Or should they just be made prohibitively expensive? I'm not a smoker, never have been and it still surprises me when I meet someone who is.
With news that the price of a pack of ciggies is set to rise to up to $20, I haven't heard many people loudly kicking up a fuss. Even smokers. Is it because they are ashamed? Or relieved that their hand might be forced?…..
The tobacco lobby are bound and gagged somewhere (as they should be – ahem) and only work secretly behind-the-scenes. So I haven't heard any defenders of the smoke speaking out with any reasons why the tax on it shouldn't be increased (again).
Paul Colgan – a smoker – has suggested in The Punch this week that governments should stop tip-toeing around the issue and just ban the bloody things.
Why don’t we talk about making smoking illegal? Because it might offend smokers? Many smokers I know would prefer to have the decision made for them. Again, as the ad campaign says with help from Leonard Cohen, everybody knows – and this goes for us smokers more than anyone else – that smoking is disgusting, unhealthy, anti-social, and cancerous.
The other thing everybody knows about smoking is that it pulls in billions of dollars in revenue for governments. The federal government took more than $5.5 billion off smokers in the 07-08 financial year. In return for grudgingly accepting the ongoing price rises and pouring money into the national accounts, smokers are continually harassed by ad campaigns encouraging quitting from a government that slaps you with one hand and takes your cash with the other.
This piecemeal prodding and poking of smokers will not work for rusted-on tobacco addicts. Even outlawing tobacco wouldn’t stop all of them lighting up a dozen or more times a day. But it would have an immediate and dramatic effect on consumption among teens and, as a result, a huge cut in the numbers of lifelong smokers.
Do you smoke? Know people who do? Does the cost of cigarettes influence your behaviour? It's been shown that there are more smokers among poor people and this is my concern: if you are truly a 'rusted-on tobacco addict' who NEEDS his or her pack or two a day and can't cut down (or don't want to), where will that extra money come from? Your food budget? Money that should be spent on clothes and school books for your kids? I'm just saying….
And if you've given up, any tips for those who want to?