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Big Tobacco crashes at first legal hurdle on plain packaging

This morning Australia’s High Court dismissed the plain tobacco packaging case brought against the Australian government by the world’s largest tobacco companies. The companies had challenged the government’s…

Australia’s High Court has dismissed the plain tobacco packaging case brought against the government by tobacco companies. TRACEY NEARMY/AAP

This morning Australia’s High Court dismissed the plain tobacco packaging case brought against the Australian government by the world’s largest tobacco companies. The companies had challenged the government’s new law – due to be fully implemented from December 1 this year.

Reasons for the decision will be published soon. But it is thought that the Court may have released its decision in advance of the detailed reasons because this Friday, British American Tobacco Australasia is due in another court on a related matter. That involves the company’s efforts to obtain documents dating back to the Keating government (1991-1996) under freedom of information laws. The High Court may have considered that the company’s interest in these documents might now be judged a fool’s errand and are giving it a chance to reconsider.

Fighting on

Like the mortally wounded Black Knight fighting on in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Big Tobacco will now be hoping that, despite losing its right arm and buckets of blood (just flesh wounds), two other cases will see off the scourge of plain packs against all the odds.

Three governments, Ukraine, the Dominican Republic and Honduras have filed complaints with the World Trade Organization against the Australian government’s law. None of these nations have any significant trade of any sort with Australia, let alone in tobacco products.

For all Big Tobacco’s bluster and its success in whistling up sternly worded submissions from a variety of US-based trade associations, it is telling that these three puppets are the heaviest hitters it could convince to run its case with the WTO. China, the United States and Indonesia are all big tobacco manufacturers with major strategic ties to Australia.

But Indonesia and the United States are two countries conspicuous among basket-case nations (such as Somalia, Zimbabwe and Malawi) absent from the 175 countries that are party to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. They might have been expected to complain about the precedent that Australia has set. But instead, Big Tobacco’s best team are global minnows. Specialists in global trade law give the challenges little prospect of success.

A third case is being brought by Philip Morris Asia (based in Hong Kong) via a bilateral trade agreement between Australia and Hong Kong signed in 1993. The timeline of this case is fascinating.

On April 29, 2010, the Australian government announced its intention to introduce plain packaging. At the time Philip Morris tobacco products in Australia were manufactured by Philip Morris Australia. On 23 February 2011, Philip Morris Asia purchased Philip Morris Australia and on 27 June, 2011 – a full 14 months after knowing the government intended to introduce plain packs – Philip Morris Asia served its notice of claim to the Australian government.

NIC TASKER/AAP

Imagine someone considering purchasing a property and learning 14 months before the sale that the property would be badly affected by a new freeway being built nearby. Then imagine them going ahead and purchasing the property and then taking the government to court for compensation over damage to their investment. Philip Morris Asia’s case would seem to have the same prospects, quite apart from all the arguments against the idea that a trade treaty should be able to override any government’s sovereignty in public health matters.

What to expect

So what can we expect locally from Big Tobacco? First, we will see dramatic price falls in the retail price of tobacco. Many will think “these [famous name brand] cigarettes are costing me $3 to $4 a pack more than cheap unknown brands in exactly the same packaging except for the small brand name. They taste pretty much the same as cheap brands, so why should I pay out all the extra?”

Tobacco companies today chase the “value market” because they know that total sales volume is steady and the margins on high-end brands is where they profit most. A leaked BATA internal staff development DVD from 2001 explains how the company then needed to sell five packs of budget brands to get the same profit from one premium brand pack. Plain packaging strips the industry of this vital source of revenue while gutting its ability to distract smokers from thinking about what they are buying.

Australia is a tiny market for Big Tobacco, and it may well be willing to treat us in the way as when supermarkets place drastically reduced “loss leader” items on special to get customers into the store. The industry will be so desperate to demonstrate to watching nations that plain packs “don’t work” that it might even be prepared to wear local losses for a year or so.

Aurélie/Flickr

But the Australian government can simply raise tobacco tax overnight as often as it needs to effectively maintain a floor price for cigarettes that will deter smokers from buying more than they could have afforded previously.

Second, stand by for lots of “independent” reports by tame academics from obscure universities or corporate consultancies, purporting to demonstrate that the new packaging has not affected smoking. The rhetoric will oxygenate ignorant community assumptions that plain packaging was somehow going to dramatically cut smoking across the community overnight. The reality of the historical fall in smoking over the last 40 years is that annual declines have been fractions of 1%, driven by the combined effects of all policies and programs.

Plain packaging may amplify this downward trend, but no one expects it to dramatically increase it among adults who consume 98.2% of all tobacco sold. The main goal of plain packaging has always been to deglamourise smoking among children.

The last significant vestiges of local tobacco advertising ended in 1992. So anyone aged 20 today, has grown up never exposed to domestic tobacco advertising. Today’s smoking rates by youth are the lowest ever recorded. Plain packaging is designed to turbo-charge that decline and make smoking history for future generations. Quick and dirty Big Tobacco surveys months after its introduction will never capture that effect.

Read other articles on plain packaging published since the High Court decision:

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106 Comments sorted by

Comments on this article are now closed.

  1. alexander j watt

    logged in via Twitter

    So when are we going to see plain packaging for coke, mcdonalds, penfolds, and all the numerous other harmful consumer items that crowd out the billboards and choke the entrances of supermarkets? And when are we going to see marijuana legalised? What is normal? Where is the middle ground between banning what's naughty, or just allowing the open market to push it as hard as it likes.

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    1. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to alexander j watt

      Alexander - we are not starting from a green field - we are trying to regulate long-standing cultural practices and addictions retrospectively. So, it won't be entirely rational, but nor should we use that as an excuse for inaction.

      Coke, mcdonalds and penfolds can all be part of a healthy lifestyle if used occasionally, and in balance with appropriate nutrients and total energy.

      The inhalation of burning tobacco with its additives never has a neutral effect.

      If we started from scratch, using the risk-assessment and technology now available to us, we might regulate the use of nutrient-free calories and ban the inhalation of smoked tobacco and marijuana.

      What we are doing with tobacco, since it is already so culturally entrenched, is continuing to allow its use but restricting its promotion.

      Sounds rational to me. Yay for plain packaging!

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    2. alexander j watt

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      i don't actually object to plain packaging tobacco per se, i object to the treatment of tobacco as a special case. i dislike that there are cultural reasons for enforcing this policy, even the language 'big tobacco' and the painting of this as a crusade, a simple matter of right and wrong.

      i agree that junk foods can be part of a health lifestyle, but i contest that they are of entirely neutral effect. why not 'every burger is doing you harm'? Why not 'every beer is doing you harm'? Maybe the science is not all there yet. You are right there are cultural reasons for drawing this distinction, and i dislike them.

      I do agree that stopping children from taking up smoking is a good thing, but i tire of the righteousness.

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    3. Blair Donaldson

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      It's good to see plain packaging get the nod from the High Court while the tobacco companies get their comeuppance. As an ex smoker I know how insidious the habit is and as the tobacco companies have known as far back as 1957, the poison they peddle causes cancer and other serious diseases I think tobacco company should be taxed out of existence.

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    4. Blair Donaldson

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to alexander j watt

      Alexander, you might have a point if you could first prove that hamburgers and other junk foods were addictive and caused unnecessary death and disease. I'm not sure that anybody has yet made that case.

      The same cannot be said for the key product of tobacco companies. The link between smoking and cancer is well-known, even to tobacco companies who feign ignorance and denial.

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    5. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to alexander j watt

      alexander - it's highly unlikely that any new science will discover that ingesting a hamburger is equivalent to inhaling products of combustion.

      I also dislike illogical righteouness and seeing policy being driven by ideology, but the same thing is happening with diet (have you seen the debate elsewhere on this site about the "evils" of fructose?).

      It would be much better to remove the judginess altogether and just concentrate on the objective risks - but we're dealing with human nature here.

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    6. Mark Harrigan

      PhD Physicist

      In reply to Blair Donaldson

      I agree Blair - I don't think Alexander has a point at all.

      1) There is little evidence to suggest that junk foods or alcohol consumption in moderation is harmful - there is plenty of evidence to suggest any consumption of tobacco is harmful
      2) There is little evidence to suggest that junk food or alcohol are addictive - except perhaps in rare cases of extremis - there is plenty of evidence that tobacco/nicotine is highly addictive.
      3) Even if the above 2 points were NOT the case, inaction (to date) in other areas is NOT an excuse for inaction in another area.

      The case against tobacco consumption is clear. It is appropriate as a public health measure to act.

      Three cheers for Roxon and all those involved.

      I am happy to see the companies that profit from peddling death sticks die the death of a thousand cuts. Good riddance.

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    7. Joel Mayes

      Bicycle Mechanic

      In reply to alexander j watt

      What you are missing in your comparison is that cigarettes are harmful when used as recommended by the producers.

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  2. Bruce Waddell

    logged in via LinkedIn

    I'd just like to give a thought for all those who have succumbed to the vile effects of tobacco and good wishes to those still suffering.
    Thank you for the article Simon.

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  3. Jack Mohan

    Scientist

    I myself and others have already begun printing and cutting out stickers for myself to stick over the packs. I'm letting everyone know how to do it. We shouldn't let the government bully us around like this. People are responsible for what they put in their body. Placing stickers over the packs will become a common and regular routine. Everyone will have a stash in their cars. We'll never have to listen to the propaganda. I'm surprised no corperation hasn't already begun mass production of these stickers. You can buy the papers for only a couple of cents per sheet. Each sheet can make 3 or 4 stickers. So simple.

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    1. Simon Chapman

      Professor of Public Health at University of Sydney

      In reply to Jack Mohan

      So Jack, why haven't you and 3m other smokers been putting your stickers on the packs for the last decade when we've had the same sort of graphic warnings? Just asking ...

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    2. Jack Mohan

      Scientist

      In reply to Simon Chapman

      I've been lazy. I've just been crossing the bullcrap out with a black marker, sometimes drawing cool art work on it during boring lectures. This recent outrageous attack on my individual rights has outraged me and my friends. We're going to stick really nice photos of our packs. My girlfriend is sticking hello kitty themes on hers. I don't accept this attack. I find it disgusting that people like yourself think that you know what's best for me. I'm responsible for my own actions. I'll quit when I'm ready to. I don't need people like you to control my life. If there's anything that the general public can do to support the tobacco industry, or any industry for that matter, that comes under this kind of attack, I'm going to be sure to promote it, and ask that others promote it also. It's a very sliperry slope, and you've begun the momentum. This whole seige is only going to result to a mass scale corruption. These values promote are not mine, and sure aren't Australian.

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    3. Blair Donaldson

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Jack Mohan

      Jack, I wonder, do you hold the same attitudes towards drink-driving and unlicensed gun ownership? Or maybe your comments are designed to wind people up and you don't really mean a word of what you have stated?

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    4. Jack Mohan

      Scientist

      In reply to Blair Donaldson

      Your argument is fallacious. Drink driving puts others at risk. If a person wants to drink and drive on his own property in the middle of a 10,000 hectare feild, then yes. He can do as he wants as long as no innocent bystanders are near by. Gun ownership is a more complex debate.

      I don't know how you're able to to agree with the government coming in and restricting a label or even advertisement of products. A relatively small sized warning label is enough. We know what combusted tobacco can do…

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    5. Mark Harrigan

      PhD Physicist

      In reply to Jack Mohan

      What a load of codswallop. Your individual rights are unaffacted. You are still free to smoke, you are still free to buy whatever cigarettes you choose. You are even free to put whatever labels you like on them.

      Government regulation of labelling on many things, especially things humans ingest and whose sale is properly regulated, is hardly new.

      There is no logic in your tirade about an attack on individual rights.

      This is about restricting the ability to promote a product that causes death and significant public health costs.

      Simple

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    6. David House

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Mark Harrigan

      I'm sorry to interject Mark (because I'm in complete agreement that the above poster is off on a frolic of his own), but the curtailment of the constitutional protection of the government acquiring property "on just terms" is absolutely an indirect attack on individual rights.

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    7. Blair Donaldson

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Jack Mohan

      Jack, your argument is fatuous. Whether you like it or not smoking does harm others just as drink-driving can. But both activities can also kill the individual participating in the act. The same goes for guns. Your failure to recognise this fact is breathtaking.

      You claim to be a scientist but you haven't demonstrated a single bit of objectivity in your comments. You seem to be parroting the Big Brother conspiracy theory mantra so beloved of the free marketeers - when it suits.

      By all means…

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    8. Mark Harrigan

      PhD Physicist

      In reply to David House

      Disagree.

      1) A company is not an individual. No individual's rights have been curtailed.
      2) The government has not acquired the property - they have regulated its use
      3) There are precedents for the government to regulate in relation a whole range of things and such regulation can make those things "valueless" without acquisition of them. Banning the use of asbestos comes to mind. It made the mines for them useless. I have found no records of the companies concerned being compensated at the time

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    9. Jack Mohan

      Scientist

      In reply to Blair Donaldson

      Electronic smoking doesn't shorten one's life. There's no evidence of that, in fact there is strong evidence of the contrary. Would you like links or do you know how to google?

      I will continue to share the sticker templates as political statement, and I sincerely hope others take it up. Your inability to stay the hell out of my life is itself breath taking. I don't want your propaganda in front of me, and don't want this country turning into one that disobey's it's own constituion, unfairly regulating the use of intellectual property all for some 'greater good'.

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    10. Jack Mohan

      Scientist

      In reply to Mark Harrigan

      Regulating it's use is far different from outlawing the entire property. By completely banning the packaging, they've taken it away. Asbestos is banned because of it's also harmful to those who don't chose to want to be near it.

      Intellectual property such as packaging is not harmful. People still have the abiltity to chose. The government has taken that choice away. Completely.

      Why are people so against personal choice?

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    11. David House

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Mark Harrigan

      You should read the linked transcript more carefully ...

      1) That may be but the constitutional protection applies to both natural and corporate persons.

      2) A trademark is absolutely property as under the definition alluded to in Minister of State for the Army v Dalziel and depriving a trademark of all its substantive value (in my opinion) falls in line with the decision in Bank of New South Wales v Commonwealth where Dixon J said that an Act that is a "circuitous device to acquire indirectly…

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    12. Mark Harrigan

      PhD Physicist

      In reply to David House

      The transacript is irrelevant. What matters is the reasoning to be given in the judgement which is yet to be made public.

      You have made some arguments, so have I. On the basis of the decision that has been handed down it woudl appear that the court has rejected any arguments along the lines you have proposed

      You are starting to sound like someone who may have a vested interest in this matter. Care to dsiclose if this is or is not the case?

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    13. Mark Harrigan

      PhD Physicist

      In reply to Jack Mohan

      They have not "banned the packaging". The packaging will still exist. They have regulated its presentation.

      It seems a fairly natural extension on the ban on other forms of advertising.

      The government has a well established precedent to regulate the content and form of all sorts of packaging in terms of what should be and can be represented on it and what cannot.

      You keep invoking the furphy of personal choice but have not made any sort of logical argument to substantiate it. You are still free to buy and consume whatever cigarettes you wish.

      You claim to be a scientist. Your posts do not demonstrate that skill. Do you have any vested interest in this matter and if so would you care to disclose it?

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    14. Jack Mohan

      Scientist

      In reply to Mark Harrigan

      My interest in this matter is political and personal. I don't work for, nor am I affiliated with the tobacco industry. If the government takes away a comany's right to package it's product properly, then how am I supposed to choose between brands? I want to smoke tobacco. That's my right. I want to be able to properly choose my tobacco. I want to know if Dunhil have come out with a new blend of tobacco. I want to know how many milligrams of tar is in my cigarette. I don't want to go hunting on the…

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    15. David House

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Mark Harrigan

      My only vested interest is in sound constitutional decisions being made by the HC. I'm a Canadian born Australian citizen who's here for law school after spending the previous ten years being a musician and managing movie theatres (hardly a vested interest in tobacco, in fact I've recently quit smoking and haven't had one in almost 4 months). I find your characterization of my tenor to be more than a little ad hominem in its purpose but leaving that aside ...

      What I am, is thoroughly unimpressed…

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    16. David House

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Mark Harrigan

      Mark, this is the second time in as many posts that you revert to ad hominem attacks against the person whom you're debating (i.e. that they must have some ulterior motive for disagreeing with you).

      It settles the issue for me as to whether I should worry about engaging with your position. I'd only point out to you that you're just on the internet and constructing your posts for third party consumption, deriding the character of the person you're debating is a bit childish ...

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    17. Jack Mohan

      Scientist

      In reply to David House

      I agree. It's as though he thinks that the only reason why someone would be against his position is because they work for a tobacco company or has shares in one.

      There are far broader and political consequences of this matter that appears to be over the heads of some people. I hope this plain packaging issue is overturned somehow. The only required labelling should be a small warning sign. No more, no less.

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    18. Mark Harrigan

      PhD Physicist

      In reply to David House

      David, I am sorry of you have taken offence. I do not accept your characterisation that asking someone politely whether or not they have a vested interest is an ad-hominem attack. To assert they do would be. I did not assert such.

      I accept your statement that you are not

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    19. Mark Harrigan

      PhD Physicist

      In reply to Jack Mohan

      Thank you Jack. I accept your reply. In fact I was with you on most of your post until the last paragraph.

      I note that you have decided what my agenda is, and directly implied I have vested interest rather than extending the courtesy of inquiring which I have done.

      Now that you have set out a rational argument I will counter it in the following way.

      You assert a right to convenience of choice in relation to packagaing. Balanced against that "right" is the right of children, and other…

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    20. Mark Harrigan

      PhD Physicist

      In reply to David House

      Please see my post below. I have set out my reasoning why I do not think the decision is unsound. I accept you have a different view. Good luck with your quitting smoking. I know just how hard that can be.

      When the decision is handed down in full we shall see that the reasoning was.

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    21. Jack Mohan

      Scientist

      In reply to Mark Harrigan

      "The right of the children" - Seems to be the password for gaining sudo root access to the Constitution's kernel.

      As an adult, I am unable to make an informed choice if I don't have the information available.

      It doesn't matter if the majority disagree with me. We have 3 branches of Government and a Constitution. It takes more than some law passed by a majority of representatives to disregard the constitution.

      I and many others eagerly await the publication of the court's reasonings so that Constituionally abiding Australians can seek ways to overturn this decision.

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    22. Mark Harrigan

      PhD Physicist

      In reply to Jack Mohan

      I think you have failed to understand my convenience argument, probably because I did not elaborate enough.

      The fact that you cannot tell, from the packaging, does not make it impossible for you to find out and still make a choice

      You say "I don't want to go hunting on the internet or calling their customer service for that kind of information"

      Well, bad luck. I weigh that inconvenience to you against the real physical harm caused to minors and other vulnerable people by taking up smoking…

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    23. Jack Mohan

      Scientist

      In reply to Mark Harrigan

      Your argument fails when considering other ways that tobacco comapnies could advertise their product. They could write something long, witty and smart on a completely blank coloured package to describe their product. That would not be so entertaining to children, but it would provide me with a better way to decided between brands. Not knowing what milligrams of tar in my cigarettes also seems contrary to your position, and I don't know how that got passed.

      But this entire "think of the children…

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    24. Mark Harrigan

      PhD Physicist

      In reply to Jack Mohan

      Gish Gallop rubbish. Classic use of Dishonest Trick of Argument #6 - Distraction, # 16 Speculation (unfounded - how would you know or trust the Tobacco Comapnies to do this), Appeal to Selfishness (#37) and Reduction as Absurdum (#4)

      http://www.hebrew4christians.com/Clear_Thinking/Informal_Fallacies/Tricks/tricks.html

      The issue has nothing to do with same sex couples

      The whole point is to STOP tobacco comapnies advertising

      There is no proposition on the table for it to be illegal for a pserson to suggest one brand over another.

      Your entire logic is specious and has no merit. You;ve lost Deal with it.

      You continue to argue that your selfish need to easily obtain product information is more important than the public health benefit.

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    25. Mark Harrigan

      PhD Physicist

      In reply to Jack Mohan

      No problem, good for you. What was that you said about "loss of personal choice"?? :)

      As long as such devices are not used at the POS to create differentiation there shouldn't be a problem

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    26. Jack Mohan

      Scientist

      In reply to Mark Harrigan

      "As long as such devices are not used at the POS to create differentiation"

      So you *are* all about stopping people from choosing between brands, and not as Tanya Plibersek describes "mobile billboards".

      That's just pathetic. Where's the 'just terms' in that logic?

      I'll be sure to print out a telly tubby and Wiggles stickerrs to stick on my packs, because apparently, that's "no problem".

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    27. Mark Harrigan

      PhD Physicist

      In reply to Jack Mohan

      Jack, suck it up. Your petty selfish desires to have some access to product information at the point of sale that you could very easily obtain elsewhere is utterly valueless when compared with the number of lives this initiative will save by preventing children from taking up smoking and possibly encouraging adults to give it up.

      You can winge and moan as much as you like. The fact that you value your petty choices more than other peoples lives is telling. I have no more interest in debating the matter with you.

      It's done.

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    28. Jack Mohan

      Scientist

      In reply to Mark Harrigan

      Critics of Utilitarianism. We exist, Mark.

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    29. Blair Donaldson
      Blair Donaldson is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Researcher

      In reply to Jack Mohan

      Jack, trust me, the last thing I want to do is to have anything to do with your life but I would like to have the right to be in public areas without people blowing second-hand smoke in my face and that tobacco companies will be restricted in their ability to cause unnecessary death and huge health cost burdens of the community. I could care less what you do in your own house.

      Plain packaging isn't "my propaganda", it is the considered result of people who know what they are talking about and designed to limit the attractiveness of taking up smoking. Stop being a pedant. You're sounding like a petulant kid who has had his lollies taken away from him.

      There used to be all sorts of dodgy compounds for sale loaded variously with lead, cocaine, morphine and even heroin that have been taken off the market as their dangers were understood. Why are you not complaining about the rights of those companies as well?

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    30. Blair Donaldson
      Blair Donaldson is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Researcher

      In reply to Jack Mohan

      Jack, care to elaborate on what the "broader and political consequences of this matter" are?

      As best I can see, companies flogging a product known to kill have had their ability to lie to the public limited by the agency of plain packaging. Nothing more, nothing less. You are still free to smoke your brains out if you wish so what's the problem?

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    31. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Jack Mohan

      Jack - once you buy the cigarettes you are free to put them in whatever container you want - that's what silver cigarette boxes used to be for. By all means decorate the box, paint it, cover it with velvet - it's up to you!

      The impact of plain packaging is at the point of sale - I doubt there is evidence that it will covert the unrepentent addict - it's about marketing to new smokers.

      Do whatever you like in your open field - why not hold a cigarette-box decorating workshop!

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    32. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Jack Mohan

      "Electronic smoking doesn't shorten one's life. "

      Perhaps not - but those are wasted hours you will never recover...

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    33. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Jack Mohan

      Jack says:

      "Seems to be the password for gaining sudo root access to the Constitution's kernel."

      Che?? Now I'm really puzzled. I can't find sudo roots on any botanical website.

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    34. Jack Mohan

      Scientist

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      Sue doesn't get the joke - Blames the person who said it.

      A simple google search would be sufficent for knowledge.

      Prognosis - most likely uses Windows Operating system and Internet explorer.

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    35. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      Oh, and I think you meant "diagnosis" - not "prognosis"

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  4. David House

    logged in via Facebook

    I don't want to be taken to be supportive of cigarettes and their negative health effects but after reading the transcript linked above I find the arguments of the tabacco companies to be far more convincing than that of the commonwealth.

    What has been said effectively is that (on the grounds of public health) the government can make useless intellectual property belonging to private persons depriving it of its goodwill (a legal term meaning the ascribed value of a company, logo, etc.) and providing…

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    1. Mark Harrigan

      PhD Physicist

      In reply to David House

      I suggest you wait and see the court's reasoning before you leap to these conclusions but on what is available now I suggest you are in error

      1) A company is not an individual. No individual's rights have been curtailed.
      2) The government has not acquired the property - they have regulated its use
      3) There is nothing in the constitution that requires the government to maintain the value of any property though action or inactrion, only that if it should acquire any property it should do so on just grounds
      4) There are precedents for the government to regulate in relation a whole range of things and such regulation can make certain activities and enterprises "valueless" without acquisition of them. Banning the use of asbestos comes to mind. It made the mines for them useless. I have found no records of the companies concerned being compensated at the time

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    2. David House

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Mark Harrigan

      Your analogies don't function properly simply because in order to put forward their argument, the government has had to maintain the legality of the trademarks on which they're infringing. It would have substantial detrimental effects to international trade to make the trademarks themselves illegal so instead they are regulating how the trademarks can be used domestically.

      The problem with that is that it curtails a rights expressly given under various pieces of legislation (referred to in the…

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    3. Ken Swanson

      Geologist

      In reply to Mark Harrigan

      Mark
      What product categories are next?
      If the government has been given the power to white package this category of products then it could legislate to do it to others as well. The next targets could be:
      Beer (VB in white)
      McDonalds (Golden Arches in white)
      Coca Cola
      Wines
      Confectionary
      Where will it end if the health zealots combined with the anti corporate types start to dominate the debate?

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    4. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Ken Swanson

      I believe they tried clear Coca Cola - not much of a winner. Maybe colour is the answer after all!

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    5. Blair Donaldson
      Blair Donaldson is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Researcher

      In reply to Ken Swanson

      Ken, I have no doubt there would be restrictions if it could be proved there was a direct, consistent link between consumption of those products and disease. What you are failing to acknowledge is that moderate consumption of these products rarely causes any health issues while the same cannot be said for cigarettes.

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    6. Ken Swanson

      Geologist

      In reply to Blair Donaldson

      As far as alcohol is concerned that is not true.
      There are already various studies which "prove" that even small intakes (well below our standard current per capita) have a detrimental health impact.
      Obesity and the link to fast food, soft drinks and confectionary is a bit more of a stretch as it comes down to mitigation issues like exercise, however that being said, there are already advertising restrictions for fast food and I believe confectionary and soft drinks in children's TV time slots.

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    7. Mark Harrigan

      PhD Physicist

      In reply to Ken Swanson

      Okay, on your exclamatory say so with no evidence what so ever I will believe that this is really a thin edge of the wedge argument for the government, despite there being no public consituency to do so, that plans to impose plain packaging on a vast array of products that are neither additctive nor cancer causing.

      Gee Ken, that's , er, some pretty impressive, er, logic

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    8. Ken Swanson

      Geologist

      In reply to Mark Harrigan

      They do not have to be just cancer causing or addictive. Where is that a regulatory criteria?
      Being bad for us in the eyes of the government is all it will take.
      And by the way there is already a public constituency for issues such as obesity and alcohol use. These are very big and gathering strength. You are unaware of them? Do you need an academic paper to be convinced?
      Why not concede that this decision does open up the possibility for similar bans to be extended to other product categories and industry sectors?

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    9. Mark Harrigan

      PhD Physicist

      In reply to Ken Swanson

      Sure Ken, you can believe what you like. Regardless it doesn't qualify as an argument in this "particular" case.

      The reasons for this regulation are clear, and compelling and have wide support - the self-interested sepcial interest pleasing of the tobacco companies and their paid lackeys notwithstanding. This instance has been deal with on its merits

      If other issues arise I expect those to be dealt with on their merits too.

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    10. Blair Donaldson
      Blair Donaldson is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Researcher

      In reply to Ken Swanson

      As far as alcohol is concerned, there is no concrete consensus on its effects when consumed in moderate amounts, something that cannot be said for cigarettes. Tobacco companies have known since 1957 (at the latest) that smoking caused all sorts of health problems, including cancer, even when consumption was moderate.

      You also appear to conveniently ignore the warnings against consuming alcohol given to pregnant women and young children along with the various drink-driving prevention programs which are obviously designed to moderate consumption and usage.

      Almost everything in large qualities can be detrimental to health, most people have enough perspective to understand the reasoning behind the new cigarette packaging regulations versus warnings on other beverages and foodstuffs.

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    11. Mark Harrigan

      PhD Physicist

      In reply to Ken Swanson

      You can take it how you like Ken - it's apparent that reason, logic and evidence will have no sway in altering your beliefs. Which part of "dealt with on their merits" do you have trouble comprehending?

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  5. Darrell Ducks

    Project Manager, Brain Surgery Department

    I agree with deglamorising smoking for children, but I feel what never-been smokers or reformed smokers who were never big time puffers -- admit it the majority of people working towards this legislation -- don't get is there is a huge difference in quality between different cigarette brands. PJs are a lot smaller than BH's which don't have the same quality of Stuyos. And who can forget tasting their first bit of tabacco bark in a Winfield or the strange woody things in Dunhills?

    So obviously…

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  6. James Jenkin

    EFL Teacher Trainer

    The reason we're still debating what to do about cigarettes is that people LOVE them. They make us happy. Perhaps we should be frank about the pleasures cigarettes bring, and look at ways of replicating those pleasures - rather than replacing enjoyment with abstinence?

    So let's consider some pros of cigarettes:

    - they make you feel great
    - they're the only pleasure for a lot of people doing it tough
    - they bond people
    - they help artists and thinkers create
    - they look cool

    Quite formidable for one product.

    So what are we going to let people have instead?

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    1. Blair Donaldson
      Blair Donaldson is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Researcher

      In reply to James Jenkin

      James, each one of your claims is purely subjective, do you have any objective evidence to support what you say?

      You also miss the point that nobody is being prevented from buying cigarettes. The only thing that will change is the packaging.

      If you think somebody sucking carcinogens into their lungs is cool, then the definition of "cool" must have changed in recent years.

      As an ex smoker, I think your justifications are pure bollocks. I only realised how badly they affected me after I gave…

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    2. John Anderson

      Admin

      In reply to Blair Donaldson

      “It is quite obvious that cigarettes actually, progressively ostracised smokers as more and more people heeded warnings and gave up smoking.”

      From Bayer & Stuber
      <i>“…..In the last half century the cigarette has been transformed. The fragrant has become foul. . . . An emblem of attraction has become repulsive. A mark of sociability has become deviant. A public behavior is now virtually private. Not only has the meaning of the cigarette been transformed but even more the meaning of the smoker…

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    3. John Anderson

      Admin

      In reply to James Jenkin

      Blair, are you seriously equating tobacco with LSD (or cocaine, or heroin, or even alcohol, for that matter)? Are you aware of when and by whom nicotine was declared an “addiction”? “Nicotine addiction” is a throwback to the 1800s. Do you know who benefits from this highly questionable definition?

      In an earlier post you indicated that “As best I can see, companies flogging a product known to kill have had their ability to lie to the public limited by the agency of plain packaging.” Blair, could…

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    4. Blair Donaldson
      Blair Donaldson is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Researcher

      In reply to John Anderson

      John, the point I was making was that at other times in our history, other dangerous substances were for sale for any number of reasons and were later removed because of the dangers to health.

      Cigarettes are being removed from sale even though she dangers of smoking are beyond doubt. All that is changing is the packaging which as another poster has pointed out, has been modified enormously already.

      Are you saying nicotine is not addictive?

      If you don't believe cigarette companies have been…

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    5. Simon Chapman

      Professor of Public Health at University of Sydney

      In reply to John Anderson

      I've read it all now. Nicotine is not addictive, eh? Try this one for size from Addison Yeaman, major tobacco industry figure from 1963 "Moreover, nicotine is addictive. We are, then, in the business of selling nicotine, an addictive drug." http://tobaccodocuments.org/pm/2023191000-1003.html

      The plainly obsessive John Anderson who astonishingly credits a small self-published book I wrote in 1983 with having awakened the world to the chemistry of tobacco smoke and tar, is a serial cyber stalker who mostly inhabits sordid little pro-smoking cyber echo-chambers of denial and conspiracy theories. Blair, these people have massive relevance deprivation syndrome and thirst for anyone taking them seriously. Engage them once and they get priapic with excitement and spread it all over their dozens or so co-conspirators. Their rants are amazing. It's an endless freak show of ignorance.

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    6. John Anderson

      Admin

      In reply to Blair Donaldson

      “Are you saying nicotine is not addictive?”

      I only asked if you knew when this definition originated in the current anti-smoking crusade. Since you seem to believe nicotine is addictive, could you explain why “nicotine replacement therapy” in all its forms – including inhaler - is a dismal failure? You also didn’t address who benefits from this “addiction” hypothesis?

      You also indicated that removing logos/colors removes the tobacco companies’ last opportunity to lie. How are they lying through…

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    7. Blair Donaldson
      Blair Donaldson is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Researcher

      In reply to John Anderson

      In fact I addressed every one of your questions but I can't help it if you choose to be obtuse.

      PS, I don't believe nicotine is addictive, I know it is because for a time I was one of its victims.

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    8. John Anderson

      Admin

      In reply to Simon Chapman

      So, that’s your evidence, Simon……. a person in a tobacco company once made this statement back in 1963? That’s all you’ve got! We’re talking about evidence, not beliefs.

      For example, even the Royal College of Physicians (a group very much aligned to antismoking from the early-1970s) has had to concede:

      “It is now widely accepted that nicotine is the primary addictive component of tobacco smoke. In recent years, however, it has become clear that the psychobiological mechanisms which mediate…

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    9. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to John Anderson

      John Anderson - next time you visit a hospital, take a peek into the vascular and respiratory wards. There, you'll find the long-term smokers who couldn't give up because they were addicted.

      "There are those that claim that, arriving from a night out, they had to put all of their clothes in the washing machine and scrape the “smoke” of their skin in the shower." Yep - I'm one of those. I love being able to go out to live music venues in winter without having to air my wollen coat and wash my hair. Yay!

      Smelly or fragrant - who cares? If we were just discussing fashion, your point might make sense. But inhaling the products of cigarette combustion is not just about fashion, it's about physical harm.

      We now have better treatments for anxiety - whether talking therapies or safe drugs. No need to puff away.

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    10. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to John Anderson

      . "Thus, it may be that nicotine alone does not have the powerful addictive properties necessary to account for the highly addictive nature of tobacco smoking, and that addiction to tobacco reflects complex interactions between nicotine, other stimuli associated with the inhalation of tobacco smoke, and possibly other environmental, social or behavioural stimuli associated with smoking.” (p.45, 2007)"

      You're right, John ANderson - smoking cigarettes IS highly addictive.

      That's why we are now trying to discourage their uptake by young people through de-glamorising the packaging. Makes sense.

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    11. Simon Chapman

      Professor of Public Health at University of Sydney

      In reply to John Anderson

      Everyone, this is a perfect example of the sort of debating style employed by these trolls. I provided this guy with a florid example of a senior tobacco company official from way back in 1963, saying explicitly that the industry knew that nicotine was addictive, after he tried to argue that anti-smokers made it all up. So he then comes back triumphantly with “That’s all you’ve got!” Um, no, that’s simply all the effort I care to make indulging a troll. If you want more, go here http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/action/search/advanced

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    12. John Anderson

      Admin

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      Sue, you’re not quite understanding what’s being said. The whole idea of cigarette addiction was based on the [questionable] idea of nicotine addiction. The quote above is that nicotine is a weak reinforcer; it cannot do what the fanatics have long claimed that it supposedly does. Having removed the whole basis of addiction as it’s been defined to date (in pharmacological terms), it still holds on to the idea of cigarette “addiction” that is now without basis by their own argument, i.e., the reasoning…

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    13. John Anderson

      Admin

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      “next time you visit a hospital, take a peek into the vascular and respiratory wards. There, you'll find the long-term smokers who couldn't give up because they were addicted.”

      Sue, that’s standard rhetoric. Part of the antismoking delusion is that disease and death is something that somehow only happens to smokers, that nonsmokers are “immortal”, or that nonsmokers’ deaths are wonderfully peaceful with violins playing in the background. Nonsmokers develop disease and die as well – all of them…

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    14. Blair Donaldson
      Blair Donaldson is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Researcher

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      I know of plenty of people who are smoking themselves to an early grave, mainly older individuals that look about 20 years older than they should and sound like cement mixers when they breathe. Even though they know they are killing themselves slowly, they can't bring themselves to attempt to give up because of the crutch nicotine provides them. It's an insidious, horrible habit and something am glad I was able to leave behind.

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    15. John Anderson

      Admin

      In reply to Simon Chapman

      “Then he insists my 1983 book The Lung Goodbye was indeed highly influential. OK, if you say so John. Funny though, that only 4 people have cited it in Google Scholar in 29 years”

      You’re far too modest, Simon. Most people using the “Chapman Trick” wouldn’t know where it originated or that it’s even a trick. It’s been handed down time and again over the last 30 years. Nowadays it’s just a cut-and-paste job, found on many anti-smoking web sites; it’s parroted. Only “old-timers” in the “movement…

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    16. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to John Anderson

      No, John - I am understanding perfectly. Your quote said:

      "the highly addictive nature of tobacco smoking"

      What's to misunderstand?

      You can say that the pathology of meningitis isn't all caused by the infective organism, it's also the body's inflammatory response. It's still meningitis.

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    17. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to John Anderson

      Wow - so many fallacies and straw people in the one post!

      I happen to know a bit about mortality through my line of work, including dementia and the illnesses of nursing home residents. I have seen very few people with peripheral vascular disease (blocked arteries in the legs) who never smoked. Oh, and that vascular disease leads to an increase in the incidence of dementia.

      John, I don't know what area of "admin" you work in, but health seems to be outside your area of expertise. Argue about the merits of plain packaging if you like, but your pronouncements about smoking and health don't hold much water.

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    18. Mark Harrigan

      PhD Physicist

      In reply to Simon Chapman

      Simon, Don't feed the Tireless Regurgitations Of Lax Logic!

      You know the feeding of the relevance deprivation syndrome only makes them grow larger!

      that their Blogorrhea Utterances Listing Logical Silliness Hardly Imply Truth is obvious

      and we all know they are

      Differently Equipped Logically Utilising Distinctly Exasperating Diatribe

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  7. Michael Glass

    Teacher

    Big Tobacco complains about plain packaging. Actually, they lost the battle about what was to appear on cigarette packages decades ago when cigarettes first carried the warning, "Smoking is a health hazard".

    The other changes are merely details.

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  8. Lenard Smith

    Student

    How is the argument against fancy cigarette packaging any different to the argument that Islamists use to claim the necessity of women to wear Burqas? There's no difference in the arguments that "uncovered meat is the problem" and "uncovered packets" are the problem.

    Temptation is a personal issue, and just because some people aren't able to or have the will power to control themselves, doesn't mean everything needs to be covered up or removed from sight.

    I don't agree with the courts ruling.

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    1. Mark Harrigan

      PhD Physicist

      In reply to Lenard Smith

      Oh yes, lets have plain paper burkas. Because after all women are addictive AND cause cancer, especially when you smoke them!

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    2. Mark Harrigan

      PhD Physicist

      In reply to Blair Donaldson

      Ah, yes, well my solution to the Burka problem is that the men "affected" by the "temptation" should be compelled to go around wearing blindfolds. Problem solved.

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    3. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Lenard Smith

      "How is the argument against fancy cigarette packaging any different to the argument that Islamists use to claim the necessity of women to wear Burqas?"

      This person equates cigarettes with female human beings?

      Lenard Smith, student, what on earth are you studying?

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  9. John Anderson

    Admin

    Antismoking is not new. It has a long, sordid history, much of it predating even the semblance of a scientific basis or the more recent concoction of secondhand smoke “danger”. Antismoking crusades typically run on inflammatory propaganda, i.e., lies, in order to get law-makers to institute bans. The current antismoking rhetoric has all been heard before. All it produces is irrational fear and hatred, discord, enmity, animosity, social division, and bigotry.
    http://www.americanheritage.com/content/thank-you-not-smoking

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  10. Comment removed by moderator.

  11. John Anderson

    Admin

    And there’s more. The antismoking fanatics have been able to avoid scrutiny by claiming that anyone who disagrees with them is “obviously” a shill of “evil” Big Tobacco. We can see this tactic employed in this comments section. And most still haven’t figured out this particular con.

    The current antismoking fanatics are very much like their predecessors. They barge in with all sorts of baseless, highly inflammatory claims that are taken seriously under the guise of medical “authority”. In the short…

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  12. John Anderson

    Admin

    Chapman gave a highly popular presentation at the 5th World Conference on Smoking & Health back in 1983. The presentation was based on his paper “The Lung Goodbye” which is replete with all sorts of “tricks and tactics” to advance the antismoking agenda. It’s Chapman who suggested that the antismoking crusade be framed in terms of mythical “good” versus “evil” for its “drama” potential. And, of course, the antismoking fanatics depict themselves as the “good”…… the “righteous”….. battling “evil” Big…

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  13. John Anderson

    Admin

    The “Chapman Trick” has been seen in all sorts of places over the last few decades – in workplace canteens and locker rooms. Health ministers have given press conferences with a graphic of the Chapman Trick as a backdrop. And the typical reaction of nonsmokers is that they don’t want to be exposed. Understandably. They think they’re being exposed to vaporized ant poison, embalming fluid, toilet cleaner, etc. Let’s be sure on this. There is no ant poison, embalming fluid, toilet cleaner, road tar, etc, in cigarettes.

    I used some slightly colorful language to describe this conduct in a comment that was deleted by the moderator. A question, then, for the moderator. What would you call those who have intentionally and aggressively promoted this fraud? They are seriously messing with people’s minds. It is an assault on mental health that then has social, moral, and political consequences. And this is just ONE example of the fanatics’ messing with people’s minds.

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  14. Mark Harrigan

    PhD Physicist

    Those who oppose this measure on the specious grounds of lack of personal choice or self interested lack of convenience or even the questionable issue of whether or not the "property" of the Tobacco Comapnies need to weight their concerns against these facts

    http://www.cancercouncil.com.au/31901/reduce-risks/smoking-reduce-risks/tobacco-facts/statistics-on-smoking-in-australia/?pp=31901

    How many deaths and hospital admissions are smoking-related?
    In 2003 there were 15,511 smoking-related…

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    1. Jack Mohan

      Scientist

      In reply to Mark Harrigan

      Those who have succumbed to the vile effects of tobacco during the past few decades are responsible for their own actions. They chose to smoke despite the evidence that it could kill, which has been known for some time now. The tobacco comapnies are not responsible for their deaths. The people who smoke are.

      I smoke tobacco. If I get get cancer, I'll accept the consequences of my choices. Anyone who doesn't deserves to be labelled irrespronsible. The sheer level of immaturity here is outstanding.

      Grow up. All of you.

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    2. Mark Harrigan

      PhD Physicist

      In reply to Jack Mohan

      But you don't "accept the consequences of your choices". You expect society to pick up the health bill on your behalf. Grow up youself.

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    3. Jack Mohan

      Scientist

      In reply to Mark Harrigan

      I pay enough taxes every time I purchase a Dunhill fine cuts - a smooth, great tasting blend of the finest tobacco.

      You need to relax Mark. Here, try one.

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    4. Mark Harrigan

      PhD Physicist

      In reply to Jack Mohan

      Total taxation take from Tobacco per annum in Australia - about $5.5 Billion

      Total costs to the country over $30 billion.

      If smokers offered to pay the difference from their own pockets you might have an argument.

      You don't

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    5. Jack Mohan

      Scientist

      In reply to Mark Harrigan

      Well not with you it seems;

      "That there will always be deniers of these facts is understood. They are welcome to take up smoking for themselves but they are not welcome to promulgate their lies and misinformation about the topic"

      Heh, nice cover. Words of a true Zealot. "Lies and misinformation" can't be used as euphemisms of anything that is contrary to your position.

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