Tobacco numbers up in smoke

Ian Dunn writes:  Re. “Lies, damned lies and the tobacco packaging debate” (yesterday). I sense that the issues of plain packaging of tobacco and gambling reform (specifically pre-commitment) may have much in common. As to mandatory pre-commitment the gambling lobby said, “Pre-commitment will not stop problem gamblers from playing the pokies”.

I think that they are, or were, right. But what they forgot to mention is the effect of pre-commitment  upon those who are not yet problem gamblers but tick so many of the danger boxes that they are liable to become addicted to poker machines. Indeed, in the surveys of problem gambling many expressed concern that they might become addicted.

All the Australian studies showed that numerically this class of potential problem gamblers was, at least,  two to three times larger than the cohort of persons who clearly met the description of problem gamblers. The research, particularly in Canada, suggests that for potential problem gamblers the need to pre-commit to a specific sum may have been a major factor in reducing the likelihood that they would develop a real problem.

I suspect that it is the same with plain packaging of tobacco. I doubt it will much affect the confirmed smoker. But it may well have an effect upon those who smoke occasionally and even more upon those who might be tempted to take it up. I suspect it will be five years before the complete effect of plain packaging can be judged.

Matt Dalton writes: There is an excise on cigarettes that is charged per stick. I would think that you could obtain periodic reporting data of the industry as a whole under FOI from either ATO or Treasury. Starting point could be here.

To mince words

Chris O’Regan writes: Re. “Richard Farmer’s chunky bits” (yesterday). Richard Farmer asserts that using the word “purports” in a news report is the same as “calling Immigration Department officials liars”. That is simply not the case. There is an intrinsic difference between pointing out that a claim from a government official is unverifiable on the one hand and making an accusation of deliberate dishonesty on the other.

Yes, PNG is grim. That’s the point

Richard Barlow writes: Re. “‘No way’: PNG reaction to the boat people plan” (yesterday).I get what Orm Grace is saying about PNG, but isn’t the grimness of the place the point? For deterrence to be effective it needs to be credible, but it is still conceived as a deterrent, not as a final solution for the refugee problem.

The measure of success for the PNG plan would surely be that it stops or reduces the boats.

A real solution

Nicholas Gilbert writes: Re. “The Rudd Solution passes the political test, but can it pass policy test?” (Monday). Rudd’s solution is elegant if brutal, but for the wrong stated reasons. It is population pressure and famine driving refugees to Australia.

Afghanistan has an average 6.6 births per family with the highest population growth rate in the world. The UN estimates its growth from 30 million now to 97 million in 2050, and it is dependent on food aid. Similar scenarios exist in Iran/Iraq and other source countries. Why don’t we spend our aid budget to help solve the problem long term — i.e. on women’s rights, education and family planning?

Peter Fray

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