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 Give up cigarettes Invest the money saved Get richer, and get fitter
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.
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 liferuining 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.
Quitting - up there as a financial red-letter day alongside buying your first place, and clearing the mortgage.