It’s time the government let adults - even the smokers - grow up


While the under-12s and orchestras hit the jackpot in yesterday's Autumn Statement, tobacco companies were subtly thrown under the bus, as the Chancellor quietly committed to a consultation to determine how much more money tobacco companies should be contributing to public services; a pledge Labour has already signed on to as well. Specifically, the consultation will look at the “introduction of a levy on tobacco manufactures and importers,” which could raise taxes on tobacco companies by millions of pounds a year.

From the Independent:

The tobacco industry should pay for the costs it imposes on British society, the Chancellor has said, signalling that the Government will back a levy on tobacco manufacturers and importers.

In a low-key Autumn Statement announcement, George Osborne committed the Government to a consultation on how tobacco companies could make bigger contributions to the public purse.

Specifically he said:

Smoking imposes costs on society, and the Government believes it is therefore fair to ask the tobacco industry to make a greater contribution.

The Government will shortly launch a consultation on introducing a levy on tobacco manufacturers and importers.

My colleague Ben has just recently addressed these ‘costs on society’ the Chancellor references, and debunked a fair few of them. He also pointed out the known, positive effects of nicotine, and reminded us that, despite all the lies perpetuated around smoking and NHS spending, smokers, on average, take up less health expenditure over their lifetime than non-smokers do.

My two-cents goes something like this: What cost on society? Sure, there’s a cost on the smoker, who will deal with the consequences that come from inhaling all sorts of questionable stuff – but adults get to make those personal decisions and take those risks. All choices have a cost, but in the case of cigarettes, the individual bears the brunt of the consequences; not the public at large.

But more powerful than the adults trying to make decisions about their personal lifestyles is the government, which is treating cigarettes the same way children tend to treat stuffed animals – labelling them with human-characteristics; acting as if objects are inherently bound to be good or bad.

And when it comes to cigarettes, the government has deemed them inherently evil. And it’s the tobacco companies, of course, that are proliferating them (remember, public demand matters very little to paternalists), so naturally, they must be taxed to the death.

But you know who’s really going to suffer when push comes to shove and levies are imposed? Low earners – who probably will, but can't afford to, see cigarette prices rise when the levy comes into play. Because, at the end of the day, these levies aren't coming in to save public health; they're there to save vulnerable public budgets. It's time the government came clean on that—childish, indeed.