & shame those who make the "wrong" choice (or who are in conditions which can be conflated with poor choices -- for instance, the poverty or mental illness stigma). It's a small step from there to the idea that "those people" don't deserve harm reduction and/or a better environment... and it's a small step from there to the idea that harm reduction or a better environment is itself wrong, because it would cause people to make the "wrong" choices. I see this bit of circular logic everywhere in our society, simply everywhere, and it's killing us.

I don't have any problem with speaking out about people's poor choices, labeling things as harmful, etc... but at this point our society is doing this instead of harm reduction, and we've even convinced ourselves that it is morally preferable. This is why we can't have nice things.
posted by vorfeed at 11:56 AM on November 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


previously

thanks wilful - I have an evil cold, and brain is cloth. I knew there was a previous discussion.
posted by the noob at 12:59 PM on November 21, 2011


Wonder if the incoming Abbott government hasn't happened yet.
posted by the noob at 1:00 PM on November 21, 2011


It's not about health. It never has been. It's about money.

It is - its about the billions spent on oncology and palliative care in a country with a half decent public health system.
posted by the noob at 1:05 PM on November 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Wonder if the incoming Abbott government

You've mis-spelled 'Turnbull'.
posted by pompomtom at 1:22 PM on November 21, 2011


I understood the plain packaging wasn't aimed at current smokers, but to remove some cachet from brands luring new smokers.
Which seems fair enough. I'm an ex-smoker, who would like to have smoking licenced (a licence to punt, er. smoke) or prescription based to make it harder for new smokers to start.
I haven't ever met a smoker, even one who unrepentantly enjoys a puff, who encourages new smokers to start.
posted by bystander at 1:25 PM on November 21, 2011


I'm not talking about "the environment of consumer packaging". I'm talking about the environment -- the immediate surroundings we all have to live in.

Weird. I look around me, and I see advertising. Lots and lots of advertising. Do you live in some place where corporate branding isn't a major part of "the immediate surroundings we all have to live in?" Because it seems to me that it is one of the major components of the modern Western world, and it is a cancer.

Sure. And in this community, printing pictures of sickly goddamn babies on consumer goods is an act of shame. I don't see the point in pretending otherwise.

Pictures of sickly babies as visual warnings is a seperate discussion that I'd rather not have right now.

It's a small step from there to the idea that "those people" don't deserve harm reduction and/or a better environment... and it's a small step from there to the idea that harm reduction or a better environment is itself wrong, because it would cause people to make the "wrong" choices.

That is a long, fraught chain of causul reasoning that I don't buy in this instance. I don't know if you're talking about America or Australia, but I do see an intense joy in most conservative people and politicians when it comes to blaming and punishing people whom I feel are mostly victims of circumstances outside their control.

However, let me propose an alternate framing of this particular initiative: the liberal "nanny staters" who pushed for this want to enforce strict packaging guidelines on a powerfully addictive, harmful recreational drug without affecting consumers' access to the drug through already established retail channels. They also, unlike their conservative counterparts, marjority support single-payer healthcare systems that would cover treatment of the long-term, chronic health diseases caused by smoking and, in many cases, might include free access to the psychological and medical support many need to quit smoking. Which most smokers wish they could do.

Your linking of this act with a mentality of shame and punishment is not necessarily the correct context to place it into. To me, it fits nicely into a larger systematic worldview that:

1) creates boundaries to limit industries that feed on the most vulnerable in society like parasites
2) maintains individual choice and freedom
3) regulates the information given to consumers at the point of sale through enforcing accurate language and packaging guidelines that are relavent to the product being sold: more and more stringent guidelines for drugs and dangerous chemicals, fewer and less stringent guidelines for foods, inert substances, clothing, etc., based on real, actual, scientific, valid information on the potential for harm and misuse.

It is entirely consistent to appreciate this act and not be the moral monster you suggest. And while you may feel some sort of abstract outrage at this kind of law, initiatives such as this have made huge positive changes to the immediate surroundings we all have to live in. My parents and their teachers smoked in school and in the workplace and everywhere else. Today, I can choose to go to a bar or concert and come home without subjecting myself to secondhand smoke--while smokers can go to the same bars and concerts and step outside to get their fix.

These massive shifts in how society has handled smoking have had real, measurable effects on my mental and physical health and wellbeing, all while maintaining the freedom to smoke. (Measurable at the population level.)
posted by jsturgill at 1:33 PM on November 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Pictures of sickly babies as visual warnings is a seperate discussion that I'd rather not have right now.

That's the issue at hand, though. That is, in fact, the "accurate language and packaging guidelines that are relavent to the product being sold" we're talking about. That's the problem. This packaging is not simply accurate and relevant, and it is being used as an instrument of shame.

Your linking of this act with a mentality of shame and punishment is not necessarily the correct context to place it into.

If you seriously think that liberal opposition to smoking doesn't involve the "joy" of "blaming and punishing people whom I feel are mostly victims of circumstances outside their control", you're missing something. This sort of moral-majority behavior is an issue on the left, too -- see any thread on things like fast food or driving for examples.

Besides, look at the language you're using. Cancer? Parasites? These are moralistic words. You're not claiming that advertising and industry does harm, you're saying that advertising and industry is harm... and again, that makes it difficult to separate real harm from the things you've associated with it.

It's also worth noting that the very cultural changes you're lauding as a success -- smoke-free areas -- are examples of harm reduction. They are not attempts to get people to stop smoking (though they can become such when over-applied to non-public property), but to do it in an area which causes less harm; they are based on realism, not moralism.

How does printing pictures of diseased wounds on cigarette packs mitigate the harm of smoking? How does that make a "huge positive change to the immediate surroundings we all have to live in"?
posted by vorfeed at 2:26 PM on November 21, 2011


Nope, just an addict.

I should flag that, but really?


I don't want to speak for Skeptic here, but this is exactly what helped me to quit: realizing, in no uncertain terms that nic-fits were just hourly withdrawal and I was nothing more than a garden variety addict. Seriously, it seems so obvious, but at the time I was too caught up in the needing-to-smoke-to-not-feel-like-shit that I didn't want to think of it in those terms.

18 years as a pack and a halfer, and what I really needed was someone to help me understand that that feeling of not needing another cigarette right after I had smoked one is pretty much how non-smokers feel all the time.

I hope you find something that works for you, because it's a crappy feeling to have that hole inside that constantly wants filling. I know I hated it.
posted by quin at 2:42 PM on November 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


I dig. I haven't smoked a cigarette in my home since our first son was born. I don't smoke around nonsmokers, even to the extent of not smoking in my car if a nonsmoking friend is riding with me (though I'm sure the smell of smoke is pretty strong.)

My problem isn't with people who don't want smoke blown in their faces. I can certainly understand that. My problem is with people who are belligerent about antismoking. Yes, smoking sucks, but the fact that I smoke doesn't automatically make you a better person than me.

We all have skeletons. Just because yours are safely hid in the closet and one of mine is visible doesn't mean that my skeletons are worse than yours.
posted by double block and bleed at 2:48 PM on November 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


That's the issue at hand, though. That is, in fact, the "accurate language and packaging guidelines that are relavent to the product being sold" we're talking about. That's the problem. This packaging is not simply accurate and relevant, and it is being used as an instrument of shame.

The focus of shame is the tobacco company, not the user. Cigarette cases used to be common, and most are quite attractive without being expensive. No one needs to pull out the sick baby box to get their fix in public. The scarlet cig is not affixed to the person's chest. It is, however, firmly affixed to the corporations'. Again, this is a feature, not a bug. The individual can opt out of the packaging very easily at any point after the sale.

It's also worth noting that the very cultural changes you're lauding as a success -- smoke-free areas -- are examples of harm reduction. They are not attempts to get people to stop smoking (though they can become such when over-applied to non-public property), but to do it in an area which causes less harm; they are based on realism, not moralism.

You're beating the wrong horse to death. These policies and cultural shifts have drastically reduced the number of people picking up cigs in each generation. To not acknowledge that is to not acknowledge reality. If for some reason you don't think that to be the case, I will gladly post links to reputable, relevant statistics.

Besides, look at the language you're using. Cancer? Parasites? These are moralistic words. You're not claiming that advertising and industry does harm, you're saying that advertising and industry is harm... and again, that makes it difficult to separate real harm from the things you've associated with it.

Certain industries are vultures: the gambling industry; the creators of addictive recreational drugs with harmful physical effects, both legal and illegal; and loan sharks, both illegal and legal (such as payday loan operators and credit card companies). They seem to, from my perspective and my understanding of the bare, basic, consensual reality facts, cause lots of harm and contribute little. I use language that reflects my understanding of those industries when I talk about them. I do not use that same language when talking about their victims, even though most of those victims are quite willing participants (for certain values of "willing").

They are not attempts to get people to stop smoking... but to do it in an area which causes less harm; they are based on realism, not moralism.

I would totally prefer most of the laws in my society to be based on reality. (Maybe you could reword that point to help me understand what you're trying to say.)

Also, your "harm reduction" is my "respecting individual autonomy." Which I think is pretty important, even when people decide to do dumb things.
posted by jsturgill at 3:05 PM on November 21, 2011


Heh, plenty of armchair experts weighing about tobacco legislation up in here. Some facts about cigarettes:

1: The tax revenue does not offset the hundreds of millions of dollars spent every year in Australia treating people with cigarette-induced cancer, diabetes, heart disease and more.

2: Putting gory images on labels did indeed reduce the rate of smoking according to the best research available.

3: Putting the price up is also proven to reduce rates of smoking quite effectively.

4: The arguments regarding "chop-chop" or smuggled tobacco are terrible. The study they paid Deloitte to do about it was methodologically ridiculous and the sample was completely flawed. It's been subsequent torn apart by health departments, QUIT Australia, and health academics.

5: No one knows exactly what's going to happen with plain packaging. We're the first country in the world do it, and there's really nothing to compare. Other countries are watching and this is why tobacco companies are terrified - if it's successful, many western countries could adopt the same approach. The best guess is it will reduce uptake, especially in the 16-25 female cohort - which is the only cohort where smoking rates are actually increasing in Australia (bizarre and horrible).

These packaging moves do in fact fit pretty squarely into a harm minimisation approach care of the above.

More broadly, I don't hear the nanny staters complaining too much when the public picks up the tab for all the smoking-induced medical treatment. My response to people complaining about nanny states: If you don't want a nanny state, stop acting like children.
posted by smoke at 3:47 PM on November 21, 2011 [7 favorites]


The focus of shame is the tobacco company, not the user.

I disagree. One glance at the kind of personal attacks that have been used in this thread will reveal that both the company and the individual smoker are targets of shame.

Besides, the warning doesn't say that tobacco companies kill babies.

These policies and cultural shifts have drastically reduced the number of people picking up cigs in each generation.

Smoke-free policies were a consequence of said cultural shift, not a cause of it -- smoking rates dropped steadily since the 1960s through to the 1990s, long before most areas even considered banning smoking in restaurants and bars.

I would argue that health considerations (first publicized in, you guessed it, the 1960s) have driven this demographic shift more than anything, and certainly much more than moral considerations ever have. Now that most people have stopped smoking, though, we seem at a loss as to how to deal with the 20% of the population who are still smoking despite the health risks. Given that smoking rates haven't changed much since the mid 1990s, I think it's a... well, shame that we're concentrating on "reducing rates of smoking" (on preview) rather than reducing the harm that smoking itself does -- it seems obvious to me that getting everyone to switch to e-cigs or another, safer delivery method is far easier and more effective with regards to mitigating harm than endlessly trying to get everyone to quit using tobacco entirely.

But then, I don't believe that recreational drugs, gambling, and loans are "vultures" which "cause lots of harm and contribute little", either -- to me this requires an incredibly naive view of history, society, and human behavior. People have been engaging in these behaviors since the dawn of time; obviously they contribute quite a lot.
posted by vorfeed at 4:14 PM on November 21, 2011


And yes, optimally we'd combine harm reduction with efforts to lower smoking rates overall... but making that our only goal seems like the war on drugs all over again, and just as likely to succeed.
posted by vorfeed at 4:27 PM on November 21, 2011


I never realized what a bunch of whiny babies smokers are until this thread. Get over yourselves. Your habit actively annoys everyone around you and hurts the health of nonsmokers who are forced to breath in your smoke.

As someone who quit cigarettes a year and a half ago with great difficulty (and after multiple attempts), let me attempt to explain why your sentiments are inconsiderate and inhumane -- the verbal equivalent of a smoker blowing fumes into a nonsmoker's face (and, incidentally, most smokers I know don't do this).

Cigarette smoking is a terrible addiction in which every part of your body screams for a smoke. A guy I know who kicked heroin cannot kick smoking. An alcoholic I know who kicked alcohol still smokes three packs a day. Very nice guy, by the way. Not a bad person at all. But he can't quit. They know I'm on call for them if they decide to.

It is one of the toughest things to do -- even if you have patches or gum. (A writer I know, very smart and very talented, doesn't smoke, but she is still on the patches. That's how deadly the nicotine fix is.) And while you may call smokers "bad people," most smokers I know really want to quit. But they can't. Because even if you get past that first difficult hump of not smoking, you become so highly sensitive to smoke that when someone does smoke after you've stopped -- even a block away -- you become consumed with a desire so intense that it rivals Gollum's need for his Precious.

The cigarette is the easy choice. But you can't do that. Because once you climb back on board that horse, you're going to be smoking regularly again. The other option is to resist. And with the alternative to smoking being an enervating combination of physical and emotional cravings, which also involve having to readjust to very specific cues ingrained deeply in your daily life (a cigarette in relation to a meal, a cigarette to contend with stress, and so forth), it's especially difficult to resist. And I haven't even mentioned the brain fog. Which, if you're in a creative field like I am, causes you to spend about six times as long working at your craft than you did before. And I can't understate how terrible, how dumb, how debilitating this makes you feel.

Unfortunately, every anti-smoking campaign fails to take these realities into account. The smoker is left adrift, feeling ashamed because he has no defense for his habit. And the people who legislate or reform very often have no knowledge or recall of what I've just described above.

My definition of a bad person is someone who is highly inconsiderate to this predicament. Not unlike the person who uses her cell phone in a cafe, pretending it to be a surrogate office, without contemplating that other people happen to be there. The kind of person who would live life insensitively and without empathy for those who are suffering and who legitimately want to kick the habit. The kind of callous narcissist who would assume that every exhale of blue smoke into the air is about them, rather than part of an addiction. So you hate cigarettes. Well, I do too. They were part of my life for years. But I'm not about to tell other people how to conquer their addiction. Because that wasn't the way that I quit. And it isn't the way that most people quit. And until you realize on some rudimentary level that the world is bigger and more complicated than you are, I would suggest (suggest, not dictate) that you stifle your ignoble didactiicsm until you learn what it is to be a smoker.
posted by ed at 4:28 PM on November 21, 2011 [10 favorites]


Does cigarette brand make a difference? To me it did. Like most smokers, I was fiercely loyal to brand. Yes, it did matter. They tasted different. The wrong brand was better than *none* but the right brand was better than any *wrong* brand. I smoked for twenty years and I stuck with the brand I started with until I finally quit.

Early brand loyalty is money in the bank for cigarette companies because getting people to change brands has always been dicey and will be nearly impossible without advertising (which has been severely restricted in Australia since 1992) or distinctive packaging.

Without distinctive packaging, even subtle advertising like product placement in movies and television and so forth will be very difficult. It's amazing what you can tell from packaging even if the "brand" name is wrong. For example, I've been watching Burn Notice here lately and Michael's mom is constantly smoking "Morely" cigarettes. The carton has a bright red chevron on the top half of the box and the font is Neo Contact -- I know what's supposed to be in the carton even though it says "Morely". Probably you do, too.

I'll be interested to see what unfolds on the Australian front after the packs and logos are standardized. Probably need to take a ten or fifteen year timeline on it, but still, should be interesting to see what happens.
posted by which_chick at 4:38 PM on November 21, 2011


One glance at the kind of personal attacks that have been used in this thread will reveal that both the company and the individual smoker are targets of shame

I've seen very little shaming here. Lots of mockery, but not much overt shaming.

On the other hand, it's no surprise to me to hear than an addict does feel shame whenever attention is drawn to the addiction; addiction-as-personal-failing is a fairly persistent cultural trope.

Personally, I do not mock addicts but feel sympathy for them. I will, however, mercilessly mock those who have not yet figured out that choosing to risk becoming addicted is a truly boneheaded move.

To the extent that the new packaging law will reduce the number of people induced to make that boneheaded move, I see it as a good thing. We were all young and stupid once.
posted by flabdablet at 4:43 PM on November 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


I disagree. One glance at the kind of personal attacks that have been used in this thread will reveal that both the company and the individual smoker are targets of shame.

I will continue to disagree with you, then, and assert that at the least the company is the primary recipient of any shame. Shaming companies is one of the three ways to alter a company's behavior. The other two are lawsuits and passing new laws. This happens to combine two of the three possible tools, and any spillover onto the individual is minor indeed. Remember--most non-smokers aren't going to give a rat's ass what's on a cigarette package.

Smoke-free policies were a consequence of said cultural shift, not a cause of it -- smoking rates dropped steadily since the 1960s through to the 1990s, long before most areas even considered banning smoking in restaurants and bars.

Yes, a consequence of a cultural shift that was caused by continual campaigns to raise awareness of the health consequences of tobacco and limit their ability to advertise. The 1960s saw both the mass realization of health issues and the first series of advertising restrictions. You can believe that the former lead to all change and the latter had nothing to do with it, but I happen to be a firm believer in the power of advertising to manipulate the public, and am willing to cite persuasive sources upon request.

Given that smoking rates haven't changed much since the mid 1990s, I think it's a... well, shame that we're concentrating on "reducing rates of smoking" (on preview) rather than reducing the harm that smoking itself does -- it seems obvious to me that getting everyone to switch to e-cigs or another, safer delivery method is far easier and more effective with regards to mitigating harm than endlessly trying to get everyone to quit using tobacco entirely.

The tobacco companies will bear the cost of changing their packaging to meet the standard. A minimal cost, at that. If it has any noticeable effect, which I think it will, then society has gained a lot of productive, healthy years from people who would otherwise have suffered severe health problems and been a burden on the healthcare system. I think it's worthwhile to persue investments that cost little and have the likely potential for respectable returns.

it seems obvious to me that getting everyone to switch to e-cigs or another, safer delivery method is far easier and more effective with regards to mitigating harm than endlessly trying to get everyone to quit using tobacco entirely.

Again, the same people who are likely to support this initiative are very likely to support initiatives to provide psychiatric support, addiction services, and alternate delivery systems. Not just of this drug, but any other. Why are you trying to pretend that this precludes that sort of option when it goes hand-in-hand with those other efforts?

People have been engaging in these behaviors since the dawn of time; obviously they contribute quite a lot.

That is not a good criteria for moral judgment. I cannot think, off-hand, of a people/country that is free from the horrors of genocide, the slaughter of civilians, torture, and/or institutionalized oppression. Those behaviors are, on some level, part of the basic, fundamental human experience. That does not mean I approve of them or that I will gloss over their fundamental horror when I speak about them.

Gambling and games of chance are fun, exciting passtimes. In a population enduring the kind of psychic stress as most Americans, casinos and lotteries are a sure recipe for wrecking the lives of those on the margins--lives that otherwise would play out very differently, at least from a mental health and financial perspective. Ditto for payday loan operations, which do great harm to the poorest in our society.

I agree that genocide, torture, slavery, violence, and taking advantage of addicts all serve a purpose. I agree that prohibition may create subtler, more horrible monsters than the ones it attempts to erradicate. But that doesn't mean I feel the need to soften my language when I talk about them.
posted by jsturgill at 4:44 PM on November 21, 2011


I've seen very little shaming here. Lots of mockery, but not much overt shaming.

Pointing and laughing isn't a form of shaming?
posted by fatbird at 4:44 PM on November 21, 2011


the fact that a physically addictive, lethal drug like tobacco is still legal while a non-physically addictive non-lethal drug like marijuana is criminalized is one reason why tobacco use attracts such ire and resentment... its legality and acceptance is a constant reminder of the insanity of our drug laws, and every step that brings it closer to an outright ban is a step towards a logical and consistent drug policy. Which is not to say that government should be in the business of banning drugs at all, but if they have to be, for gods sake let them ban the worst ones first
posted by moorooka at 4:48 PM on November 21, 2011


Not in Australia. Pointing and laughing is basic good manners here.
posted by flabdablet at 4:49 PM on November 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


And the people who legislate or reform very often have no knowledge or recall of what I've just described above.

Not disagreeing with your broader points about demonising smokers, but I can tell you that public health officials typically have an astonishingly encyclopaedic knowledge of everything involving smoking. It's arguably the most widely researched drug ever.

Now, whether that knowledge survives a tricksy journey through treasury departments, premier and prime minister and cabinet departments etc is another question, but anti-smoking campaigns - on the whole - have been very effective, make no mistake about that - this is not a horse-before-the-cart situation, there is reams of data supporting it, and almost none to suggest that once health effects emerged in the sixties, rates began an irreversible drop. Rates of smoking have continued to trend down through the nineties, as a result of tobacco reform and anti-tobacco campaigning.

I would suggest that many of the comments in this thread about shaming programs and demonising smokers are positing a false dichotomy that does not really exist in Australia, and a general ignorance about anti-smoking campaigns here, and anti-smoking support available, both of which are generally world-leading.
posted by smoke at 4:54 PM on November 21, 2011


Rates of smoking have continued to trend down through the nineties, as a result of tobacco reform and anti-tobacco campaigning.

Sorry I meant to say "continued to trend down past the nineties as a result of tobacco reform, campaigning etc.
posted by smoke at 4:56 PM on November 21, 2011


Except plenty of apatment complexes totally ban smoking.

Really? Where? I've lived in +/- 12 US cities and I've never seen such a building, at least not that I could afford. My problem is that, we both pay rent for the use of our apartments. My breathing doesn't curtail your reasonable enjoyment of your residence, and you don't have an inalienable right to smoke. You know, I'm not one of those fake-coughing, dirty look-giving nonsmokers. It's just that if you and I are sharing the same indoor air, we are more or less sharing the same house, and nobody smokes in my house.
posted by toodleydoodley at 5:00 PM on November 21, 2011


People have been engaging in these behaviors since the dawn of time; obviously they contribute quite a lot.
That is not a good criteria for moral judgment.


Good thing I'm not the one talking about this issue in moral terms, then.

Again, the same people who are likely to support this initiative are very likely to support initiatives to provide psychiatric support, addiction services, and alternate delivery systems. Not just of this drug, but any other. Why are you trying to pretend that this precludes that sort of option when it goes hand-in-hand with those other efforts?

Because the use of moral language makes it easier to oppose addiction services and alternate delivery systems on the grounds that the moral "failing" will still be present. Without the moral aspect it's obviously ridiculous to oppose e-cigs, or snus, or needle exchanges, or self-moderation... yet in practice you see people who are opposed to these simply because they involve drug use, and drugs are bad. Moreover, an absolute conflation between drug use and harm is practically the only way we discuss the issue, and I don't think that's reasonable. Drugs and gambling and payday loans are not "monsters" -- our own approach to them has made them such, and continues to do so. As you yourself admit, they are symptoms of "psychic stress", not the disease... and as long as we live in a society which piles on more stress in the form of shame and moralism, they'll continue to be a problem.
posted by vorfeed at 5:19 PM on November 21, 2011


As for my being ignorant of the situation in Australia -- I'll cop to that, since I don't live there, but I'll also note that at least one Australian above made a similar complaint about shaming.
posted by vorfeed at 5:26 PM on November 21, 2011


For example, I've been watching Burn Notice here lately and Michael's mom is constantly smoking "Morely" cigarettes. The carton has a bright red chevron on the top half of the box and the font is Neo Contact -- I know what's supposed to be in the carton even though it says "Morely".

I reckon she only smokes those because she was influenced by the X-files.
posted by pompomtom at 5:35 PM on November 21, 2011


Morleys go back to at least 1961.
posted by quin at 5:50 PM on November 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I sit corrected.
posted by pompomtom at 5:59 PM on November 21, 2011


I'll be interested to see what unfolds on the Australian front after the packs and logos are standardized.

Yes, I wonder if there's anything in the legislation to prevent the tobacco companies from throwing in "free gifts" with every purchase?

When they first brought in the gory photographs on tobacco packaging, the response from some brands was to offer free containers to slip the packet into, hiding the warnings. Then I think people just got used to the photos & ignored them.

A few pouch tobacco smokers I know have their own elaborate leather pouches that they fill, with little pockets for papers & things. That'd be my first guess for a counterpunch, other than the lawsuits - head back to the days of fancy cigarette cases & lighters, all appropriately emblazoned with logos.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:05 PM on November 21, 2011


Also: is Gruen Nation over for this year? I'd be curious to see what strategies those guys would suggest.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:05 PM on November 21, 2011


The fact that a physically addictive, lethal drug like tobacco is still legal while a non-physically addictive non-lethal drug like marijuana is criminalized is one reason why tobacco use attracts such ire and resentment.

I don't know about that - seen many, many people suffer serious mental health issues as a result of marijuana abuse- to the point of suicide and self harm. Sure, use shouldn't be criminalised, but I don't buy that marijuana is not-addictive nor harmless.
posted by the noob at 6:14 PM on November 21, 2011


I've seen many, many people with mental health issues abuse a wide variety of drugs, with awful consequences.

Since teenagers are people with mental health issues pretty much by definition, I'm opposed to teenagers using mind-altering substances; they generally do so with their customary lack of care and discrimination, which undoubtedly causes long term problems for many. But since the only way to persuade a teenager not to do something that's bad for them is to reduce the status value of that activity within their peer group, it seems to me that removing prominent tribal markers from the packaging can only help.

On the other hand, perhaps the kids will start responding positively to all cigarette packaging, much as I did when I first saw these. Only time will tell.
posted by flabdablet at 6:33 PM on November 21, 2011


MetaFilter: people with mental health issues pretty much by definition.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:36 PM on November 21, 2011


Since teenagers are people with mental health issues pretty much by definition

I'm 47 years old and find this broad-brush characterization offensive.
posted by localroger at 6:37 PM on November 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Because the use of moral language makes it easier to oppose addiction services and alternate delivery systems on the grounds that the moral "failing" will still be present. Without the moral aspect it's obviously ridiculous to oppose e-cigs, or snus, or needle exchanges, or self-moderation... yet in practice you see people who are opposed to these simply because they involve drug use, and drugs are bad.

Your argument only makes sense when critical language is used to dehumanize the addicts and deny them treatment. It makes no sense to pretend that it holds when the critical language is directed at tobacco companies.

And I find it odd that you continue to insist that there is a connection between regulating tobacco companies and denying health care to addicts. Australia in particular has both strong regulations and abundant resources available to addicts.

It's very strange to have this conversation because I am intimately familiar with the kind of demonization you're worked up about. I get it, and you see it all the time in America with the war on drugs, the legislation surrounding drunk drivers, and all kinds of petty crime involving minorities. In other countries, you see it in the somewhat twisted debates they have over whether lung cancer, obesity, and other potentially self-inflicted diseases should receive treatment under their single-payer systems.

But that same mentality isn't present here at all, with this kind of legislation. At ALL. And it's bizarre to claim that it is.
posted by jsturgill at 6:41 PM on November 21, 2011


I don't smoke. But as Vogon Poet noted far upthread, I do find the smell of cigarette smoke pleasant in some situations. I dd once smoke a pack of organic cigs, and found I liked the secondhand smell a lot more than how they made my throat feel. I have the same problem with the difference between working in a coffee roasting factory and actually drinking coffee, although I do actually drink coffee.

I think this packaging law is incredibly petty and small-minded. If your cool plan is to ban cigarettes then just ban the fucking things. The people who come up with crap like this are cowards who don't want to own the consequences of their actions. They know what happened with American Prohibition and they know they don't want to go there, so they do shit like this to pretend they're not like the idiot Temperance thugs but that is, in fact, what they are.

All this law will do is spur a huge market for cigarette case sleeves to hide the dumbfuckery.
posted by localroger at 6:47 PM on November 21, 2011


Hi ed! I didn't mean to disparage any smokers struggling with addiction. My comment really wasn't about smokers at all. It was about people who think they get to damage the health of others without their consent, and then claim to be the injured party because gosh, it's so annoying when those other people speak up about being harmed.
posted by jsturgill at 7:00 PM on November 21, 2011


They know what happened with American Prohibition and they know they don't want to go there.

Tobacco prohibition would be a very different matter to alcohol prohibition, for the simple reason that alcohol is fiendishly easy to make yourself - all you need is yeast & some kind of sugar source, and you can make it privately indoors, almost overnight if you want.

Growing your own tobacco might seem like a plausible option, but they're great big ugly plants you could never hide from the neighbours, would take a long time to grow for not a huge yield, and while people might pay a relative lot for something arguably fun like pot, I honestly can't see somebody forking out $25 for a tiny baggie of tobacco that would last only a few cigarettes.

If governments went down the prohibition path, I'd bet that smokers would get tired in no time flat of running around trying to score & paying much larger sums, and they'd just have to go cold turkey or get some nicotine replacement solution.

The real issue here is not about whether or not to try driving tobacco underground, as prohibition had attempted with alcohol. It's that every election in recent memory has been decided by a tiny proportion of swinging voters in a tiny proportion of seats, such that the risk of losing up to 20% of your vote (or even a tenth of that) is more than the political parties are willing to bear.

That's why we get these Claytons policies: the government wants to be seen to be doing something to appease the anti-smoking lobby, at the same time as they want to keep the smokers supplied with their drug of partial choice.
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:07 PM on November 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


I don't know about that - seen many, many people suffer serious mental health issues as a result of marijuana abuse- to the point of suicide and self harm. Sure, use shouldn't be criminalised, but I don't buy that marijuana is not-addictive nor harmless.

Sure, marijuana isn't harmless, but in terms of the physical damage that it causes, like cancer and cardiovascular disease, it is in no sense comparable to tobacco. and while it is psychologically addictive and regular pot-users may find it a difficult habit to quit (I've been there), it is not a physically addictive substance, that is, you won't suffer the sorts of withdrawal symptoms that you get from quitting substances like tobacco or heroin
posted by moorooka at 7:55 PM on November 21, 2011


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