Smoking: the final solution

Adam Creighton (“Butt out of individual choices”, The Australian, 2/8) employs a reductio ad Hitlerum argument against public efforts to reduce smoking. While he graciously allows that “[g]overnment interference that restrains individuals from inflicting harm on others is not fascism”, he sees checks on private smoking as worthy of the Third Reich because they restrict “individual choices”. But smoking is not a true choice, it is a harmful addiction, like many others which are uncontroversially subject to controls, and one from which tobacco companies profit. Checks on smoking restrain corporations from inflicting harm on individuals. That is not fascism either.

Mr Creighton bases his further claim that “smokers are in fact public benefactors” on a creative recalculation of the social costs of smoking. He achieves this by dismissing lost productivity as “personal” and the costs of loss and grief to the loved ones of those who die from smoking as “rubbish”. He also subtracts from the cost “any personal benefit smokers might derive from smoking”, although what that may be, he doesn’t say.

But Creighton’s accounting masterstroke is to factor in the aged-care savings windfall brought by so many early deaths. Instead of taxing and curbing the tobacco industry, it seems we should be thanking them for providing the final solution to the problem of an aging society.

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