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Cigarettes get more illegal and more toxic

The gradual but inexorable illegalisation of smoking is arriving at its end-game, as many bloggers of the sort I like have been complaining about, and no doubt as many bloggers of the sort I don’t like have been celebrating.

Here is the Radio Times, describing a show done by Panorama last Monday (March 7th) entitled Smoking and the Bandits:

Criminal gangs are believed to be supplying half of all hand-rolled tobacco and in five cigarettes in the United Kingdom. … their products are also up to 30 times more toxic than ordinary cigarettes.

I saw that coming in 1987. Under the bit in that pamphlet entitled THE BENEFITS OF ADVERTISING, AND OF PROPERTY (page 3) I wrote about how gangsters would, if the illegalisation process I was writing about even then continued, soon be running the tobacco business, supplying “these now genuinely lethal products”. Not that I was alone in possessing these prophetic powers. Just about every libertarian then writing saw this coming. Illegality equals toxicity. You merely had to apply what everyone already knew about other drugs markets that already were, even then, illegal, or for that matter acquaint yourself with a one page summary of the story of Prohibition, and the pattern of future events, if they insisted on continue to bear down on smoking with the force of law.

But going back to that bit in the Radio Times, where I put “…” above, it also says this:

However, not only are the criminals depriving British taxpayers of £4 billion in revenue, …

That’s right, there goes the exact same warped logic as Natalie Solent noted in her posting earlier today, immediately below this one. No, Radio Times, depriving taxpayers is what you do when you tax them. These “bandits” are thriving because, unlike our tyrannical government, they are not doing that.

It seems that the commenter quoted by Natalie is mistaken. It is not “only in the mind of Ms Lucas” that such warped thinking is being thought.

21 comments to Cigarettes get more illegal and more toxic

  • They are mostly probably criminal only in the sense that they are avoiding taxes and health regulations, too.

  • In 1980, Graham Smith (he of Bird and Bird now?) were invited by Peter Marsh) of Allen brady and Marsh, my then employer) to submit an essay to the massed-tobacco firms, about how restriction of advertising was a dirent affront to free speech, and thus represented censorship. If they had bought it, they’d have headed off the assault on freedom that we now see.

    They did not. And the rest is history: they chose to go with a report by an insider, who said that “tobacco advertising is not about increasng consumption but about getting people to switch brands, and so it should not be banned.”

    Well, there you go. And they did.

  • F0ul

    History does seem to repeat itself but with subtle changes every time. While in the 20’s it was alcohol, this time around, it will be cigarettes – and we still have a 3rd world war waiting for us …!

  • Richard Garner

    No, Radio Times, depriving taxpayers is what you do when you tax them. These “bandits” are thriving because, unlike our tyrannical government, they are not doing that.

    I thought I was on facebook, because I was looking for a “like” option when I read this bit!

  • Andrew Zalotocky

    After tobacco it will be alcohol, high-fat foods and goodness knows what else. The elite want to criminalise everything so that they can treat us all as criminals. They are not just trying to delegitimise smoking. They are trying to delegitimise the idea that anything is a matter of personal choice rather than of government policy.

  • thefrollickingmole

    I cant find the old post i did on this, but heres the results of Australias “tax till it bleeds” approach.

    “Assistant tax commissioner John McNamara says the movement of illegal tobacco, or “chop chop”, is a significant problem involving organised crime gangs.”

    Heres the best report you will ever see on how the government fucked up completely, its from 2003….


    “The golden leaves of Australia’s tobacco industry are a goldmine for the Federal Government’s coffers.

    Each year the efforts of less than 150 tobacco growers earn the government almost $5 billion in taxes.

    But a further half a billion dollars worth of tobacco escapes tax through being
    sold illegally on the black market.”

    Half a Billion, in 2003…. i believe the industry in Oz is now dead, due to overregulation.

    “Your talking about the farmer getting $700 for a hundred kilo bale of tobacco, best price he’s able to obtain in the legal market, of which half might very well be his profit which he has to pay tax on and live, the Government’s take is $28,000 so you can understand the disparity, seven dollars a kilo as against $280,” Angelo Rigoni said. ”

    “We had some bales stolen from this shed here. They’d cut the padlock and shifted some of this green tobacco that was in front of the door because we hadn’t finished loading from the night before, and they stole 12 bales, then the excise task force or whatever they are, came around and said that we were responsible for the excise, which was going to add up to $350,000. I mean since then we haven’t heard anymore,” Stefan Saric, Tobacco grower, said.

    Threatened with a letter of demand, the Tax Office backed down after police investigations established it was a genuine robbery and the Saric’s were blameless. ”

    “To be honest with you Tim, I don’ t believe that you’ll ever stop it. Because there’s so much money involved. The only way you would stop it would be to reduce the amount of money that would be available to those who want to operate in that illicit field. And I don’t think the Government’s about to do that. The tax is established and it’s pretty unusual for a Government to reduce them, because they usually go one way and that’s North,” Angie Rigoni said”

    Read the whole thin, its a great bit of reporting.

  • RAB

    Alcohol and food are already on the banstibator Puritan’s list Andrew.

    See this for Dimmitude…


    So yes, we are going to have the ficticious “safe” units displayed on pumps and bottles (we all know that the 24 units a week figure was dreamt up on a back of an envelope by now don’t we?) and we are going to get to read how many calories are in our hamburgers and restaurant meals, as if we fuckin care!

    That will not be a problem for big business like Burger King, but watch what happens when the Local Council inspectors start leaning on you local fish and chip or Kebab shop.

    Well well squire, you haven’t shown the calories in your Savaloy and chips special deal meal. We may have to have the Health inspectors in, if you know what I mean, nudge nudge.

    Here take this card, my cousin’s firm will analyse the calorie content of your food for you, only £500 a go…

    The “Put all cigarettes behind the counter cos it’s advertising!” is already coming in. Not satisfied with that, they are now going for plain cartons and no branding or colourful packets too. They have destroyed half the pubs in Britain with the smoking ban already, but they will not stop and rethink will they?

    Well the good news is that brewing your own beer is still legal, as is growing your own Tobacco. I look forward to Smokeasy’s springing up all over the country.

    If the Govt thinks it can well do without the massive revenue our nasty habits bring to its Coffers, well see how well they do without it, when we start doing it for ourselves. The bastards!

  • “Alcohol has been found outside the Solar system.” (wiki, ever helpful).

    OG of stellar Stella, anyone? It just might make exile in Alpha Centauri some kind of a proposition.

  • RAB

    There is a school of thought that says that Civilisaton itself was borne out of a desire to get pissed on a regular basis, not for a constant supply of wheat and corn to make bread, but to get out of it as regularly as possible.

    Then we could dream impossible dreams, and even while bumping into the furniture, make some them come true.

  • Derek Buxton

    Lansey has already started the process, from here it is all downhill, “prohition here we come. And we all know how successful that was. What I find most disturbing is the fact that the big companies are going along with it. It will, they hope, get rid of the competition to the pubs but it will not. Pubs are in trouble because of politicians primarily but also because the brewers got greedy and hoped for favours from government. They got them,….and their pubs are closing!

  • Derek Buxton

    It should of course be “prohibition”, lazy fingers and flu.

  • Gareth

    The claims of toxic contraband tobacco is presumably backed up by hard and readily published data. I would hate to think the prohibitionists are claiming pain and misery from illicit smokes just to scare people off using them.

  • John B

    The regulatory and semi criminal ethos/associations lead to a furtive mentality where the emphasis is on not getting caught rather than not poisoning yourself.
    Like the bootleg gut-and-brain-rot peddled in the Prohibition.
    Give an activity a bad name and ban it?

  • Samsung

    Cigarettes are becoming the modern day equivalent of 1970’s XXX porn. It’s discreetly kept under the counter away from prying eyes, and handed over under hushed tones in plain wrapping. Remember the good old days when hardcore smut was illegal. It kind of made it more exciting, more ‘riskay’. It was naughty and illicit and Nanny and her State did not approve. This is one of the reasons why cigarettes may become even more fashionable and anti-disestablishment. Smoking a cigarette could become one of societies’ way of saying “Fuck You” to the “Man”.

  • Paul Marks

    The obvious policy is CUT cigarette tax.

    People would smoke less harmful cigarettes (the illegal ones being less attractive on price grounds) and the government would actually get MORE revenue.

    However, like the demented Mayor of New York city (who refuses to see that his vast cigarette tax just promotes organized crime) the British government shows no sign of rationality.

  • RAB

    This from Wiki on Alcohol prohibition in the States…

    Furthermore, stronger liquor surged in popularity because its potency made it more profitable to smuggle. To prevent bootleggers from using industrial ethyl alcohol to produce illegal beverages, the government ordered the poisoning of industrial alcohols. In response, bootleggers hired chemists who successfully renatured the alcohol to make it drinkable. As a response, the Treasury Department required manufacturers to add more deadly poisons, including the particularly deadly methyl alcohol. New York City medical examiners prominently opposed these policies because of the danger to human life. As many as 10,000 people died from drinking denatured alcohol before Prohibition ended.[32]

    The Govt always has your welfare at heart eh?

    And considering all the additives that are in Legal Tobacco, it is much safer to grow your own.

    I can see the Skunk factories being 50/50 Tobacco the way things are going.

  • 'Nuke' Gray

    My mother died from lung cancer, and she got the cancer from cigarettes. I hate the things.
    However, being completely illegal would not stop the trade, so it should not be made illegal to smoke, but it should be very hard to get them, and the only advertising for them should be in magazines, and the airwaves should be devoted to anti-smoking campaigns. And tobacco companies should be very heavily fined if they lie about the effects.

  • John K


    Why should it be made “very hard” to get a legal product? The amount of tax the UK government levies on cigarettes (£4 out of a £5 packet is tax) means that for the poor, prohibition is a de facto reality, hence they buy illegal cigarettes for £2 a pack. The government thus has succeeded in creating a whole new area of organised crime where none existed before. And now they want to make it even harder for legal stores to sell cigarettes. What do you think might happen? Will organised crime increase or decrease? Go on, have a guess!

  • John B

    Is the current anti smoking campaigning mainly being used as a control technique? Is it all about getting hold of another area of peoples’ lives that can controlled and get people accustomed to being told what they may or may not do, or is it about re-educating a public that has been educated into smoking for the last four centuries?
    Are the methods being used actually the best for the stated goal (freeing people from addiction) or do they have another objective?

    People have to take responsibility for their own lives, if that is possible in a world run on advertising and “status” imperatives.
    One has to decide if people can run their own lives or are they so hopeless that the nanny state is necessary?
    Individual freedom and individual responsibility seems the only sane way. All other compromises degenerate the human spirit and are ultimately of no benefit.

    How does one encourage people to be genuinely independent (rather than dependent on my/your free thinking)?
    The machinery for control and influence has never been so pervasive as it is now.
    And I think it is the case that where tools exist they inevitably get used.

  • Very well put, John.

  • 'Nuke' Gray

    Here in Australia, the government shows ads of diseased people, damaged by smoking. I never took up smoking, so I guess the ads worked.