Tobacco International, Inc

by John Quiggin on July 1, 2014

In December 2012 the Australian Labor government introduced plain packaging laws for cigarettes. The effect was that cigarettes are supplied in drab olive/brown packages, with the main visual element being an (often disturbing) picture of the health effects of smoking. The tobacco industry (in co-ordination with the ubiquitous American Legislative Exchange Council) has fought tooth and nail to stop the laws, notably by ginning up trade disputes with Hong Kong and Ukraine, jurisdictions which have no significant tobacco trade with Australia and which (you might think) have more serious problems of their own to deal with. But so far, they have lost in every Australian court, including the court of public opinion. Despite a change of government, there’s no significant likelihood that the laws will be repealed or substantially modified.

Nevertheless, the leading Murdoch press outlet, The Australian, lovingly known here as the Oz, has launched a bizarre campaign, using secret tobacco industry data to claim that, by depressing prices, the laws have led to an increase in cigarette sales. These claims have been shot down in flames by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the Treasury, and by health experts and bloggers, most notably Stephen Koukoulas .

The campaign is interesting for a couple of reasons

  • First, the commentators wheeled out by The Oz to defend this ludicrous claim are (without exception as far as I can tell) also climate science denialists. This is part of a much broader pattern – nearly all of the climate science denialists who’ve been around long enough got their start in tobacco denialism, as did much of the thinktank apparatus
  • Second, although the campaign was regarded as a bizarre oddity in Australia, where the Oz has lost a lot of credibility with this kind of thing, it was immediately picked up in the UK where (unlike in Australia) plain packaging is still a live issue. It certainly looks as if the Oz is taking one for the team here – shredding its remaining credibility to no real purpose at home, in order to provide a vaguely plausible Australian source for tobacco hacks to cite abroad.

{ 184 comments }

1

Sancho 07.01.14 at 9:58 am

I’d be very interested to know what proportion of the Oz’s readership regards its reputation as tarnished because of this. I feel like most people who pick it up regard it either as down-the-line journalism, and won’t review the data, or as a chunk of red meat for the ideological Right.

2

Sasha Clarkson 07.01.14 at 10:50 am

In a nation-state, when people talk about “defence”, they usually have a foreign power in mind, or perhaps terrorist groups. But, to my mind, the biggest enemy nation states have to face is transnational corporations seeking to subvert and coerce their decision making. The Australian tobacco dispute is a case in point.

We have long seen military action and coups to benefit commercial interests, but generally behind the fig-leaf of national flags. I wonder how soon it will be before transnational corporations start to employ their own mercenaries openly, like the fictional Star Wars Trade Federation, or Dune’s Spacing Guild?

Back to the Oz: the recent trial in London has confirmed my own opinion that News Corp is an international criminal organisation. Murdoch seems like SPECTRE’s Blofeld, but without the charm – I wonder whether he likes cats?

3

Tim Worstall 07.01.14 at 12:13 pm

The reason we in the UK are interested is, as you say, because it’s still a live issue. Should we bring in the plain packaging policy or not?

The argument in favour would obviously be that it has “worked” in some manner in the one place where it has been applied. So we are rather interested in whether it has indeed worked.

The problem is that there’s not really much evidence of it having done so. Yes, I can see Koukoulas making this point:

“Oh Terry! You silly duffer! The volume of tobacco consumed fell 5.3 per cent between the December quarter 2012 and the March quarter 2014, a figure that dovetails with the Treasury data which showed a 3.4 per cent fall during 2013. “

On the other hand a friend of mine in London (just so you know that I’m obviously biased here) has this quote from McCrann:

http://velvetgloveironfist.blogspot.cz/2014/06/that-aussie-plain-packaging-data-again.html

“In the usual cocktail of stupidity and dishonesty, the Kouk cited official statistics showing the volume of tobacco consumption in the March 2014 quarter was 5.3 per cent lower than in the December 2012 quarter when the law came into effect. What he did not point out, and as our graph from the Macrobusiness blog shows, virtually the entire fall came in the March quarter itself — which just happened to follow a thumping 12.5 per cent excise increase.
….
You don’t have to have any particular knowledge of statistics to pick up the clearest signal from the graph. That over the course of 2013 — after plain packaging, the spend on smokes arguably rose and at worst went sideways. This interrupted an equally unambiguous downward trend in the spend. That trend either resumed this year, or because of the big excise thumping.”

As far as I can tell there have been two different things done to ciggies in Oz. One is plain packaging, the other is a rise in the excise tax. Also, as far as I can see from the same set of stats that everyone is using, plain packaging doesn’t seem to have done much and the excise tax rise has.

Please do correct me if I’ve not got this correct. But on this evidence would you be recommending plain packaging in the UK?

4

Trader Joe 07.01.14 at 12:40 pm

@3 Tim
Is there an argument for part of the rise being people stocking up or inventorying ahead of the excise tax increase – which would account for some part of both the apparent rise and the steepness of the drop?

I don’t have a dog in this fight, but its a graph pattern I see a lot in industries where pipeline stuffing often occurs.

5

John Quiggin 07.01.14 at 12:47 pm

As a general rule, I stop reading when I see “Terry McCrann”. He’s reliably wrong about everything. Here’s a fairly typical example
http://johnquiggin.com/2010/08/05/more-on-abbott-and-carbon-taxes/

The debate over tobacco policy is very reminiscent of others I’ve been involved in, where a large set of policy measures is adopted aimed at achieving a given outcome and fairly steady progress towards this outcome is observed (road safety is another). Opponents
(a) Make a big noise over every temporary reversal in the trend, as evidence that policies have failed
(b) In debate on any specific policy, deny that the trend can be attributed to that policy by pointing to the effects of others
As I said, it’s much the same set of people, and almost exactly the same set of institutions in every case. You know these people well from your involvement in the climate change debate, and you know that they are either utterly incompetent or deliberately dishonest when it comes to any kind of statistical reasoning. So, yes, if you are paying attention to them you are wrong.

To be boringly clear, one year’s evidence doesn’t prove much either way. There are strong a priori reasons for supposing that unattractive packaging will reduce tobacco sales in the long run. The ferocity of the industry’s response makes it clear that they believe this also. Experience in Australia is entirely consistent with prior expectations, though of course not conclusive. So, the same evidence that convinced Australia to adopt this policy should lead others to follow suit, and the limited evidence since makes the case a bit stronger.

6

Levelnine 07.01.14 at 1:00 pm

If you haven’t already seen it, Mike Seccombe has a brilliant article on Murdoch’s efforts to discredit the effects of plain packaging: http://www.thesaturdaypaper.com.au/news/politics/2014/06/28/murdoch-and-the-ipa-work-together-big-tobacco/1403877600

7

Tim Worstall 07.01.14 at 1:20 pm

JQ: that’s a rather weaker rejection of the argument being made than I expected.

For example, Koukoulas insisting that consumption has fallen over the period that plain packaging has been introduced is obviously true. But it’s more than a bit off for him to be claiming that it’s because of plain packaging when there’s also been that excise tax rise. To not even mention the excise tax change……

If those are indeed the facts then I’d say that there’s more truthiness to McCrann’s comments than to Koukoulas’.

As with Trader Joe I’ve no dog in this fight (it’s the IEA in London arguing again plain packaging, not us at the ASI and I don’t even live in Britain so won’t ever see the packs even) but it would be nice to see some evidence that the policy has actually worked.

Over and above that rather weak “well, we expect it to work and therefore”.

You’d never accept that sort of argument in reverse: we expect corporate tax cuts to increase job creation therefore any increase, no matter whatever else happens, after a corporate tax cut can be put down to the success in cutting taxes. Doesn’t fly as evidence, does it?

8

Ed 07.01.14 at 1:35 pm

I agree with the tobacco lobby!

OK, I think they have a point. The issue to me is the extent to which the government can dictate how private companies and vendors can package and advertise their products. And this particular instance falls right around where the line should be drawn.

Smokers nowadays are mostly rednecks, so they fall on the wrong side of the culture struggle from most of the readers on this site. But if the US federal government decided that the approach it would take to the attempted legalization of canabis in some states would be to stipulate that it could only be sold in unattractive or repellent packaging, to drive down sales, I can imagine the sort of ridicule Crooked Timber commentators would put on that.

Where I think the line should be drawn is that laws and regulations restricting commercial advertising are OK and often desirable. The government can and should, for example ban knowingly making false claims to sell a product, ban commercial advertising altogether from certain venues, even ban the use of pictures of attractive models to sell products, etc. So the plain brown wrappers are fine, though I’d prefer that this was done across the board instead of for one particular product. But the government should not be able to dictate the content of what advertising it allows, including determining content to essentially force companies to drive down sales of their own products. So I agree that the tobacco companies should not be forced to put disturbing images on their own products. The government could pay for its own advertising campaign -paid for by revenues from taxes on tobacco!- where it broadcasts the disturbing images of the effects of smoking. The line is drawn the condition for access to a venue where you can speak is that you have to use it to say things the government wants you to say.

9

Ben Alpers 07.01.14 at 2:19 pm

Ed@8: The issue to me is the extent to which the government can dictate how private companies and vendors can package and advertise their products. . .But the government should not be able to dictate the content of what advertising it allows, including determining content to essentially force companies to drive down sales of their own products.

Of course, the government already does this, quite extensively, with tobacco in both the US and the UK by requiring warning labels on the package and restricting tobacco advertising aimed at minors in various ways. And the reasons are quite clear: tobacco is an unusually dangerous substance whose use creates real social costs. So there is a public interest in limiting its use even while respecting the rights of adults to us it in ways that have minimal impact on those who don’t choose to do so. At any rate, Ed is arguing not only against plain packaging, but against the last forty years or so of regulation on tobacco advertising. He really does agree with the tobacco lobby.

Here’s where I most dramatically disagree with Ed:

The line is drawn the condition for access to a venue where you can speak is that you have to use it to say things the government wants you to say.

Corporations are legal fictions. They are not people. It’s time we stop treating them as persons in regard to our legal and moral reasoning. Of course, as yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling indicated, we’re moving in the opposite direction. In addition to imagining that corporations have the right to free speech (and that money = speech), we now pretend that they have free exercise rights, too.

10

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© 07.01.14 at 2:25 pm

Rupert Murdoch, global scourge.

You have to admit he’s done a hell of a jerb of making life better for the global 0.1%, and worse for almost everybody else.
~

11

John Quiggin 07.01.14 at 2:31 pm

@Tim You’ve missed the point fairly thoroughly. No one on the public health side of the debate was or is claiming conclusive evidence that plain packaging has reduced smoking.

Rather, the Oz made the affirmative claim, allegedly based on secret data, that smoking had actually increased since the policy was introduced. The rebuttals showed conclusively that smoking has decreased. The Oz team then shifted to the suggestion that there had been a blip in one quarter, and that the continued decline was due to the increase in excise and not to plain packaging. Given limited data, this can’t be proved either way.

This is a classic example of the Two Step of Terrific Triviality. As I said, you are thoroughly familiar with this kind of thing, from the same people, as regards climate change

12

Pascal Leduc 07.01.14 at 2:46 pm

The relationship between smoking denialists and climate change deniers was demonstrated in Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway’s wonderfull book “Merchants of Doubt”.

Packaging laws also exist in Canada where 50% of the front and back face of the cigarette package is occupied by a gory picture of some kind of cancer or smoking related illness. The Canadian health services seem to like it. And as a single payer country I appreciate such measures on the governmental bottom line.

13

Pirate Laddie 07.01.14 at 2:48 pm

Murdoch & Cats? Yes, he’s quite fond of them, actually. Understand he prefers them bbq’ed. When serving them to guests (doubt if he has “friends”), they’re referred to as “cabrito.” Yummy yummy.

14

Tim Worstall 07.01.14 at 3:15 pm

John, so let’s compare it to climate change then. You say $50 a tonne for the carbon tax, Stern $80, Nordhaus $15 then rising over the decades to $250 and Tol $15 now and forever. Within the constraints and assumptions used by each each number is entirely defensible. I tend to go along with the Nordhaus one.

OK, great. But this doesn’t mean that because we all agree that a carbon tax is the right thing to do (as, with tobacco, measures to reduce consumption might be a good thing to do) that we should then accept just any old stuff on the subject. Like Hansen’s idea that it should be $1,000 (in the actual paper, he’s really arguing that the right number might be “up to” $1,000).

So with plain packaging or anything else about tobacco. Assume that the aim is to reduce consumption: OK, does it?

15

John Quiggin 07.01.14 at 3:40 pm

To restate: there’s ample evidence (available before the policy was introduced) on which to conclude that plain packaging is likely to reduce consumption, particularly by discouraging starts and encouraging quits. But, obviously, looking at one year of data with another anti-smoking measure in the same year, you can’t make a conclusive inference.

OTOH, if smoking had actually increased, swamping both the tax and the long-term trend, that would be pretty good evidence against plain packaging. That’s exactly what the Oz claimed, and it wasn’t true.

16

cs 07.01.14 at 3:44 pm

Tim Worstall: what is your point? Government should avoid all interventions that haven’t been emperically proven to work? Sometimes there is no way to rigorously test that other than to do the intervention. Especially when the intervention is designed to work mostly over the long term.

17

MPAVictoria 07.01.14 at 4:13 pm

“OK, does it?”

Let’s try and find out! I mean there isn’t any downside. Who cares if evil death stick selling corporations don’t like it?

18

novakant 07.01.14 at 4:37 pm

Yeah let’s restrict advertising for and put plain packaging with disgusting pictures on alcohol, ready meals, junk food – oh and what about cars, petrol and the whole shebang …

19

Chris Grant 07.01.14 at 4:37 pm

“nearly all of the climate science denialists who’ve been around long enough got their start in tobacco denialism”

John, in your April 23, 2006, post, you said that “many climate skeptics” were paid tobacco advocates, and you named three of them: Singer, Seitz, and Milloy. Your current claim appears much stronger. Is it hyperbole?

20

rea 07.01.14 at 4:48 pm

Chris Grant @ 18–climate change denialism has been heavily funded by the tobacco industry, looking for an advantage in its own struggle against science-based regulation.
See, e. g.,
http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2006/sep/19/ethicalliving.g2

21

roy belmont 07.01.14 at 8:13 pm

Everyone knows smoking tobacco is seriously bad for your health.
What most people don’t know is that, because tobacco is not a food product, the regulations regarding the use of pesticides on that lucrative crop, which is highly susceptible to insect depredation, are substantially more lenient, where they exist at all, than the already moderately dubious restrictions on food.
I feel safe saying it’s a lot of pesticides on there. One online estimate is 25 million pounds, in the US, annually.
Or to be more precise a whole bunch.
Be interesting to see a graph of lung cancer rates and pesticide use.
Everybody knows, sort of intuitively, that lighting pesticide residues on fire and inhaling the smoke is probably really really bad for you.

22

John Quiggin 07.01.14 at 8:42 pm

@Chris Not hyperbolic at all. At an institutional level, the overlap is pretty much 100 per cent. In the US, ALEC, Heartland, Cato, AEI, CEI. In the UK, IEA. In Oz, IPA and CIS. Everywhere Murdoch press.

At an individual level, in the US, there’s Roger Bate and the whole ESEF outfit as well as the other names I’ve mentioned, as well as Lindzen. In the UK, Booker and others. And as I said, in Oz, there’s Davidson, Ergas, McCrann, Sloan lining up for tobacco – every oen of them a climate denialist.

23

J Thomas 07.01.14 at 9:03 pm

#16
Let’s try and find out! I mean there isn’t any downside. Who cares if evil death stick selling corporations don’t like it?

Yes! We can hardly find out whether it works without trying it.

Maybe it would be good to start with controlled trials. Require half of each case of cigarettes to have the new packaging, and notice which sells faster.

Then require half of the distribution pathways to get only the new packages, while the other half get 50% advertising-company-generated packaging.

And then, regardless of the results, phase out the old packaging everywhere.

Alternatively, some people object to restrictions on packaging, but most people agree it’s OK to collect taxes. Why not raise the tax until more than half the tobacco sold is bootlegged? Tobacco smugglers will raise the price and reduce the quality even when they evade the tax, and that’s the important part.

The problem I have is the hordes of addicts who would feel persecuted. I don’t mind offending tobacco corporations, but it’s a lot of voters. Something like 18%. Eight out of nine of them say they wish they’d never started, and almost that many say they want to quit, but that doesn’t mean they’d actually try to quit or vote for candidates who would want to make it less convenient.

24

The Tragically Flip 07.01.14 at 9:29 pm

Did a similar thing happen with Australia’s experience with gun control? Gun nuts in North America regularly cite dubious numbers and claims about the supposed failure of gun control in Oz. Wouldn’t surprise me to see the same merchants of doubt behind it, laughed out of the room in Australia, but widely cited abroad.

25

The Tragically Flip 07.01.14 at 9:37 pm

The idea that resricting acctractive packaging would not dampen sales over time is pretty ludicrous. Most every business and product sold to consumers spends a hell of a lot on fancy full colour packaging. Maybe the entire marketing world has it wrong and has spent a fortune to no effect, but it seems preposterously unlikely.

26

David Hobby 07.01.14 at 10:22 pm

Flip– It could be that the tobacco companies spend a lot on packaging and advertising because they are competing with each other. Drab, unadvertised cigarettes don’t sell well if they’re next to brightly-packaged advertised ones. (Particularly if there’s a minimum price per pack, so they can’t compete much on price.)

But make them all drab, and I bet there’s little short-term impact on total demand.

27

Bruce Wilder 07.01.14 at 10:45 pm

I bet there’s little short-term impact on total demand.

OK, fine, let me know where you place your bet.

28

Sancho 07.01.14 at 11:06 pm

Plain packaging is also intended to reduce take-up of smoking among adolescents. We won’t know the full effect until at least 2020, but as others have mentioned, the fact that the tobacco companies screamed blue murder about the change is a pretty good indicator of what their own market research is saying.

[Please delete comment in moderation. Phone insists on using my full fake name.]

29

J Thomas 07.02.14 at 12:03 am

But make them all drab, and I bet there’s little short-term impact on total demand.

That’s quite possible. What does it say about consumers?

Many companies spend about 10% of sales income on marketing. You prefer to pay 10% more for the advertising and packaging etc which is intended to persuade you the product is good independent of how good the product is. You could spend a tiny fraction of that to pay for consumer research, but then if buyers paid attention to that the companies might spend as much as 10% of income to bribe the researchers….

Maybe it’s kind of like sexual selection. A moose who can carry around a gigantic set of moose antlers proves that he’s very healthy — he must be doing something right — because otherwise he couldn’t hold his head up. A company that can afford to do a lot of splashy marketing must have a lot of money, so their product is probably decent.

I dunno. There ought to be a better way. Whoever found it could get a big competitive advantage.

30

Nick 07.02.14 at 12:17 am

The tobacco industry’s response to plain-packaging was to flood the market with cheap tobacco.

That would explain the “blip” – a short-term reduction in the long-term rate of decline of tobacco sales – seen in the ABS’s quarterly business survey statistics. For six months or so at lease, until the next excise rise, tobacco became a moderately more affordable commodity again.

As BAT Australia chief David Crow was quoted as saying in the linked article: the cheaper tobacco “basically means more people will smoke, more kids will smoke”. Charming.

Contrary to his claim they did this because plain-packaging would result in an increase in black-market imports they’d have to compete with (sheer supposition) – it is highly arguable their actual reason was to effect the temporary reduction in rates of decline they got – and therefore ‘prove’ that plain-packaging doesn’t work…

31

Nick 07.02.14 at 12:21 am

(For six months or so at lease least)

32

Sancho 07.02.14 at 1:33 am

Yeah, AFAICT a lot of the tobacco lobby’s argument boils down to claiming, without evidence, that the statistics are wrong because smokers are now buying heaps of chop-chop.

33

Peter T 07.02.14 at 2:36 am

Australia’s anti-smoking strategy has multiple inter-related elements, which together have been remarkably successful in steadily reducing consumption (from a high of 70% of adults to around 17% today, dropping at a more or less constant rate since the 70s). For instance, public health warnings are known to have little direct impact, but do make it easier to introduce restrictions on where one can smoke (first workplaces, then restaurants, now in cars if there are children present) and restrictions on advertising. These are coupled with increases in price, changes in excise collection from point of sale to point of manufacture (so no discounting), measures against illegal imports, phase-out of domestic tobacco growing and so on. As the habit decreases, measures try to target take-up by the young. Plain packaging is one such. Six-monthly or year-on-year statistics are pretty much useless – there are inevitable small ups and downs. It’s the five year trends that count.

I would be surprised if this measure did not further reduce take-up. And if – as with previous measures – the industry tries some work-around, well that can be dealt with.

34

Tim Worstall 07.02.14 at 5:48 am

John: ” But, obviously, looking at one year of data with another anti-smoking measure in the same year, you can’t make a conclusive inference.”

Well, no, not really. There were two measures, yes, but they came in one year apart. Plain packaging one year before the excise rise. And plain packaging appears, at best, to have done not very much. The excise rise had a decent sized effect. Or perhaps we should say that there’s not much effect around the time of plain packaging and there is some effect around the time of the tax rise.

That’s actually the evidence in play. That the two measures came in far enough apart that we can see what effect each had.

“OTOH, if smoking had actually increased, swamping both the tax and the long-term trend, that would be pretty good evidence against plain packaging. That’s exactly what the Oz claimed, and it wasn’t true.”

http://velvetgloveironfist.blogspot.cz/2014/06/that-aussie-plain-packaging-data-again.html

That chart there appears to be saying just that. Is it entirely made up?

“Tim Worstall: what is your point? Government should avoid all interventions that haven’t been emperically proven to work? Sometimes there is no way to rigorously test that other than to do the intervention.”

I’m extremely grateful to Australians for actually undertaking this research. For it means that before (as many are arguing the UK should) the UK does the same thing then there is actually empirical evidence by which to judge the policy. And so far the evidence seems to be that plain packaging, at best, does nothing very much while tax rises have a decent sized effect.

It would therefore seem that the correct way to reduce smoking rate further is to increase the tax rate. Empirical evidence: tells you what works and what doesn’t.

35

J Thomas 07.02.14 at 6:46 am

It would therefore seem that the correct way to reduce smoking rate further is to increase the tax rate. Empirical evidence: tells you what works and what doesn’t.

On the other hand, since plain packaging costs essentially nothing to require, there is no reason not to do it.

We might as well do everything that might do some good, provided it does no harm.

36

Sasha Clarkson 07.02.14 at 8:11 am

I remember, more than 40 years ago, the vilification of Barbara Castle when she introduced the breathalyser and mandatory disqualification for drink-driving. And for a while people caught by the law complained about the police and often received social sympathy. Not now though: drink driving is no longer socially acceptable.

It takes time for society to change – and yes, restrictions on smoking are a kind of democratic social engineering: a fight back against commercial interests which attempt social engineering/brainwashing every day via the advertising “industry”. Plain packaging is part of that democratic social engineering process: one more step in the deglamourising of a filthy and too-often fatal habit.

37

John Quiggin 07.02.14 at 8:16 am

“OTOH, if smoking had actually increased, swamping both the tax and the long-term trend, that would be pretty good evidence against plain packaging. That’s exactly what the Oz claimed, and it wasn’t true.”

http://velvetgloveironfist.blogspot.cz/2014/06/that-aussie-plain-packaging-data-again.html

That chart there appears to be saying just that. Is it entirely made up? “

Maybe you need to work on your reading and graph comprehension here. The chart shows a decline throughout, and a decline in the period from plain packaging to the present. So, if plain packaging caused an increase it was *not* enough to swamp the trend and other policy measures such as the tax increase. The original claim by the Oz was precisely that, and it is obviously false.

Now the apologists are resorting the claim that the minor blip in the quarter before the tax increase came in, which was followed by a bigger than usual drop, was the effect of plain packaging. A more plausible explanations (already raised several times, but ignored by your source) is that people were stocking up in advance of the price rise. But it’s also consistent with plain old random variation about the trend.

I am disappointed in your resolute delusionism in this. I thought you had learned something from your time at Planet Gore.

38

Peter T 07.02.14 at 8:22 am

re Tim’s comment above – one cannot disaggregate measures like that. Yes, price increases`work, but they carry a political cost and encourage evasion. So increases have to be limited. The aim is to reduce desirability, which is as much social as economic. Pulling out a putty coloured packet with a picture of a diseased lung on it is uncool. In Australia, ads have shifted from an emphasis on smoking is unhealthy to more “smoking is for losers”. But what works best is in part determined by how many smoke and who they are, and what groups take it up. Simple supply/demand calculations don’t hack it.

39

Collin Street 07.02.14 at 11:35 am

> Is it entirely made up?

Because anything that isn’t entirely 100% confection from top to bottom must therefore be worthy of consideration.

[note the pretty distinctive "but maybe not!" structuring here: a good-faith actor would have advanced a positive claim, that the statement contained some sort of useful truth. "Avoids making positive claims, asks for more evidence/certainty on positive claims made by others" is a pretty reliably heuristic for identifying people-who-should-be-ignored, IME.]

40

Alphonse 07.02.14 at 1:11 pm

@,

If a marketer is opposing a measure with an argument that the measure is doing the marketer’s revenue no harm, you know you are hearing specious self-serving bullshit.

When you write “measures to reduce consumption might be a good thing to do” with a “might be” rather than an “are”, you reveal why you are buying into that specious self-serving bullshit.

If your true concern is consumption increase – big if – and you don’t know whether plain packaging or excise is more effective to reduce consumption, it’s a no brainer; deploy both measures.

41

Tim Worstall 07.02.14 at 1:39 pm

“So, if plain packaging caused an increase it was *not* enough to swamp the trend and other policy measures such as the tax increase.”

Entirely true, I’ve never claimed otherwise. But we don’t seem to have any evidence that plain packaging actually had any beneficial effect either.

The reason for my interest is, as at the top, that this is a live political issue in the UK. There are those arguing that the UK should move to plain packaging. One of their arguments is that Oz has done so and the smoking rate has gone down. Great, so let’s do it!

But while the smoking rate has indeed gone down there doesn’t seem to be any evidence that plain packaging had anything to do with it. So perhaps it’s not a good policy?

This is going a little off point but we’ve a closely related (in a UK political sense it’s closely related) argument about minimum pricing for booze. Sure, making low cost booze higher priced would lead to lower consumption. But the campaigners are insisting that it should be a legislated minimum price rather than a rise in excise duty. Meaning that the revenues from that minimum price will go to producers/retailers rather than the public purse.

Which sounds like an entirely crazy proposal to me. Why would you want to protect the margins of producers? Why not capture that higher revenue to pay for all those exploded livers that are the justification for the higher price/lower consumption in hte first place?

Agreed, from Australia these might not look like related points. But they are arguments being put forward but pretty much the same people, plain packaging and minimum booze prices (in the UK context) and given that I think one of them is obviously barmy I’m clearly going to look at the other with a rather jaundiced eye.

As you said:

“As I said, it’s much the same set of people, and almost exactly the same set of institutions in every case.”

Well quite.

42

P O'Neill 07.02.14 at 2:39 pm

One of the arguments that’s being wheeled out in Ireland (where a plain packaging proposal is furthest advanced legislatively) is intellectual property. Here’s Bob Goodlatte (R-Philip Morris) writing to the Irish Ambassador in Washington DC –

“I believe plain packaging would unfairly restrict the intellectual property of a legal product and that such a policy sets a dangerous precedent for other legal products that critics may cite as causing health concerns – for example, alcohol products and foods containing sugar or that are high in fat,” Mr Goodlatte wrote in a letter with Tuesday’s date. “I believe such a move would mark the beginning of a troubling trend of countries restricting the intellectual property of legal products about which they may philosophically disagree.” He warned that undermining intellectual product would be “an invitation for counterfeit goods” that are dangerous for consumers and that it would be “very difficult and costly” to combat the trafficking of counterfeit goods, which are often linked to other forms of crime.

The smuggling argument requires its own two-step, including blurring the distinction between “counterfeit” and “contraband.”

43

RosencrantzisDead 07.02.14 at 2:40 pm

@Tim Worstall (41)

“[Minimum alcohol pricing over an increase in excise]sounds like an entirely crazy proposal to me. Why would you want to protect the margins of producers? Why not capture that higher revenue to pay for all those exploded livers that are the justification for the higher price/lower consumption in hte first place?”

The purpose of a minimum price is to prevent large retailers using alcohol as a loss leader and to kerb the sale of high ABV, large quantity drink products (3 litre bottles of cider with a 5% ABV etc.). These products contribute to binge drinking. Many retailers absorb the cost of an excise increase because they have discovered that low price alcohol is quite lucrative for them. A minimum price alone, I agree, is not sensible because it merely removes a competitive pressure on smaller retailers and pubs. In Ireland, the publican’s lobby have fiercely backed a minimum price law. The recession saw more people purchasing cheaper alcohol in supermarkets and drinking at home rather than going to a pub. However, the answer here is simple: have a minimum price per unit and effect an excise increase and you should curb alcohol consumption across the board.

Returning to the topic at hand, plain packaging is also supposed to reduce uptake in smoking by teenagers and young adults as other have said above. Tobacco companies routinely kill their best customers so they need a steady flow of new consumers. People start smoking because they see it as a status symbol. An attractive package is part of maintaining the high status of the cigarette. Plain packaging undermines this strategy. If we want to see if this is effective, we should give it longer than a year or two.

44

Map Maker 07.02.14 at 2:46 pm

Tobacco is always a fun one, where modern liberals and conservatives switch side, with liberals supporting regressive taxes and conservatives supporting individual choice.

It is always important in my mind, when tobacco comes up, to remember this point is commonly held, but very wrong:

“And the reasons are quite clear: tobacco is an unusually dangerous substance whose use creates real social costs”

The real social costs are negative in the US. Cigarette smokers die younger and quicker than non-smokers. The savings from shortened social security and medicare payments more than offset the accelerated medical costs associated with their premature deaths.

Smokers are to be pitied and helped to quit IMHO, but to pretend that all these taxes and restrictions are to right a social cost is pure rubbish.

45

sPh 07.02.14 at 3:03 pm

<blockquotei>”but to pretend that all these taxes and restrictions are to right a social cost is pure rubbish”

Let me introduce you to Mr. Exernality. Having grown up in a household and a community of smokers I can assure you he is not your friend.

46

Trader Joe 07.02.14 at 3:44 pm

@44
Its also interesting to follow a thread where participants have consistently and ardently defended the legalization of marijuana and then likewise chastise and rebuke tobacco companies for selling ‘death sticks’ and preying on the young.

47

Layman 07.02.14 at 3:54 pm

“The real social costs are negative in the US.”

Got any data? Something which counters this?

http://usgovinfo.about.com/od/medicalnews/a/smokingcosts.htm

48

Niall McAuley 07.02.14 at 3:57 pm

“Social cost” does not just mean tax dollars. Millions of dead citizens are another kind of cost.

49

Layman 07.02.14 at 3:57 pm

“Its also interesting to follow a thread where participants have consistently and ardently defended the legalization of marijuana and then likewise chastise and rebuke tobacco companies for selling ‘death sticks’ and preying on the young.”

Not very inconsistent, since tobacco apparently kills people & marijuana apparently doesn’t.

50

J Thomas 07.02.14 at 4:21 pm

#41

The reason for my interest is, as at the top, that this is a live political issue in the UK. There are those arguing that the UK should move to plain packaging. One of their arguments is that Oz has done so and the smoking rate has gone down. Great, so let’s do it!

But while the smoking rate has indeed gone down there doesn’t seem to be any evidence that plain packaging had anything to do with it. So perhaps it’s not a good policy?

There’s no evidence it would do anybody any harm. Usually I like the argument that government should do the least that’s practical, and do nothing that lacks a good reason. But this time it looks cheap. It doesn’t take a lot of enforcement, tobacco companies will tattle on each other if they see somebody breaking the rules.

Probably the packaging does not increase total sales much. They’re selling to addicts, who buy what they need. Likely the packaging has some influence on which cigarettes people buy, a brand attracts some smokers and repels others, and the money spent on pretty packaging may be a zero-sum game. Make them stop, and likely they can increase profits or reduce price, while their artists and advertising voodoo experts will do other work which we can hope is more useful.

So to me it looks like:

A: packaging does not affect sales: Harmless.
B: packaging reduces sales: Good.

The only argument I can see against it is slippery-slope, if we let the government do this harmless example it encourages them to do more and then they’re likely to do something bad.

This is going a little off point but we’ve a closely related (in a UK political sense it’s closely related) argument about minimum pricing for booze. Sure, making low cost booze higher priced would lead to lower consumption. But the campaigners are insisting that it should be a legislated minimum price rather than a rise in excise duty. Meaning that the revenues from that minimum price will go to producers/retailers rather than the public purse.

Which sounds like an entirely crazy proposal to me. Why would you want to protect the margins of producers? Why not capture that higher revenue to pay for all those exploded livers that are the justification for the higher price/lower consumption in hte first place?

I have not fully thought this out, but just try out the idea: If it’s a tax, vendors have an incentive to evade the tax if they can. Why take money out of their customers’ pockets and send it to the government, if they can find a way not to? Report some thefts and pilferage, and sell some of the stock cheap, etc. The only downside is the risk of getting caught.

But if the government requires vendors to sell at a high price and keep the money, the negotiation looks different.

“How about you give me a discount, I’ll keep it quiet-like, you can depend on it.”

“I daresay you would since it would be your criminal act too. It’s against the law for me to sell this cheap, and I’m a law-abiding citizen, I am.”

“Well, but Tom Sawyer down the road, he does discounts and he gets a lot of business because of it. You want a lot of business don’t you?”

“Well then you should buy from him! You tell me you’ll keep it quiet if I do, and then you spread Tom’s name like it was legal? Gerroff with you! You’ll get no discounts here!”

If the government wants high prices more then it wants the revenue from the tax, it could do worse than appeal to vendors’ self interest.

51

J Thomas 07.02.14 at 4:27 pm

#44

The real social costs are negative in the US. Cigarette smokers die younger and quicker than non-smokers. The savings from shortened social security and medicare payments more than offset the accelerated medical costs associated with their premature deaths.

Then wouldn’t it make sense to encourage people to die as soon as they reach retirement age?

Since they contribute nothing after they quit working and are only liabilities to society, who needs them?

Smoking is chancy and imprecise. They might die early while they’re still useful. They might hang on for many years of retirement, gradually coughing their lungs out and costing even more.

Better to get something that works better. The better we do at getting them to suicide right after retirement, the better we meet your goal.

52

Map Maker 07.02.14 at 5:02 pm

re: # 46 armchair economist did a number of pieces:
http://theincidentaleconomist.com/wordpress/the-cost-of-smoking-iv-external-costs/

His numbers are a bit higher than mine, but he is also mixing some private costs with public/social. I’m too busy to look up other studies that exclude those, but yes, the net public/social/taxpayer cost is negative.

re: # 47

We could be using different terminology, I mean social costs as costs borne by the public taxpayer. As an aside, smoking does not cause death, only premature death. There is a difference between the two.

re: 50, what goal? I don’t have an agenda.

53

MPAVictoria 07.02.14 at 5:14 pm

“Not very inconsistent, since tobacco apparently kills people & marijuana apparently doesn’t.”

Pretty much.

54

MPAVictoria 07.02.14 at 5:17 pm

“smoking does not cause death, only premature death”

Shooting someone does not cause death, only premature death.

55

Sasha Clarkson 07.02.14 at 5:51 pm

Well done MPAV @53 ! :D – that particularly nasty bit of dishonest sophistry needed to be shot down in flames!

“Only” premature death can be, agonising and undignified. For example, secondary brain tumours from lung cancer are particularly common.

http://lungcancer.about.com/od/treatmentoflungcancer/a/lungbraincancer.htm

56

Layman 07.02.14 at 5:54 pm

Map Maker @ 51

This is how your link summarizes the analysis:

“I talked with a reporter last week who asked me a simple question:

do smokers actually save society money because they die sooner?
The short answer is no, smoking imposes large costs on society. However, as I talked with the reporter, I realized that he had many questions underneath this simple one, that not only related to aggregate or net costs (social cost), but to the distribution of costs (who bears the burden).”

That ‘no’ looms large. Are you sure this analysis supports your claim?

57

novakant 07.02.14 at 6:21 pm

The only argument I can see against it is slippery-slope, if we let the government do this harmless example it encourages them to do more and then they’re likely to do something bad.

I think we’re already quite far down the slippery slope of puritanical zeal trumping all other concerns, e.g. censorship and – soon at a theatre near you? – curtailing freedom of expression – after all, where’s the harm?

58

Ogden Wernstrom 07.02.14 at 6:45 pm

Map Maker is already dead to me. It’s only a matter of time, so why raise a fuss over when?

Before I came to terms with Map Maker’s death, I realized the social costs that my 89- and 85-year-old parents have inflicted on the rest of us, and I apologise on their behalf that they each quit smoking long ago, thereby prolonging the social burden. I am particularly embarrassed that my mother increased that social burden by having part of a lung removed 20+ years ago, only a couple of years before she began collecting on various pensions. (I’ll need some time to figure out where that money would have gone, and the social benefits that would accrue – if only she’d had the decency to succumb.)

Now I am considering whether we need encourage people to avoid early detection of cancer. But that would be suspiciously agenda-like, and in honor of the late Map Maker I have decided to become agenda-free. From this point forward, nothing I say shall be construed to have meaning, and my statements are not warranted as suitable for any specific purpose, including argument.

59

J Thomas 07.02.14 at 6:50 pm

I think we’re already quite far down the slippery slope of puritanical zeal trumping all other concerns, e.g. censorship and – soon at a theatre near you? – curtailing freedom of expression – after all, where’s the harm?

So which infringements should we concentrate our resources on? The ones that are obviously harmful, or the ones that look completely harmless?

If we have unlimited resources then we can oppose everything bad with our full strength. But this doesn’t look like a good candidate to me. If it works it has a good outcome. If it doesn’t work it has an irrelevant outcome. The only way we get a problem is if it has unexpected harmful results. But it could easily also have unexpected good results. We could argue that anything we do could have unexpected harmful results, and hiding under the bed trying to avoid all actions has predictable bad results….

60

johne 07.02.14 at 6:55 pm

@2 Sasha:
“We have long seen military action and coups to benefit commercial interests, but generally behind the fig-leaf of national flags. I wonder how soon it will be before transnational corporations start to employ their own mercenaries openly….”

Not so far removed are the recent reports of a Blackwater manager who headed off a State Department investigation of his operation by openly threatening to murder the investigator.
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/30/us/before-shooting-in-iraq-warning-on-blackwater.html

61

J Thomas 07.02.14 at 6:55 pm

#48

Not very inconsistent, since tobacco apparently kills people & marijuana apparently doesn’t.

Edgar Cayce claimed that smoking tobacco is good for your health. He suggested smoking up to 3 cigarettes a day, but more than that would be bad.

I have no particularly reason to believe Edgar Cayce, but it seems kind of plausible to me. People who smoke no more than 3 cigarettes a day might easily have no worse health effects than people who smoke no more than 3 marijuana roaches a day.

62

MPAVictoria 07.02.14 at 7:00 pm

“Not so far removed are the recent reports of a Blackwater manager who headed off a State Department investigation of his operation by openly threatening to murder the investigator.
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/30/us/before-shooting-in-iraq-warning-on-blackwater.html

You know even after everything I am amazed that he got away with that. Incredible.

63

Matt 07.02.14 at 8:26 pm

For the record, I welcome measures that reduce tobacco sales and use. I have lost smoking friends and relatives to lung cancer, and I don’t miss them in financial terms.

That said, it seems like an unfair bait-and-switch to make the case against smoking with hard-nosed figures expressed as financial costs, then decry the monster whose figuring might show that dead smokers save public money. I rather doubt that JQ intended the narrow, dollar denominated meaning of “social costs” in the original post. But I have seen this happen fairly often in debates about tobacco, alcohol, and the legalization of currently banned drugs. A says “this will cost X billion dollars in premature deaths” and B retorts “but premature deaths will save Y billion dollars in social security payouts and Alzheimer’s care.” Then A or an ally of A accuses B of being a callous bastard for seeing human lifetimes only as dollars, even though A was the first to deploy that analytical framework.

It brings to mind this recent post: Back in the early 1900s, Charles Beard noted that merely to tell Americans that their factories were injuring workers more wantonly than those of any other country would fail to move a nation so fixated on profit. You had, he said (and I’m paraphrasing, because I’m not able to look it up at the moment), to tell the American people that it was inefficient to keep killing workers – that it was a waste of human capital, an unproductive use of resources.

This bad framework shouldn’t be used to argue even for good ends. It leaves someone with political passions stuck in an awkward pose: pretending to honor cold equations when convenient, unable to contain outrage or act consistently when cold equations are inconvenient. Despite what Beard says it’s not just a quirk of liberals either. For example a large number of American conservatives will say that “fiscal responsibility” is everything until it’s time to talk about birth control, or guns, or tax exemptions for religious organizations…

64

Layman 07.02.14 at 8:38 pm

“That said, it seems like an unfair bait-and-switch to make the case against smoking with hard-nosed figures expressed as financial costs, then decry the monster whose figuring might show that dead smokers save public money. “

‘might show’ does a lot of work here. Map Maker’s citation actually disagrees with his claim.

That aside, the conversation usually goes something like this:

Smoking is killing all those people!

So what? It’s their life after all.

Well, it’s also costing us money!

No, those dead people save us money, cuz we don’t have to pay for their nursing home care when they’re old. It would cost more if they lived, so we’re ahead!

You decide where to point your moral outrage.

65

John Quiggin 07.02.14 at 8:38 pm

A couple of points

1. There’s no inconsistency in favoring legalisation of marijuana and restrictions on tobacco. It’s just a matter of supporting the same restrictions on marijuana

2. Map Maker (and other pro-tobacco commentators) is missing the point as usual. If you object to tobacco taxes as regressive, you should love plain packaging, advertising bans and so forth, because they are substitutes for higher taxes.

66

Trader Joe 07.02.14 at 8:58 pm

@64
“1. There’s no inconsistency in favoring legalisation of marijuana and restrictions on tobacco. It’s just a matter of supporting the same restrictions on marijuana.”

Agreed, and point taken. I guess I just can’t figure out how to put a photo of a bad trip on the side of an unmarked clear plastic bag.

67

godoggo 07.02.14 at 10:11 pm

I guess Ralph Steadman wouldn’t have the desired effect.

68

Bernard Yomtov 07.02.14 at 10:18 pm

I don’t get this.

The tobacco companies are arguing that the law should be changed because it has increased their sales?

Do I have that right? If I do, who could possibly believe it?

69

Lee A. Arnold 07.02.14 at 11:26 pm

There have been several scientific reports that THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, fights cancer tumors.

70

Tabasco 07.03.14 at 12:17 am

“I remember, more than 40 years ago, the vilification of Barbara Castle when she introduced the breathalyser and mandatory disqualification for drink-driving.”

She had a drink named after her, the Bloody Barbara. It was made of half tomato juice and half tomato juice.

71

Tim Worstall 07.03.14 at 7:04 am

Re costs of smoking.

http://www.plosmedicine.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pmed.0050029

“Although effective obesity prevention leads to a decrease in costs of obesity-related diseases, this decrease is offset by cost increases due to diseases unrelated to obesity in life-years gained. Obesity prevention may be an important and cost-effective way of improving public health, but it is not a cure for increasing health expenditures.”

As part of the paper, lifetime medical costs:

The lifetime costs were in Euros:

Healthy: 281,000

Obese: 250,000

Smokers: 220,000

Whether smoking, booze or lardbuckets “cost money” depends upon what you want to include as a cost. “Costs to public health care systems” seem to be negative.

Private costs, in shortened lives, are vast (I vaguely recall a Kip Viscusi paper where he argues that the true cost to a smoker of a pack is $25 or so).

72

J Thomas 07.03.14 at 10:20 am

“Although effective obesity prevention leads to a decrease in costs of obesity-related diseases, this decrease is offset by cost increases due to diseases unrelated to obesity in life-years gained.

Assume for a moment that on average everybody costs the same per year in health-industry costs.

Then the way to reduce health costs is to reduce the population size. Every baby who is not born reduces health costs by a whole lot. If we could get people to stop having children entirely then we could reduce health care costs to zero in one generation!

Well, but everybody does not cost the same. In an auto accident one person might be smushed instantly and incur no costs, while another might become a quadriplegic and live a long time, completely unable to care for himself. In general old people cost more than young healthy people, even as they are less productive.

The libertarian approach would be to let everybody handle it for himself. Save your money, and when you need healthcare then pay for it, and when you run out of money then do without. It’s your own lookout. Maybe an insurance company that studies everything they can find out about you, will bet that you will stay healthy. On average it will cost you a lot. With that approach it’s nobody’s business how much your healthcare costs you, except your own. You get as much as you want and deserve, according to how much you get paid for your contributions to people who have money.

But when somebody else pays for your healthcare, doesn’t it make sense to euthanise the people who cost more? We profitably do it that way with farm animals. Cull the sick, and the average is healthier and cheaper.

Also if people get the idea that their healthcare costs are being counted and they might be killed if they look too expensive, they will not trouble the healthcare industry as much and will be cheaper.

It makes logical sense. But something about it leaves me with a nameless doubt. I just don’t like it.

73

Sasha Clarkson 07.03.14 at 11:14 am

Bernard@ 68: just accept it: the tobacco companies are benevolent institutions which have no interests other than freedom and the public good.

Tabasco@ 70 – That’s the best laugh I’ve had for several days! :D

Although smoking has killed several family and friends, I was personally lucky. At the age of 14, like so many of my peers, I started behind the bike sheds at school, but I gave up six months later because I didn’t like it. Unfortunately some are more prone to addiction than others. One of my friends who couldn’t give up had a triple bypass heart operation at the age of 48. Phrases such as “freedom of choice” are a bad joke for people who are physically addicted.

My main objection to cannabis has always been that people generally mix it with tobacco.

74

Map Maker 07.03.14 at 2:09 pm

Sorry, was away.

The issue of social costs is complicated with tobacco. The link I provided included lots of costs I don’t include as a public / taxpayer cost of tobacco. Again, only looking at taxpayer costs of tobacco vs. their “benefits”, tobacco is taxed too heavily. The armchair economist includes lots of “social” / non-government paid costs of tobacco, which are not part of my concern here.

John – I object to plain packaging because it is a silly demonstration of government oversight where the costs and benefits don’t add up. there slippery slope doesn’t help either:
– alcohol is worse than tobacco IMO, yet we still allow advertising of the product on TV and in sport (heck at most sport venues)
– why allow pornography – perhaps if all magazines were required to put a brown wrapper over it and ensure all models were wearing non-gender repressive clothing/poses someone, somewhere would be a better person
– high end sports cars that exceed posted speed limits in many jurisdictions

Tobacco is just one of those funny code switches where modern liberals and conservatives switch sides. Immigration is similar, where modern liberals support free movement of labor (though they will fight free movement of capital) and conservatives will oppose.

75

MPAVictoria 07.03.14 at 7:36 pm

“My main objection to cannabis has always been that people generally mix it with tobacco”

Is that common? The (hypothetical) people I may (or may not know) who may (or may not) smoke pot never mix it with tobacco (if they in fact smoke pot. Which they do not).

76

MPAVictoria 07.03.14 at 7:38 pm

“why allow pornography – perhaps if all magazines were required to put a brown wrapper over it and ensure all models were wearing non-gender repressive clothing/poses someone, somewhere would be a better person”

Ah yes. Thousands die every year from exposure to Playboy. It is a tragedy….

77

Bruce Wilder 07.03.14 at 8:19 pm

Map Maker @ 74: The link I provided included lots of costs I don’t include as a public / taxpayer cost of tobacco.

Libertarians often have a very confused idea of what can be usefully attributed to what, in using a phrase like “social costs”.

The plain packaging regulation, like restrictions on advertising, aims squarely at reducing the capacity of one set of actors (producers) to persuade another set of actors (consumers). If your model of what, for lack of a better term, I will call “utility” does not account for persuasion and a diversity of interests, it is difficult to see how you are going to make sense of this public policy.

The point of a concept like “social cost” ought to allow the integration of diverse and opposed private interests. If the tobacco company makes a private profit by persuading people to become addicted to their dangerous products, then the accounting of private pleasures and private suffering have to be set against the persuasion and the private profit.

Is persuading people, against their self-interest, to buy and use an addictive and unhealthy product a socially useful activity? Are the costs incurred in producing an attractive product package and marketing it producing a net benefit to the society?

Intervening as a matter of public policy to require plain packaging reduces the costs of creating the packaging. The justification clearly rests on the supposition that the persuasion is not socially useful, on net, that it causes people to act against their private, self-interest. But, regardless of the justification, it reduces the cost of packaging.

An effective counter-argument would have to establish that the packaging was creating value. It could be private value, just as the cost of the packaging could be entirely private costs. What is that value that the packaging is creating, adding to the total product?

78

roy belmont 07.03.14 at 8:27 pm

Smoking cigarettes is a great signifier. In the early 20th c it was a mark of urban sophistication, “fast”, then it was more and more normal. WW2 saw packs of smokes in the C-rations of GI’s. And they were glad to get them.
By the 50′s it was a mark of adolescent rebel posture, an assumption of adult freedom by the still relatively dependent young.
By the late 60′s it was an unquestionable commonality. Everybody smoked.
Kids don’t believe it when you tell them people smoked in the grocery store in the 50′s and 60′s, but they sure did, it was a low-clss move but people still did it, and in the bank, in every cafe restaurant and bar, and most family homes, all the time, ashtrays were everywhere, on desks, in living rooms, and of course in cars front and back. Cigarette butts lined the roadways and gutters in little drifts.
They were called “cancer sticks” and “coffin nails” at the very same time the practice was so nearly universal that a curious child, like me, might ask an adult how come they didn’t smoke.
That all changed pretty suddenly, and it seems to have been a result of the same subliminal practices that made smoking glamorous and signifiying in the first place.
Instead of the cinema hero and the glamorous beauty (the sexiest women I saw as a boy were on the backs of magazines, smoking freshly-lit cigarettes) it was the villains who smoked. There were educational programs massively delivered to schoolkids. The hideous lung, the wheezing feeble emphysematic etc.
And those statistics about second-hand smoke that led to the bizarre hand-wavings of decent people everywhere when confronted by the awful pall of smoker’s exhalations.
In the 90′s I saw a woman berate her husband for breathing second-hand smoke near their infant son, while she stood 3 feet from the tailpipe of a running car whose poorly tuned engine was kicking serious exhaust.
It was a big concerted effort to brainwash people toward healthier choices, and it worked.
But the tools were never questioned. The use of seduction and imprint either way.
Like it’s okay to use subliminal advertisement for the “good”.
Maybe.
I’m not pro or anti the use of anything. It’s situational, personal, and has a lot to do with freedom, but this isn’t being debated in a cultural vacuum.
Why did people start doing something that most bodies initially reject instinctively as harmful?
Seductive coercion. Same reason they’re driving 8 cylinder SUV’s with 2 people in them 5 miles to the store or school and back. Completely unnecessary, seriously harmful, but the invisible authority behind the screen says it’s okay. And now it says it’s not okay to smoke.
Curiously silent about those SUV’s though, considering.
The issue is hovering around whether, if people are going to insist on making bad choices, the legal system has the responsibility of correcting them.
Debating societal costs just seems so mindless, really. A refuge from the real dilemma. How much freedom do we get to have, and who’s going to give it to us? Or take it away.

79

Sasha Clarkson 07.03.14 at 8:39 pm

MPAV@76 “Ah yes. Thousands die every year from exposure to Playboy. It is a tragedy….”

Actually, unlike smoking, it seems that pornography may be good for men’s health at least. I wouldn’t normally cite the Daily Mail; there are other sources for this info, but the Wail’s headline “Give your health a helping hand, men” was rather funny.

Apparently, “In fact, the more you do it, the better it is for you. “

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-188886/Give-health-helping-hand-men.html

80

Bruce Wilder 07.03.14 at 9:25 pm

roy belmont: Debating societal costs just seems so mindless, really. A refuge from the real dilemma. How much freedom do we get to have, and who’s going to give it to us? Or take it away.

Yes, we’re stuck in society, talking abstractly about social costs, trying, with limited success, to hide our conflicting interests behind our common interests.

81

Ze Kraggash 07.03.14 at 9:30 pm

I have a conspiracy-minded colleague, and his theory is that the war on smoking is a part of the deliberate drive to atomization. You see, fire, open fire, it brings people together, builds a community. ‘They’ don’t like it. It has to go.

82

MPAVictoria 07.03.14 at 9:44 pm

“I have a conspiracy-minded colleague, and his theory is that the war on smoking is a part of the deliberate drive to atomization. You see, fire, open fire, it brings people together, builds a community. ‘They’ don’t like it. It has to go.”

Yikes! Now that is paranoia!

83

The Temporary Name 07.03.14 at 9:48 pm

You see, fire, open fire, it brings people together, builds a community. ‘They’ don’t like it. It has to go.

I’m one of those irritating non-smokers, but that gathering together on a break for a smoke was a terrific leveller (as long as jerks like me made sure people had to go outside).

At a few places I worked this was the only time the boss would speak with the people on the bottom rung, and people could bum smokes from someone else regardless of their station.

84

roy belmont 07.03.14 at 10:20 pm

Bruce Wilder 07.03.14 at 9:25 pm:
I truly can’t tell if you’re being ironic/sarcastic there. So then I don’t know how to respond to it, except like this, which is sort of content-less ironic, but not content-less sarcastic. Just saying something unnecessarily extensively, or rather seeming to be saying something pretty extensively, but not really saying anything at all.
Mirror recursion with no original image reflected.
Which is not as fun as actually saying something, for me anyway, but is, at least I think it is, at least right now while I’m writing it I think it is, good practice, for later, when something might actually need to be said.
-
Ze Kraggash 07.03.14 at 9:30 pm:
Considering that very quickly once the cultural tipping point was reached, the demographics of smoking were mostly in the underfolk, possibly a reflection of the health-conscious narcissistic gym-tone me-me of the upperfolk, and the anxiety-thick lives below for whom smoking – break time! – was a kind of self-medicating…may be something to it.
The superficial idea that concern for public health was motivating it doesn’t hold much water.
Maybe it’s an insurance thing? I do believe helmet laws for two-wheelers were almost entirely insurance company driven.
Certainly the campaign(s) against obesity-causing fast-food didn’t gain the traction anti-smoking did.
Smoking so bad, grossly overweight children…not so bad.
Is it that paranoid to think there’s a concerted effort to keep the people under the extracting elite from rising in any kind of unity?
Divide the age-clads and the econo-clads. Loser-scorn.
E pluribus nada.

85

novakant 07.03.14 at 10:22 pm

At a few places I worked this was the only time the boss would speak with the people on the bottom rung, and people could bum smokes from someone else regardless of their station.

Yeah, that’s one nice aspect of it, also helps with networking, especially in the creative industry where may people still smoke.

86

novakant 07.03.14 at 10:27 pm

oops: “where many people still smoke”

87

godoggo 07.03.14 at 11:23 pm

88

faustusnotes 07.04.14 at 4:13 am

The purpose of the plain package legislation is not to achieve a short term reduction in tobacco sales. Like public smoking bans and restrictions on tobacco use in movies, the goal is to change the public acceptance of smoking and the social environment in which people choose to smoke, in order to obtain long-term reductions in smoking rates. This is all very clearly laid out in the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). The Australian has has invented a different purpose for the law, and then – shock! – found it fails to achieve a purpose it wasn’t designed for. This is classic FUD, and no surprise that the Tobacco Industry’s cheerleaders all pick up on it – and that Worstall, who never saw a lobbyist he didn’t like, follows suit.

The purpose of minimum alcohol prices is also not to reduce alcohol sales, and it has nothing to do with “Busted livers” or whatever Worstall is blathering about above. It is intended to reduce binge and risky drinking. So Worstall’s suggestion of raising taxes to pay for busted livers is another example of a policy alternative completely unrelated to the purpose of the policy being discussed. Also classic FUD.

Worstall would also do well to note that the minimum alcohol price proposal is a response to the negative health effects of the (long-awaited) liberalization of UK drinking laws, and that if something is not done about binge-drinking then people will begin looking for much less liberal responses to the problem than mere taxes and price rules. The conservative side of British politics contains quite a number of people who want to revoke the liberalization of drinking laws, and they are well represented in the media (e.g. by the Daily Mail, which often campaigns on this). If you want to keep the right to drink anywhere you like anytime, I suggest you get onside with some minimal price-based changes to cheap alcohol, before your conservative pay-masters start marching back the liberalization process.

And I ask you Worstall, why do you continue to trust these cheerleaders for Big Tobacco? They lie consistently, and all the time – but you still buy their stupid arguments every time. Why?

Also, this whole conspiracy theory about anti-smoking people wanting to stop people gathering is offensive and disgusting. Anti-smoking people simply want to improve human health, and (strangely!) seem to think that stopping very powerful corporations from using deceptive and misleading techniques to sell addictive poison to people might be a good place to start. That is all – we have no other agenda.

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Bruce Wilder 07.04.14 at 5:53 am

roy belmont @ 84

Good point — and much better than agreeing with me completely ;-)

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roy belmont 07.04.14 at 6:40 am

faustusnotes 07.04.14 at 4:13 am:
Also, this whole conspiracy theory about anti-smoking people wanting to stop people gathering is offensive and disgusting. Anti-smoking people simply want to improve human health

I’m just having all kinds of trouble figuring out what’s being said at me, or even in this if it’s being said at me.
Assuming that it is, wtf?
The glamorization of cigarette smoking was a conspiracy. Flat-out straight-up conspiracy. Popular students on college campuses in the between-wars years were paid to smoke particular brands and pass them out to their friends, Hollywood was flowing with behind-the-scenes cash buying screen shots of glamorous sexy close-ups and rugged manly close-ups of actors puffing away. Doctors were paid, at least in some instances, to recommend smoking for asthma and other respiratory conditions.
The tobacco companies insidiously conspired to obfuscate and deny the science as it came in, that smoking cigarettes had serious health impacts at an epidemic level.
So right there we’ve got conspiracy front and center.
Then we have a conspiracy to get people to stop< smoking, using the same coercive subliminal techniques as got them started. Plus of course above-board education and sensible information campaigns as well.
Then, on top of that, I'm suggesting not so much a conspiracy as an oddly demographic-specific target of social rejection.
Not suggesting some wizard of bullshit and manipulation sat back and pondered how to screw the poor benighted smokers in their hovels and shanties, but that the consensus scorn for smoking is heavily weighted against the underfolk.
N.B I was a seriously militant anti-smoking people for years, at a time when smoking was an unquestioned right and up there with mom and apple pie on the list of normal American things to like and enjoy.
Smoking people were shocked at the effrontery of my complaints, and my fellow anti-smoking people were very few and far between, a beleagured minority, then, of no social significance whatsoever.
I am no longer one of the faithful on that score.
I am however quite comfortable insisting that there is something to the use of pesticides on tobacco being relatively unregulated and unrestricted, and without any research to hand, feel pretty confident that a graph of the rise of pesticide use on tobacco will have some parallel with the rise of lung cancer especially, with time lapse taken into consideration.
I'm also suggesting that there's a softness in the target because of the demographic. Whereas the absurdity of people driving 8-cylinder SUV's for family transportation, which threatens to be far more of a social health problem if you consider the loss of stability in weather patterns, is yet to be hit with the mighty hammer of health-minded disapproval.
The conspiracy's almost entirely on the part of the bad guys. The social prejudices and timidity and misplaced antagonism of "anti-smoking people" is another matter altogether.

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godoggo 07.04.14 at 7:40 am

I really like those tobacco-company-sponsored “right decisions right now” anti-smoking posters for teens because they’re so cool and sexy they totally make me want to not smoke.

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godoggo 07.04.14 at 9:13 am

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The Temporary Name 07.04.14 at 2:33 pm

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MPAVictoria 07.04.14 at 3:03 pm

I really enjoyed that movie.

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Ze Kraggash 07.04.14 at 6:02 pm

@Roy “the superficial idea that concern for public health was motivating it doesn’t hold much water.”

Right, that’s what my buddy Zoly says too. Something to the effect of ‘how come smoking is so terrible while all the crap we eat, drink, and breath is fine?’ Oh well, we all are constantly being zombified one way or another anyhow, so what’s the point. If smoking is bad, let’s find something else to do, something socially approved. Yoga, pot, and video games, why the hell not.

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The Temporary Name 07.04.14 at 6:21 pm

Advertising isn’t a conspiracy. It wasn’t a conspiracy to get people to start smoking, it’s not a conspiracy to stop it. If you go to a movie and some rich people are using an Apple™ computer that’s not a conspiracy, it’s an ad.

Lying about the science and cramming more nicotine in there to hook people is much more conspiratorial.

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MPAVictoria 07.04.14 at 6:39 pm

“Lying about the science and cramming more nicotine in there to hook people is much more conspiratorial.”

100% right. 0% wrong.

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roy belmont 07.04.14 at 7:23 pm

The Temporary Name 07.04.14 at 6:21 pm:

Shallow, incoherent, and arrogantly misread, as usual.
Talking to people isn’t a conspiracy, it’s a conversation.
Making bombs in your basement isn’t a conspiracy, it’s homebrew manufacturing.
Getting people to create a diversion somewhere while you plant that bomb isn’t a conspiracy, it’s social organizing.
Getting together with others who hate the king, who has spies everywhere so be careful, and discussing and agreeing on a way to assassinate him isn’t conspiracy, it’s politics!

Intentionally misleading people by bombarding them with images that lead them to false conclusions and behaviors detrimental to them and beneficial to you, and doing that in concert with others who share your amoral self-interest and expectations of resultant benefits isn’t conspiracy, it’s…uhm…you know, business.

Spoken like a true merchant prince.

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MPAVictoria 07.04.14 at 7:28 pm

Shorter Roy- “I am not a crank”

Roy is all advertising a conspiracy? Are all public safety campaigns, for example efforts to encourage people to wash their hands after using the toilet, a conspiracy?

Yes or no answers please.

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The Temporary Name 07.04.14 at 8:04 pm

Intentionally misleading people by bombarding them with images that lead them to false conclusions and behaviors detrimental to them and beneficial to you, and doing that in concert with others who share your amoral self-interest and expectations of resultant benefits isn’t conspiracy, it’s…uhm…you know, business.

It’s not really a hidden agenda that people want to sell you their stuff, even if it’s garbage that makes the whole world worse. If you talk to the guy who’s trying to sell you a cigarette and ask him if he wants to sell you that cigarette my guess is that he will say yes. That’s not quite the same as hiding a bomb in the basement that nobody knows about.

You might be interested in this buzzword festival:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nudge_theory

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Sasha Clarkson 07.04.14 at 8:04 pm

Conspiracy need not be criminal – or evil: its just two or more people planning how to achieve an end. I would happily conspire with anyone to use any legal methods to drive the tobacco companies of business. I would also conspire to deliver a targeted fiscal boost to the economy to offset any resultant contraction.

Who’s with me? :D

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The Temporary Name 07.04.14 at 8:14 pm

Then there’s no need for the word conspiracy except to use your syllable supply. The connotation is pretty clear: it’s a secret plot to do a bad thing, as Roy’s bomb analogy shows.

I am, though, all in favour of holding people to account for the lies of tobacco companies. That sometimes happens, but not often enough.

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Bernard Yomtov 07.04.14 at 8:17 pm

Tim Worstall@71

Whether smoking, booze or lardbuckets “cost money” depends upon what you want to include as a cost. “Costs to public health care systems” seem to be negative.

The figures you cite for “lifetime medical costs” should be adjusted, I think, by subtracting “lifetime contributions to health care funds.”

Healthy, relatively long-lived people certainly generate more taxes or whatever, not to mention contribute more to GDP in general, than sicklier types. By your logic an increase in infant mortality would be a great cost-saver.

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J Thomas 07.04.14 at 8:41 pm

I was a seriously militant anti-smoking people for years, at a time when smoking was an unquestioned right and up there with mom and apple pie on the list of normal American things to like and enjoy.
Smoking people were shocked at the effrontery of my complaints, and my fellow anti-smoking people were very few and far between, a beleagured minority, then, of no social significance whatsoever.
I am no longer one of the faithful on that score.

How come? You were against it when it was uncool to be against it, and then when you started winning you quit?

Whereas the absurdity of people driving 8-cylinder SUV’s for family transportation, which threatens to be far more of a social health problem if you consider the loss of stability in weather patterns, is yet to be hit with the mighty hammer of health-minded disapproval.

So, the National Cancer Society etc have been working against smoking for *50 years* and now that they’re getting a lot of success you criticize them because they aren’t doing every other good cause as successfully? OK, you can do whatever you want that’s legal but you’re making noises like there’s something particularly moral about your stand, and I just don’t see it at all. If less smoking is a good thing, which you used to believe, why isn’t less smoking still a good thing after rich people quit and it’s mostly poor people who don’t?

You know perfectly well that when the conventions change and SUVs are considered evil, it will be poor people who buy cheap used SUVs and get criticized for it. Because when society agrees that something is good, richer people buy it and poorer people tend to get stuck with it. That doesn’t mean we’re better off with more smoking and more SUVs.

Right, that’s what my buddy Zoly says too. Something to the effect of ‘how come smoking is so terrible while all the crap we eat, drink, and breath is fine?’

This is a last-gasp argument. “Sure, X, the thing I want to support is evil. But nobody should oppose X until they oppose every other evil just as much! When you get right down to it, isn’t everything evil? You’re hypocritical to oppose X unless you oppose everything!”

I guess I ought to applaud your energy or something. If only it could be harnessed for something good….

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Ze Kraggash 07.04.14 at 8:48 pm

“This is a last-gasp argument.”

It’s not an argument. It’s an observation.

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roy belmont 07.04.14 at 9:03 pm

The Temporary Name 07.04.14 at 8:14 pm:

Since the beers haven’t gotten here yet, and I’m not overly hungry, I’m in a generous frame.
And since you’re not being egregiously insulting, but only a little tempered and coy, I’ll respond as charitably as I can.
Where this breaks is somewhere around the insistence that advertising is some value neutral device for hawking one’s wares. Which it is which it is.
Until the medium(s) for that hawking have been grafted into the subconscious of the people in unprecedented ways, that have provable effects on conscious decision-making that the victims are completely unaware of, while they choose.
Facebook ringing any bells their Mr. Name?
Now we’re not talking hawking, we’re talking hypnosis, we’re talking mind control, deception, manipulation, we’re talking the soft conspiracies of power and contempt.
We are talking the modern times.
We’re talking the deep shit.
We’re also talking the backbone of the economy – planned obsolescence, artificial desire, what’s good for GM is good for America (!), crap food, crap toys, crap crap crap crap. Advertised! In a free marketplace!
We’re talking a raft of rationalized predations on unsophisticated human beings. All accomplished through the gentle seductive coercion of “advertising”.
And the justification mantras, “Oh please, we just offered these things for sale, we didn’t *force* anyone into buying them”.
So young idiots can scorn their elders for making “bad choices” and move on to healthier lifestyles, safe in the wiser hands of a concerned and loving, uhm, wizard advertising media that cares has been taught, if not forced, to care about them, and what’s best for them. And their children.
And the future of us all.

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The Temporary Name 07.04.14 at 9:30 pm

I don’t think we disagree that advertising can push a lot of bad stuff and that there’s tons of subtext through it, inadvertent and otherwise, which is why I thought you’d be interested in the nudging stuff, which is very much about manipulating the natural tendencies people have. And yes Facebook has a giant data-crunching staff interested in figuring out what people do on their site so they can push stuff in front of their faces. They publish a lot about what they’re doing and their engineers crow about it.

It still isn’t a conspiracy to show cheerleaders liking the guy who drinks Bud. It’s awful and manipulative, but the hidden agenda is not hidden: you should buy Bud.

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The Temporary Name 07.04.14 at 9:34 pm

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J Thomas 07.04.14 at 11:32 pm

Now we’re not talking hawking, we’re talking hypnosis, we’re talking mind control, deception, manipulation, we’re talking the soft conspiracies of power and contempt.
We are talking the modern times.

We’re talking the deep shit.
We’re also talking the backbone of the economy – planned obsolescence, artificial desire, what’s good for GM is good for America (!), crap food, crap toys, crap crap crap crap. Advertised! In a free marketplace!

OK, now that we’ve brought that up, what should we do about it?

My first thought is that in the current context, we should just use it. Tobacco companies use it, their opponents should use it back. And to the extent that they can legally forbid tobacco companies from using it, they should. Because in this particular context, they’re right and the tobacco companies are wrong.

For the bigger picture, we should look at ways to teach people how to be less affected by mind control, and then encourage them to learn. It’s OK to use mind-control techniques to advertise methods to protect against mind control. The people who aren’t resistant to the techniques need the product.

It might be nice to try to have an environment where mind control is not allowed. Good luck with that. If it’s the government that restricts mind control, if it does it effectively then it will wind up using the techniques itself for what it thinks are good reasons. Hasn’t it usually been like that? Various places have tried to control new weapons like crossbows and siege engines and cluster bombs and depleted uranium, and sooner or later the winners ignore the controls and win with them. Successes at weapons control have mostly been with weapons that are not useful, like nukes, poison gas, biowarfare, etc.

Get an environment where it mostly doesn’t work, and people mostly won’t use it. I think that needs to be the goal.

I mean, if you want mind-control to be less-often used successfully. If you just want to raise objections then never mind.

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Brian Schmidt 07.05.14 at 12:20 am

Wayback to 8: ” if the US federal government decided that the approach it would take to the attempted legalization of canabis in some states would be to stipulate that it could only be sold in unattractive or repellent packaging, to drive down sales, I can imagine the sort of ridicule Crooked Timber commentators would put on that.”

Speaking only for myself as a supporter of pot legalization, I fear Big Weed. Maybe not as much as Big Tobacco/Alcohol but still. I think we should come up with reasonable regulation in advance before legalization and the subsequent political power of marijuana merchants, including on packaging. In particular, pot-infused edibles attractive to children should be in child-safe containers that do not draw children’s attention. Not the worst thing in the world if a 3-year old eats massive amounts of pot brownies, but it’s definitely not a good thing either.

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ZM 07.05.14 at 12:21 am

“101
Sasha Clarkson 07.04.14 at 8:04 pm
Conspiracy need not be criminal – or evil: its just two or more people planning how to achieve an end. I would happily conspire with anyone to use any legal methods to drive the tobacco companies of business. I would also conspire to deliver a targeted fiscal boost to the economy to offset any resultant contraction.

Who’s with me? :D”

I am not with you here sorry – the understanding of the word conspiracy you write down here is incorrect and misleading even if you did so accidentally, which I hope and assume is the case :(

I will copy the OED entry down here, leaving out some etymology. The only part that *approaches* the claim you make about the meaning of the word is number 3 where conspiracy is used with license in the *figurative sense* – rather than the literal sense of 1 and 2.

If you wanted to, you could replace conspiracy with “band together” or “associate” or some such expression that does not denote wrongdoing, only that people are together engaging in a common endeavour to serve a good purpose.

” 1.
a. The action of conspiring; combination of persons for an evil or unlawful purpose.

c1386 Chaucer Monk’s Tale 621 Brutus and Cassius..Ful prively hath made conspiracie Agains this Julius in subtil wise.
1389 in T. Smith & L. T. Smith Eng. Gilds (1870) 5 Enpresoned falslich..by fals conspiracie.
1602 J. Marston Antonios Reuenge v. i. sig. I2v, Made a partner in conspiracie.
a1616 Shakespeare Tempest (1623) ii. i. 306 Open-ey’d Conspiracie His time doth take.
1667 Milton Paradise Lost ii. 751 Combin’d In bold conspiracy against Heav’ns King.
a1832 J. Bentham Justice & Codif. Petit. in Wks. (1843) V. 485 In the very import of the word conspiracy is therefore included the conspiracy to do a bad thing.
1841 R. W. Emerson Self-reliance in Ess. 1st Ser. 50 Society everywhere is in conspiracy against the manhood of every one of its members.

b. Law.

1863 H. Cox Inst. Eng. Govt. i. xi. 275 The crime of conspiracy consists in the agreement of two or more persons to do an illegal act, or to do a lawful act by unlawful means.

2
a. (with a and pl.) A combination of persons for an evil or unlawful purpose; an agreement between two or more persons to do something criminal, illegal, or reprehensible (especially in relation to treason, sedition, or murder); a plot. Also in phr. conspiracy of silence.

c1386 Chaucer Doctor’s Tale 149 Whan schapen was al this conspiracye Fro poynt to poynt.

†b. A body or band of conspirators. Obs.

3. fig. Union or combination (of persons or things) for one end or purpose; harmonious action or effort; = conspiration n. 3 (In a good or neutral sense.) Obs. or arch.”

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Layman 07.05.14 at 12:28 am

“Roy is all advertising a conspiracy? Are all public safety campaigns, for example efforts to encourage people to wash their hands after using the toilet, a conspiracy?”

Fallacy of the excluded middle. It could be, in fact is, that some advertising is a conspiracy to harm you, and some advertising is not. That’s the problem, really.

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The Temporary Name 07.05.14 at 3:06 am

I don’t know that there’s space for an excluded middle to exist when the principle seems to be that swaying someone is wrong, plus slippery slope. “GARAGE SALE 10AM” seems to be too much of a come-on.

I suppose there could be some sort of “I know it when I see it” thing going on, but if it’s a conspiracy MAYBE YOU NEVER DO.

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roy belmont 07.05.14 at 4:00 am

JT:

Why I stopped being a militant anti-smoker has more to do with an acceptance of human frailty and a growing sense of people being brainwashed all to fuck than anything else. Also freedom.

“My first thought is that in the current context, we should just use it”

Yeah. Then you get people that know best, then you get infantilization, then you get dystopian nightmare. Then we’re there, here. Enslaved minds are more energy-efficient than enslaved bodies.
Using effective tools, sure. But the requirements…for instance democracy, you need an informed electorate, so the – insert bad people names here – go to the processes of informing. And the informed become the disinformed.
CNN’s evolution from more or less trustworthy journalistic news venue under Turner, to propaganda franchise under its present ownership, is a perfect illustration of this.
Facebook’s stock doesn’t seem to have been adversely affected by the release of news of their Pavlovian fun and games.
So getting to a “we don’t need no” mind control seems a little out of reach at present.
Trying to wake each other up is close to all most of us have I think, now.
-
TN:
Ignoring your budding snarkology in hopes it subsides again.
“the hidden agenda is not hidden”

Not in your example. In the 30′s BMOC example it definitely was. In the Hollywood-for-hire example it definitely was. Or are you saying the movie-going public of mid 20th c. America was conscious of the art of sway at work on them? As opposed to just mindlessly turning their minds over to the razzle-dazzle of the big screen.
Or it seems your attitude might be “too bad for them”. Losers. Darwin!

Most people have a default sense that the TV of their upbringing was there to amuse them, to tell them stories etc. An entertaining friend
When of course it was there to gather their collective attention and sell it to sponsors.
British television in the pre-numbered BBC days was so vastly superior to US TV it wasn’t even comparable. No accident, it was a direct result of the minimal content necessary to get those American eyeballs to market being what mattered.
It’s specious to center the argument around value-neutral merchandising practices.

I can remember seeing my father’s hand, while we were watching a baseball game on TV, crawl toward his pocket when an ad for cigarettes came on, then slip back down to the arm of the chair. His smokes were on the end-table. Scary. Habit, trigger, action. Definitely not a conscious act.
It speaks to the outstripping of human awareness and reactive ability by the technologies of behaviorism. You may be fully aware of and okay with the manipulations and experiments of behaviorist IT geeks, but you know the great majority of users on facebook aren’t aware of it, and won’t be able to process the knowledge if they do get it..
It splits the socius into a priesthood serving an elite, and a mass of domesticated animals farmed for their consumer energies.
It’s about contempt ultimately.
I’m not wedded to conspiracy as accusatory semiotic, it’s the evil intent, the separation from the people, the total lack of altruism outside the insider core, that I’m pointing at. Conspiracy covers some of it.
But so does depravity, iniquity, and, in a pinch, evil. Banal as it ever was.

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The Temporary Name 07.05.14 at 4:50 am

In the 30′s BMOC example it definitely was. In the Hollywood-for-hire example it definitely was.

I disagree. Free samples to an in-crowd was not a new tactic – I think you can read 1001 Nights and find merchants giving stuff to a favoured customer hoping it pays off. Does the manufacturer of product X want you to buy it? YES.

Product placement was railed against before films got sound. Once again, the goal of the product placer is to get his product sold. Hidden agenda? No. The goal of the movie producer is to make money, and he will make it by getting bums in seats or taking money from Hershey’s when they want to foist some new crap on us. Does he give a shit about Hershey’s? Of course not. Once again, no conspiracy.

But I’ll grant you that there are suckers.

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roy belmont 07.05.14 at 5:59 am

You say not hidden, I say hidden, then you say it wasn’t new.
You’re saying there’s nothing unethical about it, okay, that’s one argument, but the specific reply was addressing hidden/not hidden. Then you jumped out of that linear flow into a completely different argument. There’s a pattern there.
So any further discussion and I have to anticipate, rather than have a direct back and forth. Making for burdens.

You’re eliding the little gap between passing stuff out, which would carry some visible connection, here try these free scones yum!, and paying popular kids to smoke and distribute proprietary brands, where we can assume I think, there was a little clause of keeping it close to the sweater vest, don’t let on where and how you got it.
We’re inured to attractive people lying to us about products for merchandising purposes. So what?
In the midst of a fortress of civilized codes of behavior, where the energies of millions are devoted to protecting us from predatory disease organisms, you’re justifying the predator/prey laws of the jungle.
I don’t care if it’s common practice. I don’t care if it’s in the bloody book of Genesis.
The whole society since about 1956 has been raised, not just exposed to but raised on, images of attractive people lying to them. So it’s okay now. Because precedent!
And this has had no detrimental effect on society as a whole. There are studies! Somewhere!
Caveat canum!
Or, rather, emptor.
The moral paradigm of a sentient parasite.

We’re talking about the marketing of a substance, which the whole thread is united in condemning as seriously harmful, through means that are only abstractly justifiable if you discount any common moral purpose between the seller and his machineries of coercion, and the buyer. You do see that? You are using the word “suckers” with understanding? The contempt in the attitude that would articulate that?

The reasoning behind the Hershey venality is the actual producer of the subliminal message itself isn’t vested in the product that he manipulates, he just wants the bank.
Somehow this means there’s no deception, c o n s p i r a c y or, again my point, contempt for the manipulated. Still trying as I write to see how that works.

No intent to deceive particularly on Mr. De Mille’s end. Which is more speciosity.
It is the subliminal manipulation itself, the lack of evolved defense against it which is also my point, I thought I was making that clear.
There’s no bright line, which is how this stuff gets in.
It’s jots and tittles all the way down.

Advertising and its depraved amorality is now 9/10ths of American political life.
Voted for Bush? Suckers.
Voted for Obama? Suckers.
Contempt.

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William Berry 07.05.14 at 6:30 am

112
Layman 07.05.14 at 12:28 am
“Roy is all advertising a conspiracy? Are all public safety campaigns, for example efforts to encourage people to wash their hands after using the toilet, a conspiracy?”

Answering only for myself here, if it influences one person to spend money— money they would not otherwise have spent for that purpose— to someone who is selling at profit, then yes, it is a conspiracy to commit theft.

[I assume a world without "free will". Rationally, this seems a reasonably safe bet; just as there is plenty of evidence for a world that is free of the influence of an omnipotent, omniscient, and omni-present god, and zero evidence for such a world, so is there plenty of evidence for determinism and zero evidence (quantum weirdness notwithstanding) for any alternative.]

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J Thomas 07.05.14 at 7:40 am

#114

“My first thought is that in the current context, we should just use it”

Yeah. Then you get people that know best, then you get infantilization, then you get dystopian nightmare.

This reminds me of an old joke.

A man went to the mosque to pray, but a known thief was right beside him. so he didn’t want to take off his shoes because the thief would steal them. The thief whispered in his ear. “Prayers with shoes on do not abide!” He ignored it. Ten minutes into the service the thief whispered loudly. “Prayers with shoes on do not abide!” He ignored it. After another 15 minutes or so the thief couldn’t stand it any more and said out loud, “Prayers with shoes on Do Not Abide!. The man nodded solemnly. “True, but I hope perhaps at least the shoes will abide.”

Let’s say the society as a whole has a big problem with propaganda, advertising, etc. If it actually works on people, and we use it, then in a way we are as bad morally as the evil advertisers. But at least we might win about smoking.

Repeatedly in wars, we are faced with the choice to do evil things that work, or good things that don’t work. The US military consistently chooses to do the evil thing that has a chance for victory, rather than the good thing that must lose. Because whatever chance we have to do good, depends on us winning against the bad guys. When the bad guys win then they get to do whatever they want. So we do shake-and-bake. We use DU. We use cluster bombs which intentionally leave 5-10% unexploded to act against busybodies who try to help afterward. We use drones etc. It’s really bad when we do all the evil stuff and then lose anyway. But if you lose without the evil stuff then it’s either try it or surrender….

The mind-control stuff isn’t as bad, because if it doesn’t work then you’re only being silly. And if it works and all you do is persuade people to do good stuff that they likely would do anyway if they weren’t getting mind-controlled by bad guys, that could be a lot worse.

But the good outcome would be to get the stuff to stop working. You’re not going to get people to stop using it by calling them venal and depraved. You might get a few to quit but there are plenty more to replace them. If it works, they’ll do it. We need it to stop working. If it doesn’t work we can have democracy. We can have rational consequences. It’s a worthy goal.

Why I stopped being a militant anti-smoker has more to do with an acceptance of human frailty and a growing sense of people being brainwashed all to fuck than anything else.

So you got burned out and hopeless. The problem is so overwhelming that you’re just overwhelmed, and rather than work on any piece of it you just tell other people not to bother.

You became part of the precipitate.

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Sasha Clarkson 07.05.14 at 8:58 am

If “corporations are people”, why can’t the tobacco companies (amongst others) be sentenced to death for crimes against humanity? Or is dissolving a corporation a “cruel and unusual” punishment?

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Bruce Wilder 07.05.14 at 11:11 am

The US military consistently chooses to do the evil thing that has a chance for victory, rather than the good thing that must lose.

Except the evil thing backfires as evil things very predictably do, there’s never any victory — just stupid arguments about surges and about another six months ad infinitum, and the good thing loses, not because good things are natural losers, but because the good thing is done so corruptly and incompetently that it can scarcely be said to have been done at all. That’s the reality. And, what does that do for your argument by analogy?

121

Barry 07.05.14 at 12:37 pm

68
Bernard Yomtov 07.02.14 at 10:18 pm
“I don’t get this.

The tobacco companies are arguing that the law should be changed because it has increased their sales?

Do I have that right? If I do, who could possibly believe it?”

Paid liars.

Now, I’m not accusing Tim of anything, but if he didn’t have a long and evilly distinguished history here and elsewhere, I would have accused John Q of making him up, because he provides such an excellent example.

122

Barry 07.05.14 at 12:40 pm

119
Sasha Clarkson 07.05.14 at 8:58 am
“If “corporations are people”, why can’t the tobacco companies (amongst others) be sentenced to death for crimes against humanity? Or is dissolving a corporation a “cruel and unusual” punishment?”

SCOTUS seems to believe more and more that requiring corporte ‘persons’ to obey the law is ‘cruel and unusual’.

123

Layman 07.05.14 at 12:45 pm

“I don’t know that there’s space for an excluded middle to exist when the principle seems to be that swaying someone is wrong, plus slippery slope.”

Swaying someone to do something which harms them while benefiting me is wrong. But not all advertising does that, as there are e.g. ads for public services or health messages. So to require a yes or no answer to the question ‘is all advertising a conspiracy’ excludes the possibility that some is while some is not.

124

J Thomas 07.05.14 at 1:38 pm

#120
That’s the reality. And, what does that do for your argument by analogy?

My argument is that *when it’s true* that evil methods win, there’s no percentage in refusing to use them. Because you definitely lose. So, is it true? Do corporations that use mind-control techniques to sell addictive drugs gain from the mind-control, or have the mind-control advertisers just convinced them that it works when it doesn’t?

If it does work, then we can say “We’re too pure and innocent and good to use the evil techniques. We have to stand back and let the evil people use them to extract every resource they can figure out how to extract from the public while we do nothing that works.” We can talk about what a horrible world we live in, where evil people do evil things and succeed and there’s nothing we can do about it.

Or we can try to pass laws to stop it. People communicate with each other, and some of their communication consists of mind-control stuff and some of it doesn’t. Unless we understand the methods enough to tell the difference how will we know what laws would be effective if we could get them passed and enforced? The laws would pretty much have to spell out what it is that works, in the process of telling people not to do it. Or we could try to make it illegal to communicate. Or let the judge figure our each individual case when somebody wages a lawsuit….

Of course, if the government tries to do sophisticated mind-control techniques then we could assume with the conservatives that government will always do it wrong. They will spend a lot of money making ineffective advertising that doesn’t have much effect on anybody except to convince them the government wastes a lot of money. OK, that isn’t the best outcome but it isn’t like the government dropping cluster bombs on civilians. or high-intensity white phosphorus on civilians to get them to come out into the open where the heavy artillery can kill them easier. It’s just the government spending money ineffectively.

Well, but what if the government actually is effective? What if they brainwash voters into voting for the party currently in power, so that democracy is gone? Well, but if one privately-run political party composed of private citizens does that and the other doesn’t, is that better? If somebody gets to brainwash voters then democracy is gone regardless whether your own private group (National Cancer Institute or whoever) or the federal government does it too. If it works, somebody will do it.

If we don’t want it to be done, we must find a way to make it stop working.

In the meantime, something is working to reduce tobacco smoking. This appears to me to be a good thing. Tobacco smoking is harmful in the amounts that people do it, and maybe we should make it illegal if we had the votes. But 18% of the population is a great big voting block when national elections often are won by 2% or less. So we won’t do that until the issue is almost resolved.

Possibly it would work to let people grow their own tobacco and sell it as proprietors but not as corporations. Tiny proprietorships could supply some tobacco and might tend to be more personally responsible about insecticides and such — particularly when they have unlimited legal liability. If they can’t sell to corporations, that would reduce the capital available for mass mind control.

I dunno. There’s the freedom issue, but I can’t get excited about the freedom of giant corporations to spend some of their vast profits on mind-control techniques that the public has no defense against. I just don’t see that this is a right that needs to be protected.

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J Thomas 07.05.14 at 2:08 pm

“I don’t know that there’s space for an excluded middle to exist when the principle seems to be that swaying someone is wrong, plus slippery slope.”

Swaying someone to do something which harms them while benefiting me is wrong. But not all advertising does that, as there are e.g. ads for public services or health messages.

You are saying that there is good manipulation and bad manipulation. When you manipulate somebody into doing what’s good for them it’s good, and when you manipulate somebody into doing what’s bad for them it’s bad.

But some people would say that manipulation is bad. When you see how to make somebody do things, you are denying them their freedom. Bad. Good people don’t do that.

So the argument implies that you should not try to influence anybody (except through, say, rational argument which in fact does not work). Instead you should leave it to bad people to have all the influence. The bad people will control public opinion and cut out the good people, who are too good to have influence.

This seems to me like an argument that bad people would use to manipulate good people. The more competitors they can get to stop competing, the less competition they have when they control the masses. The more effectively they can get good people to stand aside, the less the good people will trouble them.

#114
It splits the socius into a priesthood serving an elite, and a mass of domesticated animals farmed for their consumer energies.
It’s about contempt ultimately.

The bad guys presumably don’t care what we think of them, they have contempt for us and they don’ t mind if it’s mutual.

We can respect the mass of people who are being mind-controlled. We can avoid influencing them, we can let them have their freedom to be manipulated only by people who are evil enough to do it.

Is this a good outcome? Does this sort of respect make a difference in the world?

Better is to learn how to express the mind-control stuff in ways that people will use to build defenses. Like, for example, a board game or computer game where people compete at mind-controlling each other, with hints and tips for what can work. Kind of like Monopoly for the 21st century.

126

The Temporary Name 07.05.14 at 2:26 pm

Swaying someone to do something which harms them while benefiting me is wrong. But not all advertising does that, as there are e.g. ads for public services or health messages. So to require a yes or no answer to the question ‘is all advertising a conspiracy’ excludes the possibility that some is while some is not.

Yes I agree, but “is all advertising a conspiracy” was a reasonable response to a set of assertions that seemed to exclude any other possibility.

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The Temporary Name 07.05.14 at 2:39 pm

You’re eliding the little gap between passing stuff out, which would carry some visible connection, here try these free scones yum!, and paying popular kids to smoke and distribute proprietary brands, where we can assume I think, there was a little clause of keeping it close to the sweater vest, don’t let on where and how you got it.

If you point me at a full story, I think I can agree that if this is how it worked, conspiracy indeed. Paying people to get addicted seems pretty awful to me. If BMOC was already a smoker, not so much: it’s free smokes! Which at the time was supposed to have been one of life’s pleasures, god help the poor bastards.

Through this conversation understand that I do not like advertising unless you count events listings. I don’t have a functioning TV and various ad-blockers mean I never see them on YouTube or elsewhere internetty. I’m not endorsing it, I just don’t see it as conspiratorial. It’s mundane.

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Ze Kraggash 07.05.14 at 2:43 pm

“We can respect the mass of people who are being mind-controlled.”

How’s the weather out there, Morpheus?

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J Thomas 07.05.14 at 3:23 pm

#128

“We can respect the mass of people who are being mind-controlled.”

How’s the weather out there, Morpheus?

Was my argument too rarified for you? It looked to me like Ray was saying it takes contempt to do the mind-controlling. OK, how do you respect the victims?

Here’s a fanciful analogy. Somebody is stuck in the ocean and he can’t swim. Bad guys throw him a rope to grab, and they intend to use him as sharkbait. In a way it’s respectful if you don’t throw him a rope but instead give him the right to make whatever independent decisions he chooses with no influence from you. It would be better to teach him to swim, but circumstances are not ideal. It would be better still to teach him to build a boat, but again it isn’t the proper moment….

Anybody could be a victim in some circumstance or another. If you are in a position to help a victim, can you do it without feeling contempt? You can’t give them the exact same status you have, because at the moment they are a victim who needs help while you are a potential rescuer who can provide help. But there can be respect, can’t there?

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MPAVictoria 07.05.14 at 4:02 pm

“So you got burned out and hopeless. The problem is so overwhelming that you’re just overwhelmed, and rather than work on any piece of it you just tell other people not to bother.”

I would say the real reason is that Roy is one of life’s true contrarians. When smoking is cool he is against it, when it is uncool he is for it. Same reason he uses homophobic slurs. He gets satisfaction from being different. From being able to pose as the “last sane man” and the one person who can see the “Truth”. It allows him to feel superior to the rest of us.

131

roy belmont 07.05.14 at 11:36 pm

JT:
“you just tell other people not to bother. “
This statement would require some serious misreading and misinterpretation to be presented as factual. As a rhetorical device it sort of works, but I don’t know, it just seems a little too tangential.
What I’m really after is Mr. Name’s position’s fundamental duplicity. Whether Name is personally sincere or, as it seems, being more than a little coy, remains to be seen. But the paragraph you’re using does have that little ladder to the meta after it, in “trying to wake each other up”. You did read that? Yes? No? Hmm…
-
Layman your erudition and logic are inspirational whenever they appear.
-
Just to throw some conspiratorial volatility on the smoldering embers here:

There was a trope fairly common on the ‘net a decade or so ago, still one of those popular contextual dogmatics, to the effect that people cannot be hypnotized into doing things against their moral character.
Can’t be “mind-controlled” to operate outside the boundaries of their personal ethos.
This has a component of reassurance built-in that accounts for its acceptance I think, because even the slightest ponder would suggest the root origin of that little factoid.
How does anyone know this? How would you find that out?
Research.
What kind of research?
Well we hypnotized a bunch of teenagers and instructed them to kill their grand-parents, and none of them did it.
So now we know that hypnosis, and by inference all the other bright shiny behaviorist tools for manipulating the unconscious mind, can’t degrade the moral foundations of society.
Good God, if it were true we’d have to restructure the entire edifice of social morality, from the ground up!
Tres impossible!

132

ZM 07.06.14 at 12:55 am

J Thomas “My argument is that *when it’s true* that evil methods win, there’s no percentage in refusing to use them. Because you definitely lose. “

“Third Glimmer of Hope: But God is supposed to be supremely Good. He would not deceive me, at least not all the time.

Fourth problem: But God might not exist at all. That would only make me less sure that I might not be deceived. What is worse is that instead of God, there might exist an evil genius who does everything he can do deceive me. All my experiences are mere illusions. There is no earth or heavens. I have no body. He makes me think false things about mathematics. In short, he deceives me about everything.

Conclusion of the First Meditation: Descartes has now been reduced to total skepticism. The possibility of an evil genius existing instead of God makes him doubt everything. He has yet to find anything which meets his criteria for knowledge. He gives up for the night, concluding at least that he will spite the evil demon by at least refusing the believe the false things he used to believe.”

133

J Thomas 07.06.14 at 1:03 am

“you just tell other people not to bother. “

This statement would require some serious misreading and misinterpretation to be presented as factual.

I went a little beyond your words, but it doesn’t look unreasonable to me.

“My first thought is that in the current context, we should just use it”

Yeah. Then you get people that know best, then you get infantilization, then you get dystopian nightmare.

It looks to me like you’re saying not to do it.

Yes, we really think we know best. Tobacco smoking in the quantities people do it, is unhealthy. You have hinted that maybe the problem isn’t the tobacco, maybe the problem is the insecticides that get sprayed on the tobacco and never removed. We don’t get that level of insecticide on most food because the government set standards, and farmers etc are mostly willing to go along. So I agree it’s possible that if we got tobacco companies to go along with the sort of pesticide controls that other agriculture uses, maybe we could clear things up and people could smoke the new tobacco with less damage. You mentioned this, but you didn’t come out and advocate that we try it.

So anyway, we think we know best, and we’re thinking about using the same methods to get people to do the right thing that the bad guys used to get them to do the wrong thing. And you say infantilization, dysutopian nightmare, contempt. If you aren’t advocating that we not do it, why aren’t you? Are you just showing your contempt of people who would do that, without in any way trying to get them to be better? Or what?

Yes, I went a little beyond what you said, but it doesn’t look to me like serious misreading and misinterpretation. Unless you meant something so subtle I have just missed it completely. Want to try again and say what you mean this time? I’ll do my best to understand, but when you’re the one trying to get your ideas across, the burden is on you to write in a way that makes sense to your audience.

134

Layman 07.06.14 at 1:13 am

“You are saying that there is good manipulation and bad manipulation.”

No, I’m saying that some advertising isn’t manipulation. “I’ve lost my cat, have you seen him?” is advertising without being manipulation. “You’ve got a cash flow problem, I can solve it” is advertising and is usually manipulation.

Advertising can inform without manipulating. Don’t you agree?

135

godoggo 07.06.14 at 1:17 am

Hector, are you reading this thread too? What do you have to say?

136

Ze Kraggash 07.06.14 at 8:25 am

All communication is manipulation. We classify some as harmful, some as harmless, and some as helpful, but our judgements are subjective and therefore controversial.

137

Sasha Clarkson 07.06.14 at 11:04 am

We should be a little careful with our language here. Advertising is, in principle*, persuasion. Persuasion can be honest or dishonest. Persuasion becomes manipulation when false claims are made, or implied by imagery, or psychological tactics like musical dissonance are used to enhance fear.

I regularly see examples of manipulation in adverts for anti-wrinkle cream: you get something like “Why is having a good time so bad for your skin? …. we have a solution in a bottle!”

It’s manipulation because it sets out to create a fear; also it implies that a “good time” is partying all night, and then that the “solution” to looking rough after a night on the tiles is found in a lotion containing an ingredient “pseudoscientific name xyz” rather than a good sleep and a hot bath.

*according to Walter J Moore, Physical Chemistry p571, “in principle” comes from the French en principe oui meaning Non!

138

J Thomas 07.06.14 at 11:17 am

“I’ve lost my cat, have you seen him?” is advertising without being manipulation. “You’ve got a cash flow problem, I can solve it” is advertising and is usually manipulation.

From this example, I think when you call something “manipulation” you are judging that the person you think is being manipulative is thinking about what will influence the person being manipulated. He is doing what he thinks will work, probably independent of truth.

But if you simply tell somebody the truth without thinking about how it will affect them, that isn’t manipulation.

I would draw the lines slightly differently. I think if you communicate because you want a particular response you are doing manipulation, but if you communicate with no thought for what the other person will do then it isn’t manipulation.

If you say “Woohoo! I’m drunk and I’m happy!” that is probably not manipulation. You are not warning the other person to stay away because you’re drunk, you’re not inviting them to get drunk with you, you’re merely drunk and happy and you are announcing the fact to the world.

If you say “I’ve lost my cat, have you seen him?” you hope the other person will find your cat.

If you put up a sign “LOST CAT — REWARD” you are thinking about reasons the other person might want to find your cat.

If you put a notice in the newspaper “Little Timmy has cancer and he loves his cat, and the cat is lost! Please help find Fluffy!” that is more manipulative still. You will likely get a lot of calls from people who think that immuno-compromised cancer patients should not have germy cats around them. You can tell them “But little Timmy *loves* Fluffy!” and hang up.

There can be varying levels of thought about how to get other people to do what you want, and varying levels of deceit, but if you know what you want other people to do and you communicate with them intending that they do what you want, it’s manipulation.

But if you simply inform them with no thought how they will react, that is not manipulation.

Sometimes it’s hard to tell how other people think. It’s possible that a woman who yells “Woohoo! I’m drunk and I feel hot!” might have a vague intuition that good things will come of it, without expecting any particular reaction from anybody. Or she might think of it as a mating call, and hope to attract men who will treat her the ways she wants to be treated.

A direct-mail marketer who tracks the statistics on how many responses he gets from each mailing, and decides that an envelope with 5 separate pieces of paper gets better responses than an envelope with the same information on 4 pieces of paper, is about as manipulative as a chemical engineer who finds that his run has 0.3% more product when he keeps the temperature lower by 0.5 degrees. Same sort of thing. Manipulate variables to get a result.

139

Layman 07.06.14 at 1:22 pm

‘Sometimes it’s hard to tell how other people think. It’s possible that a woman who yells “Woohoo! I’m drunk and I feel hot!” might have a vague intuition that good things will come of it, without expecting any particular reaction from anybody. Or she might think of it as a mating call, and hope to attract men who will treat her the ways she wants to be treated.’

J Thomas, this is pretty offensive.

140

J Thomas 07.06.14 at 5:50 pm

J Thomas, this is pretty offensive.

De gustibus, Layman.

I have never found that offensive, but on the other hand I haven’t figured that responding to it was likely to get me what I wanted. More likely a whole lot of trouble.

In my limited experience, women who get very drunk and go out to do wild and crazy things cause even more trouble than men who do the same.

141

John Mashey 07.06.14 at 6:36 pm

late to this one, but:
1) Obfuscation of both climate and tobacco issues is common to think thanks in various countries, and far more pervasive than seen in Oreskes and Conway’s Merchants of Doubt.
See Familair Think Tanks Fight for E-Cigs. Australian friends say they haven’t seen e-cigs much in Oz yet … but they are coming, I’m sure.
Do watch the videos of Jenny McCarthy or this one and see the vaping advertisements for things like Cotton Candy and Gummy Bear flavors.

2) One crucial fact: while there is much individual variation, nicotine addiction differs from opiates and others, as seems to work only during rapid brain development, i.e., it seems to only be able to install the addiction then.

Very few people start smoking and get addicted after teenage years. Tobacco companies have known for decades that they only way they’d stay in business was to addict youth to something that would kill many of them.
Only a tiny fraction of addicts can stop, so the reason tobacco companies hate plain packaging so much is that it inhibits youth from starting. I’d be surprised if it helps many people quit.

142

roy belmont 07.06.14 at 8:34 pm

Want to try again and say what you mean this time?

People on facebook don’t feel pain like we do.

143

Sasha Clarkson 07.06.14 at 8:53 pm

Roy@142 “People on facebook don’t feel pain like we do.”

Ha :D …. but one can delete or edit one’s posts on facebook – even old posts.

eg “Oceania is at war with Eastasia” (edited) ;)

144

Bruce Wilder 07.06.14 at 8:58 pm

J Thomas @ 124, 125 . . .

Well done.

145

John Mashey 07.06.14 at 9:05 pm

By the way, if you ever get a chance to hear Melanie Wakefield talk on this, she is very good and gives a lively talk. I heard her a few months ago when she was here in US. The Luther Terry Award she got refers to the US Surgeon General who shepherded the 1964 report that finally started to get action in the US.

146

MPAVictoria 07.06.14 at 11:14 pm

Shorter J. Thomas – Sluts!

147

J Thomas 07.07.14 at 12:44 am

MPAVictoria, there are some women who sometimes behave in a way that you would call slutty. Trust me on this. I have seen it happen myself.

I seen no reason I shouldn’t use them as examples of things they make good examples of.

In my experience, some of them have been coldly manipulative, while others were innocent and spontaneous, not thinking at all about how to get other people to do what they wanted, but just enjoying the moment. People vary in this, and one person can vary from time to time.

YMMV.

148

MPAVictoria 07.07.14 at 2:07 am

“MPAVictoria, there are some women who sometimes behave in a way that you would call slutty.”

No. No I wouldn’t.

149

ZM 07.07.14 at 4:51 am

“I would draw the lines slightly differently. I think if you communicate because you want a particular response you are doing manipulation, but if you communicate with no thought for what the other person will do then it isn’t manipulation.”

“I see no reason I shouldn’t use them [women under the influence of alcohol] as examples of things they make good examples of”

Which form of communication is this if you don’t mind me asking?

150

J Thomas 07.07.14 at 5:48 am

Shorter J. Thomas – Sluts!

“MPAVictoria, there are some women who sometimes behave in a way that you would call slutty.”

No. No I wouldn’t.

You did.

Not that there’s anything *wrong* with that.

151

J Thomas 07.07.14 at 5:53 am

Which form of communication is this if you don’t mind me asking?

The innocent ones who just want to have a good time, I was thinking of as not being manipulative.

It seemed like a good idea at the time.

152

godoggo 07.07.14 at 6:14 am

All this slut talk made me want to watch the I Claudius episode about Messalina and the prostitute, but when you click on the youtube link it tells you that you need a paid subscription to watch it. Feh.

153

Ze Kraggash 07.07.14 at 7:26 am

“The innocent ones who just want to have a good time, I was thinking of as not being manipulative. “

You need to start with animals. They communicate, their every communication has a purpose (to manipulate the potential mate, prey, adversary), and yet is not conscious, not deliberate, not calculated. I don’t see why similar behavior in humans should be classified as non-manipulative.

154

J Thomas 07.07.14 at 7:36 am

You need to start with animals. They communicate, their every communication has a purpose (to manipulate the potential mate, prey, adversary), and yet is not conscious, not deliberate, not calculated. I don’t see why similar behavior in humans should be classified as non-manipulative.

If everything they do that affect other animals has a purpose but they themselves don’t know what the purpose is, whose purpose is it?

If somebody else uses Pavlovian conditioning to make you display signals that affect other people when some stimulus triggers you to do that, does that mean you are being manipulative?

155

Ze Kraggash 07.07.14 at 8:25 am

“If everything they do that affect other animals has a purpose but they themselves don’t know what the purpose is, whose purpose is it?”

A bird sings its mating song because it feels like singing, but there is the purpose, obviously: attracting (i.e. manipulating) a potential mate.

I’m sure there are many different ways to describe whose purpose it is, but does manipulation necessary need the conscious agent? For example, IIRC Manufacturing Consent describes a sort of self-evolved systemic mechanism without any grand-manipulator behind it.

156

Sasha Clarkson 07.07.14 at 9:38 am

157

J Thomas 07.07.14 at 3:39 pm

I’m sure there are many different ways to describe whose purpose it is, but does manipulation necessary need the conscious agent?

I tend to think so.

ma·nip·u·la·tion (m-npy-lshn)
n.
1.
a. The act or practice of manipulating.
b. The state of being manipulated.
2. Shrewd or devious management, especially for one’s own advantage.

I’m pretty sure that the way most people use the term, if the manipulator doesn’t know he’s doing it then it doesn’t count.

If things happen to you and you respond blindly with no thought for how to get what you want, how can that be manipulative on your part?

The manipulative one has to see deeper than the ones he manipulates, he has to figure out how they will respond to different choices on his part and then choose what to do and say that will get them to do what he wants.

This pigeon in the Skinner box is manipulating the psychologist into feeding it when it pecks on the key. That way it gets the food and entertainment it wants.

The sheep who need to walk into the slaughterhouse have manipulated the slaughterhouse workers into providing them with a Judas goat. They get to feel much more comfortable walking into the slaughter house, that’s their reward. When they calmly do what the slaughterhouse workers need, they cause less trouble and that’s the workers’ reward. By sheer manipulation the sheep have trained the butchers to do what they want.

No, I don’t think so.

158

Ze Kraggash 07.07.14 at 4:20 pm

No, of course pigeons don’t communicate with psychologists, sheep with butchers. With wolves maybe, I don’t know.

159

godoggo 07.07.14 at 4:22 pm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bird_intelligence

A study on the Little Green Bee-eater suggests that these birds may be able to see from the point of view of a predator.[34] The Brown-necked Raven has been observed hunting lizards in complex cooperation with other ravens, demonstrating an apparent understanding of prey behavior.[35] The Western Scrub Jay hides caches of food and will later re-hide food if it was watched by another bird the first time, but only if the bird hiding the food has itself stolen food before from a cache.[36] Such an ability to see from the point of view of another individual had previously been attributed only to the great apes and sometimes elephants. Such abilities form the basis for empathy.

160

J Thomas 07.07.14 at 5:50 pm

I that context, would it make sense to say that empathy for others is the first necessary stop toward manipulating them?

If you can’t get a sense of how the chump feels about things, you won’t know how to con him.

161

Layman 07.07.14 at 6:15 pm

” there are some women who sometimes behave in a way that you would call slutty”

J Thomas, when did you last say this about some men?

162

Layman 07.07.14 at 6:17 pm

“If everything they do that affect other animals has a purpose but they themselves don’t know what the purpose is, whose purpose is it?”

Sometimes it is the ‘purpose’ of their genes. And of course not every behavior is determined by genes.

163

J Thomas 07.07.14 at 6:35 pm

” there are some women who sometimes behave in a way that you would call slutty”

J Thomas, when did you last say this about some men?

Somewhere around 6 months to a year ago. I don’t use the word much in any context, though. I didn’t say it this time, MPAVictoria did.

Sometimes it is the ‘purpose’ of their genes. And of course not every behavior is determined by genes.

To my way of thinking, when people say “My genes manipulated me into doing X” they are speaking metaphorically.

Maybe some people take that literally though.

164

Ze Kraggash 07.07.14 at 7:01 pm

Your genes don’t manipulate you. You genes may induce you to initiate certain unconscious communications (singing, for example, if you’re a bird). Every communication you initiate (conscious or unconscious) has the purpose to influence the target(s) of your communication. IOW: to manipulate the target. What is so controversial here?

165

Bruce Wilder 07.07.14 at 7:08 pm

You[r] genes may induce you to initiate certain unconscious communications (singing, for example, if you’re a bird).

I am curious about what evidence you can adduce that it is “unconscious” or even what you think that assertion means.

Perhaps, if there’s a songbird lurking on the thread, he could comment.

166

MPAVictoria 07.07.14 at 7:50 pm

“I didn’t say it this time, MPAVictoria did.”

I was merely summarizing your sexism.

/And this is the thanks I get?

167

Ze Kraggash 07.07.14 at 8:31 pm

“I am curious about what evidence you can adduce that it is “unconscious””

Since I’m talking about all communications, that’s irrelevant. In this context here it was supposed to refute the dichotomy between “coldly manipulative” and “innocent and spontaneous” behaviors in JT’s example.

Incidentally, I don’t really have much hope to convince anybody. Therefore my attempt to communicate (manipulate) must a different purpose. But frankly I have no idea what it might be.

168

MPAVictoria 07.07.14 at 8:34 pm

“Incidentally, I don’t really have much hope to convince anybody. Therefore my attempt to communicate (manipulate) must a different purpose. But frankly I have no idea what it might be.”

Same as mine? To make yourself feel better.
/Not trying to offend. I actually think it is the only reason that makes sense. No one has ever convinced anyone of anything they didn’t already want to be convinced of. So the reason we engage in these back and forths has to be what we get out of it personally.

169

Sasha Clarkson 07.07.14 at 8:57 pm

MPAV@168 “No one has ever convinced anyone of anything they didn’t already want to be convinced of”

I don’t entirely agree :) I’ve been convinced I was wrong on matters of fact, and even principle more often than I care to admit. Perhaps one sometimes reluctantly allows oneself to be persuaded because it’s better to admit being wrong, than to look like a total ***** (fill in insult of choice)

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J Thomas 07.07.14 at 9:12 pm

Since I’m talking about all communications, that’s irrelevant. In this context here it was supposed to refute the dichotomy between “coldly manipulative” and “innocent and spontaneous” behaviors in JT’s example.

If all communication is manipulation, then where do people get off accusing each other of manipulation? When you make the accusation you are communicating, therefore are yourself manipulating, therefore tu qoque! Every accusation of manipulation is sheer hypocrisy.

Or maybe there’s something else going on?

Incidentally, I don’t really have much hope to convince anybody. Therefore my attempt to communicate (manipulate) must a different purpose. But frankly I have no idea what it might be.

I saw a much-improved version of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. I don’t know who invented it, I got it from W Macfarlane. It goes: The absolute top priority is sense of identity. Lots of people have died to preserve their sense of who they are.

The second highest priority is excitement. People will put up with a whole lot of boring stuff when their sense of identity tells them to, but otherwise they get antsy.

The third priority is security. If you get into a secure situation that is too boring, you will probably do something exciting unless your sense of identity tells you not to, even if it loses security.

When you define who you are in opposition to other people, there’s more identity if the other people are definitely against you. You say who you are, they say who they are, the conflict deepens everybody’s sense of self. When other people sort of agree with you but not like it’s important, that takes most of the fun out of it.

I don’t know that this works for you, but it has a whole lot of explanatory power. By deciding that whatever the other guy is being really unreasonable about is his identity, you can explain pretty much any behavior whatsoever. But if in fact you get it wrong about his identity then you wind up with a powerful, truthy explanation which is in fact wrong.

So try to be careful with this tool. It provides a whole lot of satisfaction, but its value for prediction depends heavily on your skill.

171

Ogden Wernstrom 07.07.14 at 9:14 pm

Bruce Wilder 07.07.14 at 7:08 pm (quoting Ze Kraggash):

You[r] genes may induce you to initiate certain unconscious communications (singing, for example, if you’re a bird).
Perhaps, if there’s a songbird lurking on the thread, he could comment.

Songbirds hate tobacco smoke about as much as they hate coal dust. I printed the relevant parts of this thread, and put the papers where our songbirds could read them. Most of the birds dropped a bomb on the entire concept, but one had this to say:

I am offended in so many ways.

First, I am offended by the implication that my song might be intended to deceive. If there is any deception in my communication, it is defensive only – made neccessary by those around me whose goals are to harm me or my loved ones. You would do the same in the same situation.

Whatever comes after First (sorry, I am not good with numbers), I am offended by the racism displayed by the assertion that my singing is caused by some genetic predisposition. Is the incessant talk in the rough voices of humans something that is caused genetically? We work damn hard at learning to sing, and thereby convey nuance that humans may never understand. The little fledgeling can hardly sing its way out of a straw nest – how could singing be a genetic trait?

Humans appear to be able to perceive only the basest aspects of music. Plus, there are some birds that do not have a culture of music. Most of those birds, well, let’s just say that their “music” is just noise. With all the noise made by so many of those other birds, I guess it’s understandable that humans do not know that our songs are learned, not some genetically-driven behavior.

It does not take a bird brainiac to figure this stuff out.

172

Ze Kraggash 07.07.14 at 10:04 pm

“Every accusation of manipulation is sheer hypocrisy.”

Well, manipulations by tobacco companies are not reciprocal: they send messages to you without listening to your messages to them. So it’s perfectly fine to accuse them (as well as anyone or anything else that operates this way) of manipulation.

OTOH, when we are having a conversation (like we do now), accusing one another of manipulation would’ve seemed weird, indeed.

173

Layman 07.07.14 at 10:04 pm

‘To my way of thinking, when people say “My genes manipulated me into doing X” they are speaking metaphorically.’

Of course. Genes don’t conceive a purpose. They express themselves dumbly in physical and (some) behavioral manifestations. Giraffes don’t have genes that decide to grow their necks longer, just as gibbons don’t have genes that decide to mate for life. But giraffes do have long necks, and gibbons do mate for life, because genes.

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Layman 07.07.14 at 10:09 pm

“Somewhere around 6 months to a year ago. I don’t use the word much in any context, though. I didn’t say it this time, MPAVictoria did.”

I’m pretty sure you wrote:

“MPAVictoria, there are some women who sometimes behave in a way that you would call slutty. Trust me on this. I have seen it happen myself.”

Note that I’m objecting to your judgment here as much as, if not more than, your use of the actual word. And I’d love to see your example expressing the same sentiment about some men. But I’m not holding my breath.

175

ZM 07.07.14 at 10:27 pm

“Since I’m talking about all communications, that’s irrelevant. In this context here it was supposed to refute the dichotomy between “coldly manipulative” and “innocent and spontaneous” behaviors in JT’s example.”

Rather than ‘coldly manipulative’ vs ‘innocent and spontaneous’ in J Thomas’s poorly chosen example – wouldn’t the distinction between manipulative forms of expression and non-manipulative forms of expression be the subject’s instrumentalist approach to their interlocutor/audience/object/(some) other people etc?

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J Thomas 07.07.14 at 10:57 pm

And I’d love to see your example expressing the same sentiment about some men.

If you say “Woohoo! I’m drunk and I’m happy!” that is probably not manipulation. You are not warning the other person to stay away because you’re drunk, you’re not inviting them to get drunk with you, you’re merely drunk and happy and you are announcing the fact to the world.

It’s possible that a woman who yells “Woohoo! I’m drunk and I feel hot!” might have a vague intuition that good things will come of it, without expecting any particular reaction from anybody.

Those aren’t quite the same thing but to me they’re pretty close.

Anyway, my point is that the way people use the word, when they accuse somebody of being manipulative they are making assumptions about what’s going on in that person’s mind. They assume that he knows what he’s doing, that he understands the situation on a deeper level than the people that he manipulates. After all, if the people who’re being manipulated understand it better than he does, what is he getting away with?

People say that manipulation is bad. They take a moral stand about it. If all communication is manipulation then the thing they’re taking a moral stand about is something else.

177

roy belmont 07.08.14 at 2:23 am

Just like to thank everybody for proving beyond the shadowiest shadow of a doubt that this language police bullshit is not originating with, or being prolonged by, me.

Mr Wernstrom:
that my song might be intended to deceive.
Mockingbird, have you heard?
He’s gonna buy me, a
mockingbird.
-
Fuel for the…uhm…anyway, people, however you define that, however far back you’re willing to concede familial ancestry, spent lots and lots of cold dark times huddled around smoky-ass smoldering fires, because the wood was wet, because they didn’t have much wood and so built small smoky fires, because whatever shelter they were in didn’t have much vent, because the meat they were cooking dripped all over the embers, etc.
The history of smoke in human history is written on the wind.
Anyone who’s ever lived close to the ground like that will tell you breathing some smoke isn’t much of a problem when the heat’s coming in, when the food’s coming, not real pleasant in too large a volume, but not a deal breaker by any means.
Lots of folks respond very positively to the smell of woodsmoke on a crisp autumn day for precisely this reason. People love that barbecue.
Most mainstream cigarettes stink, but not all tobacco smells bad. Why? Chemistry.
I’m going to have to be tiresome and insist any discussion that concerns the evils of tobacco smoking that doesn’t cover the amount and chemical profile of the other shit that’s in there is just comfort-talk for true believers.
Not a defense, not a refutation, just there’s more to this than Ugh! smoke, bad.
And while I do think people have a right, or should have a right, to self-medicate how they choose, I think there’s something like a right to unadulterated substances. Or at least a right to informed consent for the ingestion of poisons in whatever form.
-
As regards the use of the “s-word”:
Anyone who thinks that by rejecting the sexual pathology of their immediate cultural forebears they’ve extricated themselves from sexual pathology entirely is a fucking idiot.

178

MPAVictoria 07.08.14 at 2:56 am

“Smoking is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States.

Cigarette smoking causes more than 480,000 deaths each year in the United States. This is about one in five deaths.
Smoking causes more deaths each year than all of these combined:
- Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
- Illegal drug use
- Alcohol use
- Motor vehicle injuries
- Firearm-related incidents

More than 10 times as many U.S. citizens have died prematurely from cigarette smoking than have died in all the wars fought by the United States during its history.

Smoking causes about 90% (or 9 out of 10) of all lung cancer deaths in men and women. More women die from lung cancer each year than from breast cancer.

About 80% (or 8 out of 10) of all deaths from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are caused by smoking.
Cigarette smoking increases risk for death from all causes in men and women.

The risk of dying from cigarette smoking has increased over the last 50 years in men and women in the United States.”

http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/health_effects/effects_cig_smoking/

Also there is no evidence that tobacco grown without additives is safe.

http://www.livescience.com/7914-warning-homegrown-tobacco-deadly.html

Of course maybe these scientists are lying and this is all a big conspiracy just like climate change. And I encourage anyone who thinks I am a “fucking idiot” to please take up a pack a day habit and find out.

179

godoggo 07.08.14 at 3:42 am

180

ZM 07.08.14 at 6:18 am

“Anyone who’s ever lived close to the ground like that will tell you breathing some smoke isn’t much of a problem when the heat’s coming in, when the food’s coming, not real pleasant in too large a volume, but not a deal breaker by any means.”

I am not sure what your argument here is -
but -
Smoke from indoor fires for heating and cooking actually has very significant negative health and well being consequences for poor people in poor countries living in small dwellings without adequate ventilation. This includes harming the ability of children to study and become more educated, and also impacts on land use, deforestation, and the water cycle.
Eg.
http://m.trstmh.oxfordjournals.org/content/102/9/843.short
http://cdrwww.who.int/mediacentre/events/H&SD_Plaq_no9.pdf

Also, your argument that people should not try to discourage/prevent people from becoming addicted to smoking via laws and regulations ignores the impact of smoking on people – including young children – in poorer countries without strong regulations which tobacco companies now target as a market.
70% of men aged 20+ smoke in Indonesia, for example, and the starting age has gone down to *age 7*
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/mar/22/indonesias-smoking-epidemic

181

ZM 07.08.14 at 6:21 am

I should have written:
As well as ” high levels of indoor air pollution and an increase in the incidence of respiratory infections, including pneumonia, tuberculosis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, low birthweight, cataracts, cardiovascular events and all-cause mortality both in adults and children” this also includes…

182

Sasha Clarkson 07.08.14 at 8:44 am

ZM @181

Quoting from your last link: “Sampoerna is the country’s largest cigarette maker and is owned by Philip Morris.

So there we have it. Philip Morris is doing in Indonesia what its isn’t allowed to do in its parent country, which is promote tobacco heavily and target young people. There is no doubt about the medical consequences. This is a crime against humanity. The fact that it seem to be legal, points to the weakness of international law – and national law. The fact that western governments allow firms based in their own countries to get away with this abroad is a disgrace.

183

J Thomas 07.08.14 at 1:03 pm

Just like to thank everybody for proving beyond the shadowiest shadow of a doubt that this language police bullshit is not originating with, or being prolonged by, me.

No, this time it was me. I mentioned that some women sometimes behave in ways that some conservatives disapprove of. Somebody else then started with the inappropriate language.

I’m still not clear about the objections, but it’s apparently some combination of:

1. You mustn’t say that any women ever behave in ways that conservatives disapprove of.
2. You mustn’t approve of women behaving in ways that play into male fantasies.
3. You musn’t disapprove of women behaving any way they want to.
4. You mustn’t imply that women ever behave in ways that are different from the way men behave.
5. You mustn’t imply that women ever behave in ways that men do, that somebody would disapprove of.
6. You musn’t talk about any of this, except to disapprove of people who talk about it.

Especially considering #6, I shouldn’t have responded.

I’m going to have to be tiresome and insist any discussion that concerns the evils of tobacco smoking that doesn’t cover the amount and chemical profile of the other shit that’s in there is just comfort-talk for true believers.

I disagree. We can discuss an issue without riding your own hobby-horse.

When we had problems with malaria in the USA, we found various solutions. Quinine does some good. We eventually got other medications that helped. And we worked to reduce the number of mosquitoes that carried the disease, and we worked to keep mosquitoes in areas where malaria was endemic from biting people, and we worked to keep infected people from being bitten by mosquitoes that could then keep the cycle of infection going.

We approached it from every angle that might help, and the ones that helped the most, did a lot of good. Nobody would say “Anybody who’s interested in malaria control who doesn’t talk about malaria drugs is just doing comfort-talk for true believers.”. Because mosquito control in fact worked a lot better to solve the problem than curing large numbers of people after they had malaria.

Similarly, we can deal with our smoking problem by reducing smoking, by arranging various forms of smokeless tobacco, by creating better tobacco to smoke, etc. Reducing the number of smokers is one effective approach that deserves a lot of thought. The others may be useful too.

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John Mashey 07.08.14 at 7:34 pm

Almost nobody gets addicted to nicotine after brain development slows down, for most people late teens, or early 20s. Unlike some other addictions, it needs to rewire brains during that development and tobacco companies have known this for at least 3 decades. Once addicted only a small fraction (10-15%) manage to quit.

In the long run, about the only thing that matters is stopping kids from starting and establishing the addiction by the early 20s. After that, people can try it as muc has they like, but almost nobody does or if they do, don’t get addicted.

I don’t think Oz has seen much vaping yet, but while that is less bad than smoking, it still has problems, given that nicotine itself has toxic properties. (Tars in smoke casue a lot of the lung cancer, but nicotine affects blood vessels, i.e., stroeks nad heart attacks.)

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