Ah, the logic of fundamentalism. Whatever form it takes it can brook no subtlety, no fine distinction and no possible suggestion that it is ever, ever wrong.
This applies to all fundamentalisms, not just religious or political doctrine.
And now, nowhere is this more obvious than in the tobacco products ‘plain packaging’ debate.
Brendan O’Neill, the lumbering dumbarse who was once associated with the British left magazine Living Marxism and who is now associated with the libertarian Spiked-Online and a resident grumbling wanker in the columns of The Australian has come out in support of big tobacco.
Why am I not surprised?
Because O’Neill is a libertarian conservative who The Australian likes to pretend has got some (acceptable) left credentials. Well he bloody well has none and after today’s effort I would suggest he has zero credibility too.
In his column this weekend O’Neill has the gall (or is that stupidity) to argue that banning bright, colourful and attractive tobacco packaging is an infringement of the free speech rights of the tobacco companies.
What fucking planet are you on, mate?
To confuse the right of the citizenry to enjoy free and unrestricted rights to express political opinions – which is what free speech actually is – with the paid for, commercial process of advertising and branding for commodities is a sign of sickness or idiocy.
But, O’Neill is forced into this philosophical dead end by his own politics. You see, the point he’s actually making is that the so-called ‘free speech’ argument here is just another mantra-humming log to bang over the heads of ‘the government’.
This is more than a trademark issue; it’s a free-speech issue. What is happening here is that companies are being denied the right to publish perfectly reasonable and inoffensive material – the names of their products – and at the same time they’re being forced to publish government propaganda about smoking.
O’Neill continues in this vein for several pars, including:
For years, it was considered paramount in a civilised society that people should be free to publish what they like, and that no one should be forced to parrot the government line, much less publish grotesque images handpicked by the authorities.
[Plain packaging is an infringement of free speech]
So, let’s see…the rights of multinational corporations – the ones who are poisoning us and lying about it – need to be defended because governments are trying to censor their right to advertise their deadly products in order to promote sales and attract new customers.
You remember big tobacco don’t you.
These are the same guys who stood up in front of a US congressional hearing in 1994 and, on oath, claimed that nicotine is not addictive.
Further, Australia, in introducing plain packaging is doing no more than following the World Health Organisation’s guidelines on how to reduce the harm of tobacco products.
Seriously Brendan, put down that thumping great tub and STFU while the facts are explained to you in small words and bright pictures.
Tobacco’s Toll in Health and Lives
- Tobacco use killed 100 million people in the 20th century. If current trends continue, tobacco will kill one billion people in the 21st century.
- Tobacco kills more than 5 million people a year and accounts for one in 10 deaths among adults.
- If current trends persist, tobacco will kill more than 8 million people worldwide annually by the year 2030, with 80 percent of these deaths in low- and middle-income countries.
- Almost a billion men in the world – including half of men in low- and middle-income countries – and 250 million women smoke. If no action is taken, 650 million smokers alive today will eventually die from tobacco-related diseases.
- Tobacco kills prematurely. On average, smokers lose 15 years of life, and up to half of all smokers will die of tobacco-related causes.
- Every day, 80,000 to 100,000 young people around the world become addicted to tobacco. If current trends continue, 250 million children and young people alive today will die from tobacco-related diseases.
- Secondhand smoke kills more than 600,000 people worldwide each year, including 165,000 children.
Tobacco’s Economic Toll
- Tobacco use costs the world an estimated $500 billion each year in health care expenditures, productivity losses, fire damage and other costs.
- Health care costs associated with tobacco related illnesses are extremely high. In the United States, annual tobacco-related health care costs amount to 96 billion USD ; in Germany, 7 billion USD; in Australia, 1 billion USD.
- Tobacco-related illnesses and premature mortality impose high productivity costs to the economy because of sick workers and those who die prematurely during their working years. Lost economic opportunities in highly-populated developing countries will be particularly severe as tobacco use is high and growing in those areas.
- Countries that are net importers of tobacco leaf and tobacco products lose millions of dollars a year in foreign exchanges.
- Fire damage and the related costs are significant. In 2000, about 300,000 or 10 percent of all fire deaths worldwide were caused by smoking and the estimated total cost of fires caused by smoking was 27 billion USD.
- Tobacco production and use damage the environment and divert agricultural land that could be used to grow food.
Brendan, if you want to smoke (do you smoke Brendan?) go ahead. If you don’t smoke you should start now, because otherwise you’re just another stinking free speech hypocrite libertarian nut graf.
The tobacco giants have a long history of infringing the rights of people to use their free speech make claims and present solid evidence that smoking is actually bad for humans; not just those who smoke but anyone who is exposed to second-hand tobacco fumes for any length of time.
By enforcing plain packaging laws governments are actually acting in the public interest – promoting public health and legally attempting to reduce the social harm and the economic cost of smoking.
It is estimated that the negative impact of smoking on the Australian economy is in the order of $1 billion a year. That equates to a lot of very expensive free speech.
Brendan O’Neill is wrong, this is not a ‘censorship’ issue, this is not about an infringement of rights, it is a public health issue.
The tobacco companies have billions of dollars at their disposal to fight the government’s legislation and they have already signaled that they intend to use every legal trick at their disposal to prevent the plain packaging rules being enforced.
Why? Because they know that more and more people are waking up the fact that smoking is a stupid thing to do to yourself and your friends. As this trend continues the tobacco companies will start to lose money.
They are desperate to hang on to the profits they have enjoyed for too long.
O’Neill shows his true colours, like most libertarians, he cloaks his pro-big-business views in a veil of outrage and fuming free speech rhetoric. But at the end of the day the smug prick doesn’t give a shit about anyone except his own smug self.
[Disclaimer: I am a smoker. I have not had a cigarette for about two months. I am hoping that I will never smoke again. I love Benson & Hedges and if I was determined to smoke plain packaging wouldn't stop me.]