Ban smoking completely

Liberal Party wants new ideas. Try this         6 June 2006

If the Liberal Party wants new ideas then it is time to be bold. Ban cigarette smoking.

FILTHY HABIT: LIBERALS SHOULD BAN SMOKING

In Tuesday May 30’s edition of the ABC’s 7.30 Report, Federal Liberal Party heavies suggested the party needed to do something completely different at State level to win government.

Quite rightly, it was documented that all the State Labor governments have piggybacked on the Howard Government’s success and retained power.

It was also suggested that State Liberals are trying to factionalise the party to such a point that people without talent are being pre-selected and it is divisive to the party.

Point 1 is absolutely correct. Labor has ridden Howard’s success of managing a booming economy aided by world events. The public don’t give a tinker’s cuss about changing government if they are eating well and have a new car. To win government the Liberal Party must play differently.

In AFL, flooding isn’t attractive but sometimes it wins matches. That is, we have to think of a new tactic.

Point 2 can be used as a convenient excuse to do nothing and be happy with running second because you have that excuse. John F Kennedy once said: Any lack of effort on our part to finish first will ensure we finish last. Less than eight years after saying this about the space race, his country put men on the moon.

Point 3 is spot on because no army, company, sporting team, charitable association, political party or any other competitive group can survive if people fight each other rather than the enemy.

So let’s move in a different direction. Let’s formulate policy – some of it so bizarre and different it may cut through to a new voter for the Liberal Party.

Ban cigarette smoking.

Yesterday it was suggested in WA parliament to punish people who smoke in cars with children on board.

Why fiddle at the edges? Governments have banned cigarette advertising; put warnings on the packets; pumped up the price of the product; made it an offence for minors to buy cigarettes; banned smoking at beaches.

Nicotine is addictive. A woman is suing a tobacco manufacturer in Canada for contracting cancer from passive smoking.

Huge class actions are won against cigarette companies and they pay them.

China has banned smoking in Beijing during the 2008 Olympic Games. Smoking will be banned on public transport, in offices and all places that offer services to children.

If China can affect their 350 million smokers, we shouldn’t be scared to take on a few hundred thousand.

The tobacco industry has profited monumentally since the 16th century when the weed was introduced into English society.

It was controversial then too. At the same time as the Pope was banning smoking in religious places, Sir Walter Raleigh was convincing Queen Elizabeth I to smoke.

For more than four centuries tobacco companies have had a good run and it is time for their business to go up in smoke.

Let WA be one of the first, if not the first, legislature in the world to ban cigarette smoking, sales and distribution. Put a moratorium on this to stage in the changes and then enforce it diligently.

The Liberal Party may lose potential voters, who are smokers, but would gain more as a trade off. What better way to get more people to vote for your party?

All the benefits, like public health, are self-evident but even the negatives can be countered:

-Revenue: Massive tax revenue will be lost but it will come back over time in a healthier older population providing less drain on our health system.

-Civil Liberties: Letting people make their own decisions is fine but Australia banned guns and people bleated but it was for their own ultimate benefit. We hear little complaint today.

-Two Classes: The smoking public has already grudgingly accepted they are pariahs and stand in special sections at events or don’t smoke at them; or go outside buildings to do it. Banning it completely may force their hand to stop.

-Addicts: Anyone addicted to nicotine can apply for a permit and smoke in a controlled environment until natural attrition reduces their number. Or they can be registered for a nicotine puffer, similar to the device used by asthmatics.

-Penalties: Do not fine shop owners or individuals for selling cigarettes illegally, penalise the cigarette companies and make the fine $1m if their product is found in possession of a sales outlet.

-Tobacco companies cannot argue that it isn’t their fault for if it is illegal in our jurisdiction make it their responsibility to keep it out. (Tobacco companies have already paid out billions of dollars when beaten in smuggling cases in Europe).

-Clean Air: If half a million (?) people in WA stopped smoking, surely the air would eventually be cleaner?

-Litter: Cigarette butts and packets would be eliminated from the streetscape and rubbish tips.

-Productivity: All the people who leave the building to smoke at work places would be spending more time at their work station, be it office, factory, hotel, restaurant etc, increasing productivity.

If the economy stays as it is, the Liberal Party’s chances of upsetting the status quo diminish.

Banning smoking would be a bold move, make world headlines and put them back on the political map.

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