Quit­ting turns ash into cash

Feilding-Rangitikei Herald - - Out & About - ROB STOCK rob.stock@fair­fax­me­dia.co.nz

OPIN­ION: Last year I met the global spin-doc­tor of Im­pe­rial Tobacco.

It was rather thrilling. He might just be the most pol­ished talker I ever met.

If there was a world cham­pi­onship for spin, he’d be a con­tender for the gold medal.

I told him I didn’t hear the world Im­pe­rial used much any more, but that it was quite ap­pro­pri­ate for his com­pany con­sid­er­ing the im­pact its cig­a­rettes have on Maori.

He was un­ruf­fled by the com­ment. I got the feel­ing it would take a lot to ruf­fle him.

I suspect my feel­ings about ban­ning cig­a­rettes en­tirely might.

As a coun­try we are within touch­ing dis­tance of be­ing able to out­law the old death sticks.

We have a tar­get of be­ing smoke­free by 2025, and with a bit of po­lit­i­cal brav­ery, we could be.

The Maori Party were the in­spi­ra­tion for the tar­get, and not sur­pris­ingly, given the dis­pro­por­tion­ate num­ber of

Maori who smoke.

I’m not usu­ally a ban­ning sort of man. I’m pretty tol­er­ant of other peo­ple’s choices, but cig­a­rettes aren’t re­ally a choice thing. They’re an ad­dic­tion thing, and as an ex-smoker I know about ad­dic­tion.

Ad­dic­tion makes you a liar, to your­self, to oth­ers. Any­one who says they wouldn’t like to give up ci­garette smok­ing is ly­ing.

But now we have e-cig­a­rettes which de­liver ni­co­tine with­out the harm­ful smoke. Once they are le­galised next year (oh, so slow!), I reckon a health min­is­ter re­ally com­mit­ted to sav­ing lives would give cig­a­rettes un­til Jan­uary 1, 2025, and af­ter that they’d be il­le­gal.

His­tory would re­mem­ber that min­is­ter as a global le­gend, like Ir­ish health min­is­ter Michael Martin, whose pub smok­ing ban was a world-first.

Sure, there’d be a le­gal bat­tle. Tobacco com­pa­nies would sue un­der our trade and in­vest­ment treaties. But those treaties al­low us to take mea­sures to pro­tect pub­lic health.

‘‘I never touched an­other ci­garette. In­stead, I got fit and I got richer.’’

Uruguay (pop­u­la­tion 3.5 mil­lion) proved that by fight­ing off Philip Mor­ris’ at­tempts to stop it bring­ing in plain pack­ag­ing.

I gave up cig­gies when I came back to New Zealand around 15 years ago af­ter leav­ing Lon­don.

I got off the plane and never touched an­other ci­garette. In­stead, I got fit, and I got richer.

A month ago the Gov­ern­ment un­veiled am­bi­tious tar­gets for im­prov­ing Maori in­comes.

It could dou­ble down by ban­ning cig­a­rettes.

I know. Some of you are think­ing I’m a med­dling do­gooder who’ll be af­ter your soft drinks, fatty pies and booze next.

You have an ar­guable point. I am ar­gu­ing for a limited ben­e­fi­cial med­dling in peo­ple’s ‘‘choices’’, so guilty as charged, though I’d die in a ditch in de­fence of my right to a rea­son­ably-priced beer, and your right to eat sweet­ies and fatty life-ru­in­ing take­aways.

But just imag­ine if all the smok­ers saved an an­nual for­tune by switch­ing to va­p­ing.

In many cases that’d be a cou­ple of thou­sand apiece to stick into Ki­wiSaver ev­ery year, but you can cal­cu­late your own sav­ings on the Quit­line web­site.

And the Gov­ern­ment sticks in up to $521.43 a year when you save into Ki­wiSaver.

That’s a hell of an ad­di­tional re­turn on quit­ting.

Come re­tire­ment, for­mer smok­ers would all be laugh­ing, as op­posed to cough­ing.

PHOTO: 123RF

Quit­ting - up there as a fi­nan­cial red-let­ter day along­side buy­ing your first place, and clear­ing the mort­gage.

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