Skip to Content »

Dead store-keepers – a price of virtue signalling

  • October 7th, 2017

Another guest post, this time from Auckland, from Prof Owen Young, Professor of Food Science at AUT. I find two things particularly interesting in this one. First that unlike many academics he is not just virtue signaling –  urging new rules because he can see something bad happening (smoking) without worrying about unintended consequences.

Secondly, Prof Young wrote this article in 2014. At the time tobacco duty was raising $1.3bn. The article was rejected by the NZ Herald. What he warned about has come to pass. If anything he understated the risk.

Stuff reported on 2 October 2017 that NZ is now experiencing more than 10 robberies per day. Try searching Stuff  for ‘robbery, tobacco, dairy’.  And reflect on today’s Stuff article on the Wellington City Councillors who are happy to use their meeting time, Council consultation budgets, and to abuse their bylaw making powers in adding useless rules ostensibly about cigarette butts, but actually just to show they detest smokers. Ups to the three councillors who refused to go along with the preciousness, Crs Nicola Young, Brian Dawson and Simon Marsh. . 

E-cigarettes, hungry kids and dead storekeepers

The Tobacco Dragon, if not slain, is certainly on the ropes. Smoking rates in New Zealand are dropping in response to punitive and unrelenting increases in tobacco duty, and to persuasive advertising – if not always accurate –variously casting smokers as Pariahs or as addicts who need help to quit the pernicious grip of a tobacco addiction.

So what’s the problem with smoking? The obvious answer is the ill health and thus shorter lifespan of smokers. The argument that going to hell your own way was a personal choice never washed with the small army of Crusaders convinced that declaring care for the interests of the Pariahs is enough to justify ignoring their informed adult choices. The Crusaders are ceaseless. They did not bother to defend their over-riding of Pariah freedoms, but they knew it was a chink in their chain-mail, so they badly needed an innocent non-smoking victim.

That became the passive smoker. Now, second hand smoke was more than just an annoyance to many. It would shorten lives. The data to support the dangers of second hand smoke have come from many studies,  crammed together by mathematical trickery in the hope that if you torture the data long and hard enough it will ultimately confess. Hallelujah!

The reality is different. In spite of popular belief, the dangers of second hand smoke are greatly exaggerated as well-constructed studies over many decades have shown. And of course the Crusaders had long ago left that risk behind as they shifted into demanding smoke free status for parks and other outdoor spaces where second hand smoke could never be a credible public health risk.

But for the moment let us assume that second hand smoke really is a danger. How could someone living with a smoker – e.g. kids in homes with smoking parents – avoid exposure?

Help is at hand with the e-cigarette. While nicotine is undeniably addictive, it is not the nicotine that kills. It is the 1000 and 1 other chemicals in smoke that do the damage over a lifetime.

E-cigarettes generate none of these chemicals, so inhaling the vapour of e-cigarettes (termed vaping) is greatly safer than inhaling smoke. Fantastic, problem solved.

Not so, because e-cigarettes that deliver nicotine are illegal for sale in New Zealand as an over-the-counter product. But that won’t stop smokers legally buying supplies over the internet. A vaper tells me that e-cigarettes satisfy his craving for about $2 a day. Contrast that with a solid smoking habit that will cost about $20 a day, most of it tax.

So, why are nicotine e-cigarettes illegal for sale here? ASH, that indefatigable Dragon Slayer, says e-cigarettes normalise the combined action of fingers, object, mouth, inhale, exhale and therefore must be banned. However, ASH knows that nicotine e-cigarettes are greatly safer that tobacco cigarettes, so why the opposition if better health is ASH’s goal?

As for central government, which makes the law, what could be its motive for a ban? A cynic might say this: “We, the government, extract $1.3 billion a year in tobacco duty from smokers, who on average are the poorer members of society. This has at least two perverse outcomes: hungrier kids and terrified, injured and dead store-keepers and members of their families.

The two targets in most aggravated dairy robberies are cash and cigarettes. The tax on cigarettes has become so high that they are a currency worth murdering for, if you are a common NZ criminal.

But we care more about signaling our ‘care’ for smokers in spite of themselves, than about their kids and dead Istore-keepers and their families. Besides, smoking tobacco reduces lifespan, so we save  on National Superannuation and on geriatric health costs. So, it’s a win win to ban resale of e-cigarettes in New Zealand.”

Now we know that governments don’t exactly say this, but that is what it boils down to, and it’s morally indefensible.



  • JD
  • October 9th, 2017
  • 6:24 am

Another example perhaps, consider the costs/benefits of banning synthetic cannabis for the average Wadestown youth user compared to the marginal South Auckland youth user? The same? South Auckland youth who were previous synthetic cannabis users switched to butane gas, glue, petrol or fly spray. Petrol is a biggie as some young people wait for people to fill up and then try and get the last drops from the hose… So different price elasticity combined with different levels of addiction drove substitution by some youth to options which are arguably more unsafe…

Leave your comments:

* Required fields. Your e-mail address will not be published on this site

You can use the following HTML tags:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>