By Eric Crampton 15/06/2021


The Government’s proposed approach for achieving SmokeFree 2025 is a bit over-the-top.

The proposals would restrict tobacco sales to a smaller number of to-be-licenced R18 outlets, which could then be subject to a sinking lid; impose an annual one-year increase in the purchase age for tobacco until full prohibition were achieved; restrict nicotine content in cigarettes to very low levels; prohibit filters in cigarettes; impose minimum cigarette pricing; and further restrict flavourings.

In short, the only way to get a proper cigarette would be through the black market. The Ministry’s betting on folks shifting more heavily to vaping or heated tobacco. I’d expect instead that imposing all this stuff would have smokers flip to black-market excise-free cigarettes, and that smokers would be less likely to switch from those to vaping. I also wonder whether some smokers might try soaking loose tobacco in nicotine e-liquid to get the nicotine levels up, and I don’t know what smoking that stuff winds up doing. Heating is different than combustion.

Our submission on the consultation document went through a couple of weeks ago; have been a bit pressed and hadn’t gotten around to blogging it.

But it has been fun watching more stories of black market tobacco coming though. Sometimes they’re sold for organised crime groups; sometimes they’re sold as church fundraisers. Loose tobacco is fungible like that.

All the talk about prohibition reminds me that I have forgotten to tell you something else important. The new season of Cocaine & Rhinestones is up. It’s Tyler Mahan Coe’s podcast of the history of country music, and it’s superb.

Episode 4 is on prohibition and the leadup to George Jones’s White Lightning.

He goes through the rather evil history, not forgetting the part where the federal government poisoned industrial alcohol and murdered a pile of people who’d previously been filtering the bad tasting stuff out of industrial alcohol. But also the history of the whisky rebels before that. Great stuff. Recommended.

In other words, the U.S. government empowered a bunch of thugs to enforce organized crime’s monopoly on illegal alcohol distribution in most major markets of the nation. This is how Chicago came under the thumb of Al Capone, who was targeted by Elliot Ness and his Untouchables, yes… But this unit of officers were called “untouchable” because of their surprising ability to resist the near-universal corruption laid bare by Prohibition.

Beats me why the New Zealand government expects better results out of tobacco prohibition.