Labor’s tax assault on smokers is more battery of the persecuted

From an APP member

Should it win government at the next federal election, the Labor Party is planning to increase tobacco excise by 12.5% a year for four years to 2020.

This means that smokers, statistically already disproportionately on lower incomes, will face yet more pain from an uncompassionate and irresponsible Labor government. Such a tax hike is guaranteed to only enhance the already burgeoning black market in tobacco, whilst exposing retailers to more criminal activity like hold-ups, as cigarettes become increasingly targeted by thieves.

But the biggest thieves of all would be the Labor government. Undoubtedly inspired by prohibitionist control freaks in the Health bureaucracy (who want to stop people from smoking by any means possible – fair or very foul), Labor would be continuing to hammer a “soft” target, already paying far more in taxes than the alleged costs of smoking to the health system.

A “cost analysis” in an Australian government publication just a few years ago estimated that net health costs of tobacco-use was estimated at $318,400,000 (p.51). By contrast, net revenue from tobacco taxes was $6,700,000,000 (p.22). Which means that smokers were paying about 21 TIMES more in taxes than their alleged health costs. And you can bet that figure would be conservative, given the extreme anti-smoking mindset of Australian governments.

Be in no doubt, the Labor desire to punish smokers is another example of elitist moral vanity rearing its very ugly head on the political stage. It’s got nothing to do with justice or fairness; it is the plain and simple persecution of an unfashionable and relatively powerless social minority, whom some self-righteous elites actually believe have a right to persecute with a “sin” tax.

Furthermore, it is lazy and sinister politics. Undoubtedly, Labor wants the public to believe that the GST will inevitably increase if they don’t slug smokers instead. Of course there is no suggestion of any genuine taxation or financial reform alternatives. Or even spending cuts. Labor simply has no answers, other than to inflict more pain.

An underlying sentiment holds that smokers are morally “weak”, and Labor’s presumably non-smoking leadership elite therefore conclude they have some kind of right to punish their perceived moral inferiors, whilst displaying a complete disregard for their personal liberties, pleasures, habits, lifestyle choices or financial situations. Even Labor’s alleged concern about children being exposed to poverty is cast aside, so that their leadership can indulge in their sense of moral superiority over their perceived inferiors.

Rightly, some Labor MPs questioned the wisdom of Shorten’s policy, with WA Senator Joe Bullock, from Labor’s “Right” faction, slamming the policy as “anti-people”. He questioned why Labor would want to hurt their own voter base. Hence it even seems politically stupid from Labor.

Smoking commercially-produced tobacco is highly addictive. That said, thousands of Australians successfully quit smoking every year – as is their choice. But there is simply no justification for the persecution of smokers by successive Australian governments, be they Coalition or Labor.

Commercially-produced tobacco is often consumed for very similar reasons as to why many other products may be consumed — be it sugar, caffeine, alcohol etc. — because it provides pleasure for the addicted. The trade-offs from such pleasures and any potential health risks from such consumption, are ultimately a very personal matter for the individual to determine for themselves. For the government to single out one particular consumer group, and persecute them with horrendously over-the-top taxation, is a total violation of individual liberty.

One may wonder where are the usual “champions of persecuted minorities”? Interestingly, the politically correct zealots, who seem so quick to leap to the defence of favoured minorities whom they perceive in the slightest way of being treated unfairly, seem not even remotely interested in defending smokers. And why? Simply because it’s not FASHIONABLE for the progressive Left to champion smokers. In a just society, there would be a lot more people concerned about the injustice faced by smokers. After all, it’s likely a case of “First they came for the smokers….”.

Labor tobacco tax hike will hit the poor”, Institute of Public Affairs (Simon Breheny)
‘Smokers are Labor voters’: Labor Senator hits out at Bill Shorten’s tobacco plan”, The Sydney Morning Herald, 24 November 2015 (Latika Bourke)
Labor’s regressive tobacco tax”, The Australian, 26 November 2015 (Greg Sheridan)
Labor MPs question cigarette tax hike”, SBS, 24 November 2015 (AAP)
Economists challenge ‘healthist’ view of smoking, alcohol risks”, The Age, 22 December 2011 (Mark Metherell)
The costs of tobacco, alcohol and illicit drug abuse to Australian society in 2004/05”, National Drug Strategy, Australian Government, c2008 (David J. Collins and Helen M. Lapsley)
Does smoking cost the Australian economy $31.5 billion?”, Catallaxy Files, 4 September 2015 (Sinclair Davidson)


  1. Captain T says

    Here’s an idea.. Stop smoking! You want one chemical from a cancer stick. Use the patch. If you’re not smoking pot, you’re gonna get cancer. A higher tax is to wean you off of that toxic mess. By the way, you’re inhaling agent orange and God knows what else. Since tobacco isn’t a food product, farmers can literally spray it with anything they want, including the most toxic crap known to man.

    • “If you’re not smoking pot, you’re gonna get cancer” – What nonsense. A good many smokers live to ripe old ages. Entertainer George Burns smoked thick cigars from the age of 18 every day & lived to over 100. He attributed them to his longevity. And perhaps you’re not aware that more non-smokers than smokers die from lung cancer in Australia? Some people need to stop believing the government’s anti-smoking propaganda.

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