The Tonester has since said he will back the tax on cigs and efforts to force them to be treated like hard core hard copy p0rn. But in the initial glow of the government sternly raising cigs in an effort to A) increase revenue and B) use taxation of a noxious activity in order to induce less of it, Tony said a lot more.
That it was at its heart a Tax Grab.
"I'm not in the business of defending smoking, I want to make that absolutely clear, but I also want to make absolutely clear that this is not a health policy, this is a tax grab," Mr Abbott said of the tobacco tax increase in Sydney on Thursday.
"In fact it is a panic tax put in place by a government who's spending is out of control.
"The Rudd government is addicted to spending in the way that some people, sadly, are addicted to nicotine."
In response to changed packaging laws, Mr Abbott said he wanted to see evidence of its effectiveness in reducing smoking habits.
"It is interesting that he wants to put cigarettes in some kind of plain paper envelope, a bit like he wants to wrap up his emissions trading scheme, his big new tax on everything, in a kind of brown paper bag and hide it from the Australian people," Mr Abbott said.
"When I was the health minister we certainly supported graphic health warnings.
"The main thing is that this is a government which isn't fair dinkum about anything."
Great stuff. He used to be a health minister. In fact, here's what the National Tobacco Strategy, 2004-2009 -available on the health department website (Abbott was Minister of Health from 2003 to 2007) - said about taxation on cigs.
6.1.3 Regulation of Tobacco Tax
Taxes on tobacco products increase prices which helps to discourage consumption. The Government provides funding for anti-smoking programs from general revenue through the budget process.
To make tobacco products less affordable.
Evidence of effectiveness
Th e World Bank has concluded that raising tobacco taxes is the single most important step that governments can take to reduce smoking among both adults and young people, particularly in lower socio-economic groups. On average, a 10% increase in the price of cigarettes results in a 4% reduction in smoking by adults and a 16% reduction in children, reducing overall tobacco use but increasing tobacco tax revenue. However, any moves in Australia in this regard will need to be cognisant of the potential for illicit trade and would require further analysis. This would include, but not be limited to, the impact on consumption possibilities (e.g. price elasticities of demand, revenue effects, health effects); and distributional and equity considerations (e.g. would raising excise cause more harm to addicted smokers, who are disproportionately poor, than it would save in terms of preventing young people from smoking?).
Progress in Australia
Since 1983, the excise on tobacco products in Australia has risen in line with the Consumer Price Index (CPI). The retail price of cigarettes has already increased in the last fi ve years through government action. Examination of A New Tax System documentation reveals that after the introduction of per stick excise and the application of GST, premium branded 25s were expected to rise by approximately 6.5%.
Increasing the price of tobacco products will decrease consumption more in low than in high income groups. Nevertheless, tax increases will cause financial stress for people on low incomes unable to quit: price increases would not be acceptable in the absence of greatly improved quality of, access to and affordability of treatment services and therapies (see Section 6.3).
This was just one of the measures from the strategy that were identified for the lowering of smoking rates. Sure, it has some negative side effects on low income punters, but then the positive side effect of not dying statistically far earlier for their giving up smoking probably balances it out.
Tony Abbott was the worst Health Minister I can recall since I gave a shit about politics some 20 odd years ago. This is a man who actually put politic point scoring ahead of the improved quality of life of Australians. Hell, lives of Australians.
I think he also wanked on at some point about how Obesity killed more people than smoking now anyway. Well, you have to eat to live Tony, some of eat more than we should. And only what 20% of Ozzers smoke but 60% of us are overweight for our age?
Yeah ... it probably does kill more. But as I recall Tony, you said that regs on junk food ads was not the way to go either.
Inevitably there will always be some people who are more susceptible than we would like to less-healthy messages, but that's life. The question is, what is a reasonable approach for a responsible government in a free and pluralist society to adopt? You know, I'm sure if I was to decide that particular media outlets, for argument’s sake, were more responsible and better than others, and to try to enhance them and diminish others, people would say that that was very unfair and was the kind of thing that was quite incompatible with the exercise of government authority in a free and democratic society.
Look, I'm a reluctant regulator. Regulation is something we do when absolutely necessary as a last resort, when there is a clear benefit, when the benefits of doing something fairly clearly outweigh the potential cost, including all the transitional costs, then you consider new governmental programs, new governmental regulations.
Look, the point I make is not that some people are influenced for ill by advertising, I don't deny that for a second. The point I make is that we've got to accept a certain amount of suboptimal outcomes because we live in a free society and, to some extent, people need to be able to make their own mistakes.
Actually, I agree with him on the last point. I don't think cigs should be illegal, but I recognise they're insidious and rather pointless at that as well, and I don't have a problem with a whacking great tax on them to encourage punters to give them up.
At any rate, Tony Abbott will say or do anything to succeed in politics. Even flying in the face of facts. But then, that's the right for you.