All posts by Patrick Hannaford

Mandating plain packaging on cigarettes doesn’t work

The Trudeau government’s plan to force tobacco companies to use plain packaging on their products is a paternalistic, nanny-state policy that will fail to reduce smoking rates.

Introduced by Julia Gillard’s Labor government in Australia, plain packaging is the public health lobby’s latest attempt to reduce smoking rates by stigmatizing tobacco products. Under such a policy, tobacco products are sold in specific, government-approved packages designed to minimize their appeal. All product branding is made illegal, with the various brands of cigarettes only distinguishable by the specific font and size of the text on the package. In Australia, the government mandated olive green packages, with health warnings prominently displayed.

The hope that this will reduce smoking rates is based on the absurd, and highly paternalistic, idea that smokers are unable to resist the lure of colourful boxes. Public-health experts assume that, given the universally accepted fact that smoking is bad for your health, smokers must be incapable of resisting the tobacco industry’s marketing.

Yet there’s no evidence to support this. In fact, a study by the European Public Health Association found “no significant association between design and marketing features of tobacco products and an early initiation of regular smoking.”

But what about evidence from Australia? In a peer-reviewed econometric study, economists Sinclair Davidson and Ashton de Silva said there was “no empirical evidence to support the notion that the plain packaging policy has resulted in lower household expenditure on tobacco than there otherwise would have been.” There was even some evidence to suggest household expenditure on tobacco had increased. This may be due to the increased sale of counterfeit tobacco, which is harder to distinguish when plain packages are used.

Indeed, the number of counterfeit tobacco seizures by Australia’s border protection agency increased by 60 per cent from mid-2011 to mid-2013 (a time frame covering the introduction of plain packaging laws). British newspaper The Sun even reported that Indonesian counterfeit tobacco smugglers were cheering when the U.K. decided to follow Australia’s lead.

Ironically, the same public health organizations advocating for plain packaging — despite the evidence it doesn’t work — are completely opposed to e-cigarettes as an alternative to smoking. All evidence shows e-cigarettes are a far safer alternative to smoking, but Health Canada still warns Canadians not to purchase them.

Read the full article at the National Post.

Milo’s appeal has nothing to do with “White identity politics”

The ever-growing battle over campus free speech has a new combatant, with SFL’s own Matthew Needham last week decrying the growing popularity of Milo Yiannopoulos amongst libertarians.

Unfortunately, Needham’s analysis entirely misses the point.

Linking Milo’s provocative, anti-PC style, with the rise of Donald Trump, Needham despairs that this opposition to political correctness distracts from the principles of “individual rights, the rule of law, and limits on government power.”

Needham is particularly perplexed at how so many of his friends support this fight, with some even risking disastrous trade, economic, and foreign policies, by supporting Donald Trump. His explanation is that these friends—and presumably other Milo supporters—must have “bought in to white identity politics.”

I am not one of these friends who support Trump. I view Trump as the most dangerous presidential candidate in living memory, and have previously written that even Bernie Sanders would make a better president.

Having said that, the claim that support for Milo’s antics, and even Trump’s anti-PC style, represents an acceptance of so-called “white identity politics” is nonsense.

The popularity of Milo’s trolling amongst libertarians* has nothing to do with identity politics. It is motivated by a rejection of the infantilizing, anti-free speech culture pervading western societies.

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So-called “Science Guy” open to jail-time for sceptics of a scientific theory

Popular U.S. television personality Bill Nye is the latest public official to show contempt for free speech and intellectual inquiry.

Known for the PBS show he hosted in the 1990s, Bill Nye the Science Guy, Nye is a prominent advocate for action on climate change. And when Climate Depot’s Marc Morano recently asked him what he thought of Robert Kennedy Jr.’s comments that some climate sceptics should be prosecuted as war criminals, Nye seemed supportive. The Washington Times reports:

“We’ll see what happens… In these cases, for me, as a taxpayer and voter, the introduction of this extreme doubt about climate change is affecting my quality of life as a public citizen… So I can see where people are very concerned about this, and they’re pursuing criminal investigations as well as engaging in discussions like this.”

The irony of quashing dissent in the scientific community was apparently lost on Nye, who added “That there is a chilling effect on scientists who are in extreme doubt about climate change, I think that is good.”

The mere fact such a position could be seriously contemplated by a public intellectual, let alone a member of the scientific community — which holds scepticism as a central plank of the scientific method — is a sad reflection on society.

Read the rest on Freedom Watch, here.

Australia’s political class want higher taxes, not real reform

Rarely does a month go by without some Australian politician, journalist, or commentator lamenting the end of Australia’s reform era.

Ex-politicians like Lindsay Tanner, and journalists like Laura Tingle and George Megalogenis, have blamed the inability to enact necessary reforms on everything from the 24-hour news cycle and an over-reliance on opinion polls, to the decline of the federal bureaucracy. Government’s themselves have cited a recalcitrant senate and an opposition that only says no.

What no one seems to have realized is that Australia’s political class doesn’t want real reform. They want high taxes and lavish spending proposals, typical of continental Europe. Nothing highlights this more than the vastly different reactions to Turnbull’s two most recent ideas—high speed rail and the return of income tax to the states.

Read the rest on The Spectator, here.