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Excising your demons: the "cancer-stick" tax

"When they're two dollars a packet, I'm giving up!"  In my grandparents' bottle shop as a kid, I heard these words from many voices as the price of a packet of fags reached a dollar ninety-five.  In those days, when the commercial airwaves still rang with such joyous melodies as "Join the club, join the club, join the Escort club" and the orchestral refrains of the Winfield ads, smoking was an almost-integral part of everyday life.

Of those grumbling about two bucks a pack back then, the ashes of many would be turning in their urns today on hearing of a quickly-announced Government tax of two dollars a packet to come into effect at midnight.  The Rudd crew are talking about raising 5 billion dollars this way, and some cynical ciggie-suckers are wondering if Australia's financial recovery might be needing band-aids.  Why rush the excise in,  unless the Treasury needed to get a bob or two in the kitty pretty puickly?

A forty-five year old smoker, I can still see and hear those different brands of "pleasure" competing for the smoking dollar.  No doubt that follow-up campaigns (as laws tightened around the tobacconists) of associating top-level sportsmanship with inhaling particular "cancer-sticks" have added to a Pavlov's Dogs kind of conditioning in smoking society to gravitate towards appropriate brands.   It's not that long ago that Grand Prix events were little more that a display of mechanical ciggie-packets competing for eye focus space.  What chance did we have?

Weak-willed wannabe quitters like myself will be happy with the brands disappearing- one less stimulus to ignore.  However, stiffing us with a two dollar price rise doesn't ring true as a punishment.  I like Bob Brown's idea of government-funded nicotine patches being given in return.  That would be a sign of support.  Some might argue that the money being saved is for our hospital beds?   Maybe it would be cheaper to fix the problem now?  Oh wait, doing that sort of stuff would cut off the revenue stream...

My personal inclination leans to the Fast Cash Theory.

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The indoctrination of the young.

Growing up in Whyalla in the sixties and seventies, the bane of my existence was mom or dad saying, "nip down to the shop and get us a packet of fags will you. Theres a good lad!?" If I was lucky I was granted 5 cents for my troubles and I could buy 20 "Nigger blocks".

As if that wasn't bad enough, I can clearly remember hating sports day at school. Everyone was expected to give their all in 40 degree heat in order to try and qualify for the Benson and Hedges inter schools sports carnival.

Being one of a group of rouges,  me and my mates would skip school and head off to the local shopping center. On most days, there were a few young models dressed in silk and glitter walking around the shopping center handing out packs of 3 Escorts, Viscounts, B&H .......whatever.

"Make sure you take them home to your parents" they would say.

'Sure thing, no worries' was the inevitable response.

I too was going to give up when they reached two bucks a pack.

Bob Hawkes popularity got him through some astronomical price hikes.

Kevin Rudd has nowhere near the popularity or charsima of Hawke. What he does have in his favour is a massive change in the demographic.

Us smokers are now a minority. A dying breed you could say. Slapping higher taxes on tobacco is now a massive vote winner. The Libs know this too. So I guess we can look forward to more of the same.

I'm 50 next year. I really should think about quitting.

Richard:  Welcome to Webdiary Keith! 

How to quit smoking

I have to preface this with the usual disclaimer. This is what worked for me and in that context I'm pretty disparaging of other methods that might work for other people.

First, forget any notion that this is going to be hard. It won't be. It really is very easy. One of the grips smoking has is people have come to believe quitting is hard. The anti-smoking mob say this because it is the most obvious way they can explain the fact there are still so many smokers doing what anti-smokers regard as extreme irrational behaviour. What would they know? Most anti-smoking zealots these days have never been smokers. Other explanations the zealots have are that smokers are stupid, selfish, weak willed, ignorant and working class.   

Don't use nicotine substitutes. I'm sure they have all the clinical trials that "prove" their effectiveness but they don't measure how many people would have given up anyway and the substitute just made it harder. Anyway they did not work for me. Sure I stopped for a few days but I was never out of nicotine withdrawal. Remember the real enemy is nicotine and it is a weak gutless enemy at that. Don't give it the satisfaction of forcing you to take substitutes.

Pick your moment and go cold turkey. The hardest part as always is getting started. Don't make a big drama over it. So you've decided to stop smoking? Big deal. Get rid of anything around that might tempt you. Stay away from smokers for a while if you can.

From the moment you stop, think of yourself as a non-smoker. No big deal. Once you were a smoker. Now you've stopped. You haven't given up anything worthwhile. There is no "enjoyment" in smoking and the taste is horrific.

After a little while you will feel a slight sensation. You fly, or go to restaurants or the cinema, so you  will know the feeling. Remember nicotine is very quick to leave the body.  Just a day or so and you are chemically nicotine free.

That sensation (I refuse to use the word "craving") is nothing to write home about. It's no big hairy monster. Just a teddy bear with big funny teeth.

Focus on the sensation. Turn it into a new experience. Don't try to deny it is there. On the contrary, look into it and see what it's got. Ask yourelf what's this funny feeling? Define it. Then ask yourself what's the big deal? Go and do something else. Exercise is good. Go for a walk or a nude swim in the Tweed. The sensation goes after a moment and you forget about it.  It returns with steadily reducing frequency and each time is a little weaker.

You will find that the funny feeling has no more grab on you than a minor head cold, and like a cold it will pass in a few days.  It does not get stronger. It gets weaker and gets weaker surprisingly quickly.  Soon it is gone.

Before you know it,  you will have beaten it. Resist the temptation to gloat and vilify smokers.

Five things you need to know about smoking ...

  • Smokers are being villified as people and this will only get worse as they become a smaller minority. They will continue to be attacked for ills of which they are innocent and the hugely overblown "passive smoking" hysteria will worsen as more and more fashionable people do the Smoker Stomp. Trust me with this.
  • It goes without saying smokers will continue to be milked for every cent they are worth by governments egged on by crowds of jeering voters. There is nothing more certain to leap ahead than a popular tax. Don't give me any of that "smokers are voters" shit either. There are more non-smokers, and besides the smokers vote is split. There is no "smokers" candidate. That's because the majority of smokers are smart people, like the rest of us, and would never vote for such a candidate.
  • This new tax slug and the "this asshole's a smoker" branding might look bad. But the persecution will get worse. It is only a matter of time before smokers presenting for medical treatment with smoking-linked diseases will have a lower level of access to health resources. This may already be happening in a "casual"  way. I would not be in the least surprised if it is routine. Soon it will be official.
  • There is no doubt that the treatment of smokers is a violation of something pretty basic in the laws of decency and therefore should be an issue for us all. There is also no doubt that this ugly campaign will move on to other targets, such as alcohol and diet, as some of you have noted. At some point there will have to be a stand against the blue nosed wowsers, or rather blue nosed wowerism, behind this movement. But that will not be over smokers' rights, I'm afraid. That war has been fought and you guys lost.
  • Smoking is bad for you. I mean really really bad.
  • Smoking is dead set easy to give up. So easy that once you have stopped you will wonder what the fuss was about. Ask me how.

OK that's six. But the last one is for free. If anyone would like to know I will tell you, also for free. Seriously. Just ask

I'm asking the question, Geoff


(by the way, I applaud everything you've said!)

Marilyn, I envy your ability to give up so easily.  And stay given up.  If only it were so easy for everyone..

So, Geoff

It actually is

All you need is to focus on something you want a whole lot more.

"Go for it" says Minchin

"They die early, they actually save us money,"

There's a t rain of thought that's been around for a long time, part of the tobacco lobby's selling-points for ages now.   Keep people smoking, solve the aged-care problem.1

Ferchrissake, this is people Nick's talking about!


Since when did Minchin notice people?

He is a vile creature.

When Vivian Alvarez Solon was found on the tail of the Bakhtiyari family having been found to have been honest from the start I ran into him at the Marryatville Woollies and asked him how he felt about deporting and jailing innocent people.

He looked at me blankly and said "Oh, you mean the Filipina"? I said loud enough for the coffee shop crowd to hear "NO I mean Vivian Alvarez Solon the Australian woman brutally left to die in the Philipines by DIC's and covered up for 4 years".

The crowd cheered, he ran.

Since when did Marilyn get things right.

Marilyn, If you had watched Q&A last night you would have realised that it was all tongue in cheek and even Penny Wong was smiling, although what she has to smile about these days is antibody's guess.The Union boss also had a good giggle, also Senator Milne an all time flop and waste of public money.cracked a smile.

What has the Bakhtiyari family got to do with Tobacco Tax?  Another Marilyn smokescreen.

Everything in moderation?

At thrity-five bucks for a pouch of Chanpion Ruby and a bag of filters, it's obviously I cannot afford to smoke as much as I did.  Yeah yeah that's part of the point of the whole exercise.. giving us a financial kick in our nicotine stained teeth.

Translating a pipefull from a fag, it's now cheaper to smoke dope.  Alan, that's the kind of driver you want coming towards you, the one driving at fifteen k's an hour, verrrry, verrry,carefully! 

Justin, the Age's Tony Wright was on the same angle as you.  He mentioned the obesity figures on the tranny yesterday morning, and commented that  you don't see a two-dolllar excise on MacDonalds or words to that effect.

I blame a lot of the social consequences of alcohol on the demise of the traditional drinking "schools" which educated youngsters as to how to manage their grog .  Kids these days don't know how to handle their booze.. hmm, think I'm hearing my grandfather..

With Hamish's p.o.v.  in mind I've started a song rewrite.  You may be familiar with the original:

 Smoke, smoke, smoke that cigarette

Puff, puff, puff until Australia's out of debt

Tell Kev at Parliament House

that the smoking tax is grouse

and that sticking them up his arse is better yet


Think it could catch on?  Broadcasting Monday night.. 

Poor Richard

At least though people aren't allowed to smoke inside you pub anymore.    What I don't get though is why we are all so anxious to poison ourselves?

I did it with grog for 20 years and cigarettes off and on for 30 years and look back now in disgust at the time and life I wasted not to mention the money.

Fags Fatties Booze and War

Alcohol related costs:

 It has been estimated that alcohol cost the Australian community about $15.3 billion in 2004–05, when factors such as crime and violence, treatment costs, loss of productivity and premature death were taken into account. These figures are recognised to be conservative, as the cost of alcohol related absenteeism alone has recently been estimated at $1.2 billion per year, using self-report data from the 2001 National Drug Strategy Household Survey (AIHW 2002).

Cigarette related costs:

Smoking related illnesses cost the Australian community approximately 13 billion dollars annually. In Australia it is estimated that an average Australian smoker spends up to $2,000 a year on cigarettes. This means they have less to spend on food and clothes, or fun things like C.D's, computer games or tickets to the cinema or football match... how would you rather spend your money?

It appears that Alan's suspicions may be correct, alcohol is a more costly problem to society than smokes.

No doubt smoking is a health hazard; drinking is also a health hazard but  is also the catalyst for violence and family trauma that no amount of money can quantify.

Having said that it appears obesity is also a major health problem:

A new Access Economics Report commissioned by Diabetes Australia has found that 3.71 million Australians are obese with a current estimated cost to the nation of $58 billion.

The report titled "Growing economic costs of obesity in 2008" reveals that there has been a 137% increase since 2005 in the number of Australians who have type 2 diabetes as a result of being obese.

The total cost of obesity includes $8.3 billion in financial costs and $49.9 billion in the value of lost wellbeing, which accounts for years of healthy life lost through disability and /or premature death.

Maybe, sooner or later as the government gets strapped for cash we can expect to drink our booze from plastic cups splattered with pictures of vomit and violence, smoke fags from blank packets splattered with pictures of green teeth and gangrenous limbs, and eat junk food dished up in bland containers revealing pictures of Amanda Vanstone stuffing herself with junk and red wine.

And we will get to pay a whole lot more for the privilege.

Maybe we could save some cash by refraining from another addiction - war. Make all soldiers where uniforms with pics of mutilated women and children printed on them. That should de-glamorise war in the same way green teeth and gangrenous limbs de-glamorises smoking - yeah let's do that and see how many kids will wear the uniform.

Passive Smoking and Drinking

Justin, Thanks for those figures regarding Alcohol v Tobacco, it is interesting that we never see these numbers splashed on the front page of the SMH.

Next time you are speaking to a politician ask them this question "If you are driving at 100 kph down the road, who would you rather have coming the other way a drunk or a smoker".

All in the mind

I started smoking at 17 because my boyfriend of the day convinced me it was cool. I stopped many times cold turkey and sometimes lasted years before some trauma led me to start again.

At least I told myself it was the trauma or the stress or whatever I could lie to myself about but considering I gave up grog after 20 years of binge drinking at midnight on New year's eve 1988 and never once hankered after a single shot of grog I knew I was only lying to myself.

Ten years ago next month I spent my cigarette money for the fortnight on fabrics and made a wardrobe of winter clothes during the coldest snap in Adelaide's history.

Three days later I knew I had been lying for the simple reason that I did not have one withdrawal symptom, nothing.

non-smoking is self-righteous and expensive

How much extra tax does a smoker have to pay before non-smokers stop telling us how much smoking 'costs' society? If we're subsidising the country's revenue base (to the tune of another 5 billion), give us a bit of bloody respect. You non-smokers are costing us all by your shrill abstenance, and every smoker who gives up is damaging our budget balance.

More tax

Hamish, I was a 50 a day man until a year ago when I suffered a mini stroke and was told if I did not quit smoking I would not see my next birthday.

Over the years I had tried many times to stop, patches,chewing gum and hypnosis nothing worked. As the price of cigs went up I would cut down for a couple of weeks and then would be back to square one.

However a dire warning from my vascular surgeon made me quit on the spot.

After a carotid artrery operation I was talking to my surgeon and asked him what cost alcohol had on health costs and society in general.

He would not tell me for fear that I would quote him in a Letter to the Editor, but I got the distinct impression that alcohol is bigger problem than tobacco.

Hamish, do me and yourself a favour and quit today.

" a filthy, dirty habit", he said, reaching for his lighter.

Yes, that's not the first time the nicotine patch thing has turned up, either. 

 In some situations people will qualify for a course on the given criteria, in others, not:  Its funny how some people will and others not, on what often seems the smallest of technicalities.

They are a grotty habit and worse still, you get off, years pass, you finally  feel safe to leave the leper colony and rejoin humanity momentarily- say after Xmass dinner or a bithday-  next thing you're back on the treadmill.

 They are a cunning, patient habit.

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