It is hard to fathom, but hard statistics show that up to 20,000 people die every year in Australia, around 1 in every 100 smokers, as a direct result of smoking, mostly in the worst conceivable agony. On first appearance, this figure seems to be a flight of fancy but sadly, it is fairly accurate. What is harder to believe is that a highly toxic, lethal and extremely addictive product that causes such a horrific annual death toll, has not been totally banned. Unlike any other product or practice that is known to be so highly dangerous, tobacco products are still legally sold to adults.
In 2002, researchers from the US Harvard School of Public Health estimated that smoking kills approximately 5 million people every year worldwide. In 2011, British Health Secretary Andrew Lansley reported that out of 8 million smokers in Britain, 80,000 died every year, around the same 1 in every 100 smoker deaths as in Australia. Malaria, considered the biggest causes of death by disease, kills around 1 million people annually, so smoking makes Malaria pale into insignificance.
A report in April 2002 from the USA Centre for Disease Control found that smoking kills 440,000 Americans and results in US$150 billion economic losses each year and each pack of cigarettes sold in the USA costs the nation an estimated $US7.18 in medical and productivity costs. The report indicates that smoking continues to be the leading cause of preventable death in the USA. On average, adult men and women smokers lost 13.2 and 14.5 years of life, respectively, because they smoked.
Prior to the 1980s, smoking was a highly accepted social practice and cigarettes would always be offered everywhere as a matter of courtesy. There were almost no places where smoking was not allowed and more importantly, there was virtually no information available about smoking being a grave risk to health, presumably because it was suppressed by the tobacco manufacturers. So until the last two decades of the 20th century, smoking proliferated, aided and abetted by tobacco companies glamorising the habit and greedy governments reaping huge revenues from cigarette taxes.
In 2013, the then Minister for Fair Trading, Anthony Roberts, banned the previously legal synthetic cannabis that was marketed under the name Kronic and various other brands. The reason for this ban was that a university student in Sydney who was high on this substance threw himself off a balcony and was killed. This merely proved that a NSW minister had the power to ban substances that he considered were dangerous to public health.
Hotheads then corresponded with Roberts and demanded that if he had the power to ban a previously legal dangerous substance that caused the death of one person, then obviously he had the power to ban a dangerous and highly addictive substance that killed around 5000 people in NSW alone - tobacco. Hotheads received a pile of politically correct garbage as to why Roberts did not have the power to ban tobacco and this action was under the purview of the NSW Minister for Health. This was a classic case of weaselly dodging the issue and passing the buck.
So Hotheads wrote to the NSW Minister for Health, pointing out that it was clear that if the NSW government had the power to ban one dangerous substance such as synthetic cannabis, then it had the power to ban a far more dangerous substance, tobacco. After a number of really ridiculous replies were received, followed by complaints about the ducking and weaving by the Minister in relation to this issue, in October 2015, Hotheads received a reply from Sarah Mitchell, Parliamentary Secretary for Regional and Rural Health. Her response was even more ridiculous and proved that the NSW government did not care a damn about the health of people when it came to doing something that would reduce revenue. Read this and marvel. Personal details have been deleted for security.
What this clown had the temerity to say was that, "there are no plans at this time to amend the Public Health (Tobacco) Act 2008 to ban the sale of tobacco in NSW. This is because there is no research or evidence to show that total prohibition of tobacco is actually effective."
This has to be the most asinine, stupid, ridiculous and self-serving pile of bullshit that Hotheads has ever encountered. What sort of evidence does the NSW government need to show that tobacco is dangerous? Just for starters, the federal government has mandated a raft of warnings on cigarette packs that state the smoking causes cancer, emphysema, vascular disease, mouth and throat cancer and is a leading cause of death. The federal government has also mandated that all cigarettes be sold only in plain green packs to make them less attractive to people.
The NSW government banned Kronic without researching anything. One guy threw himself off a balcony and Kronic and all other synthetic cannabis products that were legal were banned with a stroke of a NSW government minister's pen. The NSW government bans heroin, cocaine, cannabis, opium, ecstasy, methamphetamines LSD and other narcotics on the grounds of public health. DId the NSW government need research or evidence to show that total prohibition of these narcotics was effective? Uf course not - they are all banned for no other reason than the government knows how dangerous they are. But there was little or no revenue for the government in allowing Kronic and other similar substances to be sold, so the government didn't lose anything in banning them, but considered that it picked up Brownie points from the electorate, in order to be seen doing something for public health.
The truth is that banning any substance will result in a reduction in usage, as people will find the substance harder to obtain. In regard to smoking, this is an activity that is easy to spot in public, so if all tobacco use was made illegal, people would have to buy cigarettes somewhere or grow tobacco in their backyards. Then they would only be able to smoke in their own houses, because they would be caught and fined if they were seen smoking or in possession of tobacco products.
So the reason given by Jillian Skinner through her flunkey Sarah Mitchell is completely specious, illogical, duplicitous and outright stupid. It is another demonstration of how our government refuses to deal properly with one of the biggest killers in Australia - all for the sake of revenue. Yes, the NSW government makes all sorts of noises about working to reduce the consumption of tobacco, whereas it would achieve a far better outcome if it banned tobacco entirely and made it very hard for people to get their hands on it. That would certainly work, but as Hotheads has said for years, when the government has a choice between improving public health by taking action that will reduce revenue, public health comes a very distant second to money.
One of the more disgusting tactics used by the purveyors of these killer substances is an advertising campaign in 2011 against plain packaging of cigarettes. This campaign is run by an outfit called the Alliance Of Australian Retailers. Their website reveals the truth behind their very expensive advertising campaign. Here is an excerpt:
Media reports state that the $5 million costs of the campaign are being met by these tobacco giants, so there is absolutely no doubt that this so-called Alliance Of Australian Retailers is nothing more than a front for the major tobacco companies that are making a last-ditch effort to stop the government from impinging on their business, which is essentially dealing in death and making billions of dollars from keeping people addicted to their killer products.
In May 2010, before the birth of the Alliance of Retailers, tobacco giant Philip Morris sought advice from a lobbying and public relations firm called the Civic Group about how to fight the Government's plan to introduce plain packaging for cigarettes by 2012. The Civic Group's proposal recommended using third parties, including retail groups, to sell the message. The Alliance of Australian Retailers was then formed in August 2010, purporting to represent thousands of ordinary shopkeepers.
On the day the alliance was set up, documents show it became the instant beneficiary of millions of dollars from the world's top cigarette manufacturers: Philip Morris - $2.1 million, Imperial Tobacco Australia - $1.08 million and British American Tobacco - $2.2 million.
Australian Securities And Investments Commission records list the Alliance of Australian Retailers as having just one shareholder and director, Sheryle Moon, who is also executive director of the Australian Association of Convenience Stores. The website states that it is "Authorised by R Stanton, The Alliance of Australian Retailers Pty Ltd (ACN 145 378 589), 14 Ross Street, North Parramatta, NSW, 2151.
The Alliance of Australian Retailers advertising campaign is also authorised by this R Stanton, however their website does not give any further details about this vital linchpin of the advertising campaign. However, there is a Robert Stanton who is listed as being the chairman of the Western Australian Tobacco Retailers Association.
Digging a little deeper, it turns out that R Stanton is the registered operator (ABN 54 702 055 428) of the Myaree Mini Mart at 446 Marmion Street Myaree in Western Australia, phone number (08) 9330-7175. This address and phone number just happen to be the same as the Western Australian Tobacco Retailers Association.
A normal and reasonable person seeing this information could easily come to the conclusion that the R Stanton of the Western Australian Tobacco Retailers Association would also be the R Stanton who is authorising the advertising campaign for the Alliance of Australian Retailers that is being funded by the giants of the tobacco industry.
Here is an excerpt from the Alliance Of Australian Retailers campaign regarding smuggling of illicit tobacco.
Of course this bunch of sanctimonious bastards, whose advertisements claim among other things that children as young as 14 years old are being affected by illicit cigarettes, fail to mention that a hell of a lot more children as young as 14 years old are being affected by the killer products of the tobacco companies behind this advertising. There is no mention by the Alliance Of Australian Retailers of the nearly 20,000 people killed each year by the products sold by these tobacco companies, only a complaint that plain packaging for cigarettes will affect the retailers of these killers.
The Alliance Of Australian Retailers can spend all the money they want on the baloney that they spread with their advertising, but people understand exactly why they are doing this. It's nothing to do with making life harder for retailers, it's just about fighting a campaign against any action that will make it harder for people to take up the killer addiction of smoking.
Exposure to second-hand smoke boosts the risk of dementia and other cognitive problems, even among people who have never smoked, the largest study of its kind said. Ill-effects on non-smokers of constant exposure to tobacco smoke include an increased risk of lung cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, stroke and death, earlier research has shown. As for the impact on brain function, active smoking has been found to impair the mind but the evidence for passive smoking has until now been sketchy.
Using new methods in the largest clinical trial to date, a team led by Cambridge University professor David Llewellyn found that even people who had never smoked, but kept constant company with smokers performed less well in cognitive tests. The investigation focused on nearly 5000 adults over the age of 50 who were former smokers or who had never smoked. The volunteers were divided into four groups, according to their exposure to passive smoking.
This was determined by saliva samples, which were tested for a by-product of nicotine called cotinine. Cotinine lingers in the saliva for about 25 days. The higher the levels of cotinine, the higher the exposure to recent second-hand smoke.
The volunteers then took neuro-psychological tests that assessed brain function and cognitive abilities, focusing on memory and the ability to work with numbers and words. Using the lowest cotinine group as a benchmark, the researchers found a clear and progressively stronger link between impairment in brain function and exposure to second-hand smoke. In the most-exposed group, the risk of cognitive impairment was 44 per cent higher than the benchmark group.
Factors such as age and medical condition, including a history of heart disease, that could have skewed the outcome were all taken into account. "A similar pattern of associations was observed for never smokers and former smokers," said the study, published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ). "Given the ongoing international policy debate on exposure to second-hand smoke, this is a topic of major public health significance."
In November 2010, the first global study into the effects of passive smoking has found it causes 600,000 deaths every year. One-third of those killed are children, often exposed to smoke at home, the World Health Organization (WHO) found.
The study in 192 countries found that passive smoking is particularly dangerous for children, said to be at higher risk of sudden infant death syndrome, pneumonia and asthma. Passive smoking causes heart disease, respiratory illness and lung cancer.
The global health body said it was particularly concerned about the estimated 165,000 children who die of smoke-related respiratory infections, mostly in South East Asia and in Africa. It said that this group was more exposed to passive smoking than any other group, principally in their own homes.
Worldwide, as many as 40% of children, 33% of non-smoking men and 35% non-smoking women were exposed to second-hand smoke in 2004, researchers found. This exposure was estimated to have caused 379,000 deaths from heart disease, 165,000 from lower respiratory infections, 36,900 from asthma and 21,400 from lung cancer.
The research also revealed that passive smoking had a large impact on women, killing about 281,000 worldwide. This is due to the fact that in many parts of the world, the study suggests, women are at least 50% more likely to be exposed to second-hand smoke than men.
So now there can be no question that passive smoking is somehow safe. Scientific research has conclusively proven that passive smoking is a very dangerous health hazard for non-smokers and hopefully legislation around the world will be passed to ban smoking in all public places for the safety of everybody.
What is truly amazing is that despite the horrific warnings on cigarette packs these days and the well-known connection between smoking and ill health and death, people still take up the smoking habit. In fact among certain groups such as teenage girls, the percentage of smokers has risen. Even the high cost of purchasing cigarettes has not markedly slowed the percentage of new smokers.
The sad thing is that all of this merely shows the abject stupidity of people. Even when they are warned of the danger of smoking by placards on the product and the fact that nearly 20,000 smokers die each year in Australia, they still fork out around $10 to $15 per day per cigarette pack on average to do nothing more than probably hasten their deaths.
These are the compulsory warnings printed on cigarette packs, mandated by the Australian Federal Government. These warnings are prima facie proof that the government knows very well of the danger of tobacco products. In fact, one of the warnings clearly shows that 19,019 deaths were caused by smoking, nearly seven times as many deaths caused by its nearest rival, alcohol. So why are such lethal products still legally sold?
Here is a summary paraphrasing of the warnings on those packets of cigarettes:
So if the Australian government knows this and understands the dangers of smoking to the extent of forcing warnings like this to be placed on cigarette packets, any sane person would think that such a dangerous product would be completely banned under all circumstances.
In other words, there is absolutely no excuse whatsoever to permit the sale of tobacco products. However the reason that this killer is still sold legally is that governments tax cigarettes at over 90% and reap incredible amounts of money from what is essentially the legal murder of people. The grim truth is that if cigarettes were introduced as a new product nowadays, they would not stand a chance of being allowed to be legally sold, simply as a matter of public safety. No product with such known toxicity, addictive dependence and confirmed death toll would ever be permitted to reach a market these days.
Governments regularly enact laws to protect people from certain risks. For many years it has been compulsory to wear seatbelts in cars, because a few people per year die because they were not wearing seatbelts. So to save the lives of a handful of people per year in the whole of Australia, governments of all states legislated to impose harsh fines upon people who do not wear seatbelts. The same principle applies to motorcyclists and bicyclists, of whom a very minute few are killed or injured each year because they were not wearing helmets. But there is no legislation to stop nearly 20,000 smokers from killing themselves each year with cigarettes.
Most substances classed as narcotics are totally illegal, however compared with tobacco, some of them are positively benign. For instance, methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), known commonly as Ecstasy, is a drug that stimulates the production of endorphins in the brain and makes users feel good and literally want to hug and love people. In recent times in Australia, there have been approximately 5 deaths per year linked to Ecstasy and those were usually the result of dehydration and excessive consumption of fluids, not so much the toxicity of the drug itself.
Taking any drug for pleasure is stupid, but even 5 deaths per year from Ecstasy compared with 20,000 deaths per year from smoking tobacco is no comparison at all, yet the Australian Government still persists in allowing tobacco to be freely sold to any adult. It is surprising that somebody has so far not initiated a legal class action against the Government to force it to completely ban such a dangerous substance on the grounds of public health.
Knowing the severe public health risk caused by smoking and the fact that so much is known about the dangers of smoking, especially in light of the revelations emanating from tobacco companies who have now admitted that for decades they knew of the link between smoking and cancer and other diseases, the government has a very overdue responsibility to the citizens of this country to eradicate the sale and use of all tobacco products immediately.
Of course this will not happen, simply because the tax on cigarettes is so high and is a major cash cow for the government. It is the height of hypocrisy for the government to ban products and practices that kill or injure a few people each year, while allowing a highly toxic and addictive product that kills nearly 20,000 people per year in Australia alone to be freely sold. This must be stopped as a matter of urgent public safety.
The crazy thing about smoking is that it actually does nothing for the smoker. Once the initial rush of nicotine is felt when having the first cigarette of the day after sleeping, subsequent cigarettes merely alleviate the craving for nicotine for the rest of each day. Apart from that, smoking makes people cough and wheeze and makes their houses, cars, clothes and breath stink. And for indulging in this incredibly stupid habit, people pay a fortune every year.
The effects of this insidious and disgusting habit has touched most people personally in the deepest way and if you are a smoker, you should read and believe the warnings on cigarette packs and be aware that in the near future a doctor may be telling you that you will die in appalling agony. And for what? A stupid habit that is not only expensive, but brings no benefit at all.
The famous film star Yul Brynner, who also died of lung cancer from smoking, made a series of advertisements to be shown after his death where he simply said "DON'T SMOKE!" and you should heed this excellent advice in the strongest possible way. It may save your life.