December 1 marks five years since plain packaging laws were introduced in Australia. The aim was to deter people from smoking, but all the evidence to date shows that this restriction was an abysmal failure. In fact, it recently came to light that more people smoke in Australia than they did in 2013.
There was one group that benefitted though: criminals who now rake in billions of dollars as the illicit tobacco trade grows, and it’s all thanks to government restrictions on our smokes.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that the public health alarmists amongst us would have learned from their mistakes and accepted that plain packaging laws are dumber than a concrete parachute, but you’d be wrong, and the slippery slope of nanny state restrictions continues on.
Just last week this article in the Lancet appeared to call for alcoholic beverages to come with plain packaging restrictions, price floors, and tougher government regulations in order to prevent increases in alcohol consumption. it claims “there is no excuse to ignore regulatory interventions for access, advertisements, and unit cost that are shown to reduce alcohol consumption.”
The article also appears to lament that fact that people are living longer, becoming more affluent, and booze is becoming more affordable. Presumably, it’s because all of this will result in more and more people cracking open a cold one with the boys.
Only in the world of a miserable, meddling, health nanny, can higher life expectancies and higher incomes be considered a bad thing. I sometimes wonder to myself why these people can’t just be miserable by themselves and why they can’t just leave us all alone. Then I remember that misery loves company, and these authoritarian bedwetters would love nothing more than to make you miserable too.
Unfortunately, we can’t expect these health nannies to leave us alone because they’re not like you and I. They don’t think like normal people, because they think they’re better than normal people. In the mind of a health nanny, everyone else is a lost little soul that needs to be pushed in the right direction, whether they like it or not. What they want is always correct because it’s for the best and it’s for the common good, when in reality it’s just a pain in the arse.
The idea that people will reduce their alcohol consumption because their favourite drink now comes in a government-mandated package is absolutely laughable. It didn’t work for tobacco products and it certainly won’t work for alcohol.
Then there are the calls to restrict “access” and “advertisements”.
“Reducing access” is authoritarian speak for shutting down your local bottle-o, increasing the drinking age, cracking down on pubs and clubs – even restaurants and cafes – and doing everything they can to ensure that nobody has any fun ever again.
Regulatory interventions for advertising mean we would no longer be able to enjoy a great Australian beer ad. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to live in a world where we won’t get to hear the famous line: “A hard earned thirst needs a big cold beer, and the best cold beer is Vic!”
Maybe I’m taking this all too seriously, but I remember people laughing at the idea that someone would want our booze to be plain packaged. Yet here we are, so whilst these calls for further alcohol restrictions are laughable, we must ensure that these ideas are fought against at every turn. Otherwise, the calls will grow louder and louder, just as they did for tobacco products, and we’ll find that the miserable, beige Toyota Camry driving, decaf sipping, Dave Matthews Band enthusiasts who call themselves ‘health experts’ will have chalked up another win.
Australia cannot let that happen.
Brian Marlow is a research associate at the Australian Taxpayers Alliance.
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