Mike's Minute: Why is the govt saying no to Philip Morris?

Author
Mike Hosking,
Section
Video,
Publish Date
Monday, 11 March 2019, 6:50a.m.

Ideology versus practicality. Philip Morris, who most of us would have little time for given they're tobacco peddlers, want a tax break. 


They have new sticks that heat and don't burn, and arguably help people quit smoking. If they get a tax break, they'll stop selling cigarettes. 


Not a bad idea. The simple truth is we are not going to be smokefree by 2025 (mind you we never were). 


Why? Because some people simply don't want to, don't know how to, aren't dedicated to the cause enough. And that includes smokers and the government.  


Sadly, the real gains we made were under the watch of Dame Tariana Turia who, when in Parliament with the Māori Party, hit the issue hard with tax. Tax works when it comes to managing behaviour. Price these things out of the market. 


Sadly, as the price rose some focused on dairy robberies and connected the two. The moment you make smokes a certain price people want to rob stores. Dairy owners joined a chorus arguing that without smokes they wouldn't make money. I doubt that's true. 


But complicating matters was New Zealand First, who have adopted a stance that a tax hits the poorest hardest, and it's the poorest who tend to smoke the most. All of which is true, but it doesn't mean that one, you give up on a mechanism that was working and two, acquiesce to a storyline about dairies and robberies that was highly unlikely to be true in the first place. 


And so we are in a sort of limbo-land, a grand plan that will not come to fruition because we have bottled it. 


So the Government is left to return to their virtue signalling best by introducing pointless new laws like banning smoking in cars with kids, as though that is going to make one jot of difference. 


So back to Philip Morris, is there merit in their offer? Yes. Why? Because it's practical. And as someone, I think quite rightly, said to me the other day Dame Tariana would have jumped at this deal. Ardern, of course, driven by a blind ideology, won't. 


And yet, why not? 


Fossil fuels get tax breaks. The electric car industry is getting millions and they're not even breaks, they're gifts to build charging stations. If the car industry gets its way you'll be able to get a cheap car, paid for by the rest of us. 


Why? Because fossil fuels, like tobacco, are bad for us. Electric? Not so much. Why is it the right answer for one group, and not for another? 


In turning down an idea the rejection must come with logic, there is no logic to this rejection. Especially given the precedent has already been set with EVs. 


And that's the trouble you strike when you have one rule for one group, and one for everyone else. They might find the same trouble if they exempt Māori land from a capital gains tax.  


You either want to address a problem or you don't. And you either want to be practical, or you don't. 


In this case, it appears once again the Government can't peddle enough ideology because noise is easy. Practical solutions seem a bit beyond them.

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