Tobacco Control’s ‘Laffer Curve’

Simon Clark reckons that TobCON is ‘running out of puff’. It has resurrected and old initiative and given it a new name – ‘The NHS Smokefree Pledge’. Simon Reckons that it has received almost no publicity. That does not surprise me. After all, how can a THING make a pledge? The National Health Service is not a person or even a group of people – it is a thing. It might have made more sense had it read ‘NHS Staff Smokefree Pledge’.

The same idea applies to its apparent previous incarnation: ‘The NHS Statement of Support for Tobacco Control’. Again, we ask how a THING can make a statement. No, the NHS cannot make pledges or statements. If you read Simon’s post, you will see that most of the people involved have little or nothing to do with the NHS. They are parasites, living off the body of the NHS – living of illnesses which the NHS treats.

Simon says: “On this evidence, far from advancing, tobacco control appears to be going round and round in ever decreasing circles. They’re so devoid of ideas they’ve resuscitated one that wasn’t very successful the first time”.

‘Going round in ever decreasing circles’ is a nice analogy, but I prefer the Laffer Curve as a suitable analogy. Here is a diagram of the Laffer Curve:

Laffer Curve

Essentially, tax revenue will increase provided that the tax rate is ‘reasonable’, but there will come a point, if the rate becomes too high, where revenues will fall and, ultimately collapse.

Can one apply such a curve to TobCON?

I think that you can, but not quite as directly.

For example, during this month, we are seeing loads of TV adverts for Niquitin. At least those ads are not frightens, as are the TobCON ads featuring some sort of nematodes or the like flooding the bloodstreams of smokers. “If you could see the nematodes, you would quit”. Well, the fact is that the nematodes are so tiny that they barely exist, and are hardly something to be afraid of.

The General Smoking Ban was a big mistake. It pushed the ‘Laffer Curve’ right up to the top. Its consequences are clear to see – smoking bans outdoors in prisons and mental establishments, decimation of pubs, etc. Day after day, such prohibitions antagonise more and more people. Even non-smokers recoil at the viciousness of the persecution of smokers. Judging from the numerous articles in newspapers about the advance of puritanism, even those papers are beginning to relent.

We have recently seen how TobCOM has retreated to the periphery. It has to hit on prisoners of any type – people who are confined. Or bans in places which are empty, like parks and beaches. At this time of year, I doubt that Blackpool beach is full of deckchairs or that there are thousands of people in Stanley Park. But even in mid-summer, the space available is enormous, and is therefore empty for all intents.

So, as far as the Laffer Curve is concerned, every additional ban or tax increase, increases antagonism exponentially.

But what we have been seeing (I think!) is that only the poorest people pay full price for cigs. Maybe that is because the cannot afford the outlay to but stacks of cigs when on holiday. And don’t think that you must buy in EU countries. A friend in the pub often holidays in Teneriffe  and brings back loads of cigs. He has never been stopped. Why not? Because loads more customs officers would be required to search baggage, and no ‘profit’ accrues from such searches. The searches produce only costs. Even the much publicised seizures of millions of cigs produce only costs.

But, even worse, is the criminalisation of tens of thousands of people.

TobCON in the UK has exceeded its ‘use by date’. On the Laffer Curve, its benefits are infinitesimally small, and its costs are infinitesimally huge. I exaggerate, of course, but the general idea is true.

I have not mentioned taxes as such. The effect of the Laffer Curve which I have been expounding was about corruption. It is corrupt for NHS bosses to employ ‘enforcers’ to bully people who want a relaxing smoke in the open air.

But that also applies to people who want to smoke indoors. The smoking ban has always been corrupt. The corruption came from a theoretical expectation of ‘death and disease from SHS’. That was before studies of spouses revealed no such effect. Why should they, since it takes 30 years or so, on average, for the inhalation of huge ‘packets’ of tobacco smoke to ’cause’ mortal damage?

It should not surprise us that TobCON is in retreat. It has always been a bubble.

The amazing thing is that Politicians, and especially Health Ministers, have fallen for the hype.

Perhaps the reason is that easy targets are easy targets.

 

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