What chance that cigarettes go up in smoke?

RASHMEE ROSHAN LALL December 14, 2021

Photo by Mathew MacQuarrie on Unsplash

New Zealand…The Netherlands…Australia…

Just days ago, New Zealand announced plans to become the world’s first country to progressively make tobacco less accessible so that it has a future generation that will never have smoked.

Next up, the Netherlands, which will ban supermarket sales of tobacco from 2024.

And what chance that Oz follows the Kiwi lead, considering the Medical Journal of Australia has already called for a New Zealand-style phaseout policy in that country?

A decent number of Americans – one in four according to a 2018 Gallup survey –  support a total smoking ban but it may be a stretch to think a country that won’t advance gun control would actually curb Big Tobacco.

Just how realistic is it to expect that tobacco smoking will come to an end? It has been around (in the Americas) for thousands of years and in the rest of the world for hundreds of years ago thanks to Christopher Columbus. Should smoking end? I do think human beings would be better off – in terms of health and their pocketbooks – if tobacco smoking were never to have become a widespread habit. That said, I’m very persuaded by David Fickling’s argument in Bloomberg (paywall) that  smoking bans and such like sit “oddly with the current shift toward more liberal policies on similar matters”, not least decriminalising cannabis for recreational use.

As he notes, “cannabis use disorders are roughly as common among users as tobacco addiction is among the general population.”

There are, he adds,  clear “correlations between cannabis use and mental health problems including schizophrenia and psychosis, as well as educational under-attainment.  Society may deem those risks an acceptable price to pay for the pain relief benefits and enjoyment that many people get from cannabis” but then again, why not allow tobacco-smokers their idea of fun too?

A footnote in Mr Fickling’s article adds an interesting nugget that pads out the argument for both-sideism: “Smokers in rich countries end up causing an extra burden on the public healthcare budget because of their poor health —but the brutal truth is that they also save money on public pensions, because so many die before their time.”