The Dim-Post

April 29, 2010

Speaking of drugs

Filed under: drugs — danylmc @ 8:05 am

On the one hand, tobacco excise is a regressive tax. On the other hand . . .

About a quarter of Indonesian boys aged 13 to 15 are already hooked on cigarettes that sell for about $1 a pack or as little as a few cents apiece, according to WHO. A video on YouTube last month prompted outrage when a 4-year-old Indonesian boy was shown blowing smoke rings and flicking a cigarette. His parents say he’s been smoking up to a pack a day since he was 2.

According to a 2008 study on tobacco revenue in Indonesia, smokers spend more than 10 percent of their household income on cigarettes; that’s three times more than they spend on education-related expenses such as school fees and books.

As of today cigarettes in New Zealand will set you back about $17 a packet. That’s a lot of cash for kids to steal out of Dad’s coin jar. I imagine the ban on smoking in bars prevents a lot of older teens from acquiring the habit. That’s a lot of people who won’t spend their lives addicted to an expensive and deadly drug: Oh nanny state! Is there no limit to your evil?

Meanwhile, The Press has a story about the government’s ‘War on P’ turning into a game of whackamole:

Young people are getting hooked on a new form of heroin as dealers find drugs to fill the gap left by record seizures of P.

Christchurch police, health professionals and drug counsellors have noticed a rise in the past year in the number of young people using the new form of the drug, known among users as “spotting”, a name derived from the way it is taken.

Detective Sergeant Dorothy McPhail, of the Christchurch organised-crime unit, said the drug was a “new form of homebake heroin in liquid form sold in dots on sheets of tinfoil”.

The drug is then smoked off the foil.

“It seems to be a younger group that is using it. That seems to be the trend. It is something new that we have come across,” she said.

The Canterbury District Health Board’s community alcohol and drug service clinical head, David Stoner, said more young people were becoming addicted to opiates.

It’s an unhappy fact of life that a lot of young people want to abuse drugs. The status quo is that they abuse drugs that are legal for historic reasons (alcohol, tobacco) or that are easy and profitable for criminal organisations to manufacture (methamphetamine, heroin). If only there was some blindingly obvious solution to this problem.

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22 Comments »

  1. As the GDP/capita in Indonesia is 7.5% of that in NZ, the price of $1 per packet is comparable to the price in NZ.
    Your argument that low price leads to more addiction is therefore bogus.
    The solution to abuse of drugs is never prohibition, but addressing the reasons that people seek to escape from reality to that extent, or why they need those quick chemical fixes.
    One can never stop all use of drugs, it’s just what people do and it should be excepted. There will always be a few that show behaviour that puts themselves at risk, not just use of drugs. Let natural selection take care of that, not the nanny state.

    Comment by Dimmocrazy — April 29, 2010 @ 8:28 am

  2. Stomping on E imports successfully aided the spread of methamphetamine. It is hardly the law of unintended consequence anymore.

    As a result of the serious NYE problems in the mount several years back I was told by a cop that they changed their policing emphasis for quite a while (I don’t know if this current police thinking or not) because while several hundred drug youths rioted on booze at the Mount, 4500 pilled up clubbers saw in the new year in downtown Auckland with just one arrest – a guy who was dancing on a bus shelter wouldn’t come when asked.

    If only there was a blindingly obvious solution…

    Comment by Sanctuary — April 29, 2010 @ 8:42 am

  3. “The Canterbury District Health Board’s community alcohol and drug service clinical head, David Stoner, said more young people were becoming addicted to opiates.”

    Hmm, unfortunate name for the position.

    JC

    Comment by JC — April 29, 2010 @ 8:52 am

  4. State control and supply of all drugs. That way the state can turn supply on when nurses and doctors need training in the hospitals, and off when they’ve finished. On when the police are bored and off when they go overboard in excitement. On at important times, like RWC, and off at important times, like ANZAC and Christmas Day.

    They can restrict supply to raise cash to fill Gerry’s lunchbox – errr – erase the deficit. Various politicians can be ‘drug czar’s'; Rodney could go first to establish the free-market underpinnings of state control.

    State control of all drugs is the answer.

    Comment by Chris — April 29, 2010 @ 8:59 am

  5. “unfortunate name for the position”

    could’ve been worse, could’ve been Junky McCrackhead…

    “Let natural selection take care of that, not the nanny state.”

    sounds like a wonderful society that your dictatorship will bring us Dimmocrazy.

    “addressing the reasons that people seek to escape from reality to that extent”

    are you talking about hopeless poverty? intergenerational dependence cycles? poor education? what are you suggesting be done? more natural selection, perhaps?

    Comment by nommopilot — April 29, 2010 @ 9:50 am

  6. “State control of all drugs is the answer.”

    yes because sensible regulation = state control

    Comment by nommopilot — April 29, 2010 @ 9:51 am

  7. Reading all this stuff about drug policy making has caused me to reflect how the trouble with discussing drug policy online is the debate is usually hallmarked by middle class capture. Well adjusted twenty somethings from good homes in Howick who take pills on the weekend are not a priority for the cops – and if they are caught packing a lolly or two the plod won’t even arrest them 90% of the time (100% if you are hot chick in short shorts and can cry on cue).

    To me, much of the outrage is middle class driven, because this is a section of society that believes the law is an abstract for application to someone else. The negative impact of all drugs – leegal and illegal – on poor communities. None of this changes my particular views on the best way to deal with drugs in our society, but it just means the online debate always peters out into a futile philosophical trench warfare amongst the chattering classes.

    Comment by Sanctuary — April 29, 2010 @ 10:32 am

  8. oops.

    Add:

    “The negative impact of all drugs – legal and illegal – on poor communities hardly ever features in the debate, and hence the impact of, for example, well funded organised crime gangs doesn’t features that much either.”

    Comment by Sanctuary — April 29, 2010 @ 10:38 am

  9. Try a bit deeper, nommopilot, where does intergenerational dependency, structural poverty and poor education come from?
    Answer that and you know my solution.

    Comment by Dimmocrazy — April 29, 2010 @ 10:38 am

  10. Sanctuary, I agree most of the concern comes from ‘middle NZ’ but the negative effects of the current regime are felt at the bottom end. By having it illegal it funnels money to where you really dont want to funnel money which in term attracts many in the bottom to a certain lifestyle which is not in the long term positive for them or the people they know, and definitely not positive for society.

    Comment by Jeff R — April 29, 2010 @ 11:11 am

  11. “Answer that and you know my solution.”

    I don’t think your answer would be the same as mine and I don’t do mind reading so stop being coy and just say what you want to say.

    Comment by nommopilot — April 29, 2010 @ 11:56 am

  12. Indonesia has probably the worst emerging tobacco problem in the world. It has a huge domestic industry, producing sweet cinnamon-flavoured, sugar-tipped little cigarettes with high nicotine levels.

    Under the New Order dictatorship, tobacco licenses were granted to business cartels with connections to President Suharto and his family. Since democracy in 1998, there’s been some diversification, but the companies remain powerful and well connected to lawmakers – and this is possibly the most corrupt country in Asia. They have a free reign with almost no regulation (Gudang Garam was Indonesia’s 3rd largest television advertiser last year), and foreign companies are looking to diversify and rightly see this as developing market.

    I suspect they’ll trail the world, and follow about 20 years behind what most countries have already done.

    Comment by George D — April 29, 2010 @ 12:31 pm

  13. . . . sweet cinnamon-flavoured, sugar-tipped little cigarettes with high nicotine levels.

    Dunno about the sugar, but that’s cloves, not cinnamon.

    Comment by joe W — April 29, 2010 @ 12:44 pm

  14. My personal belief is that the only thing that can shape societies behaviour is society. Not the laws. Not the public information campaigns. Society’s expectations are what drives the behaviour of society.

    The reality is that societal pressure is what’s changed the rate of smoking in this country. It’s what’s lowered the incidence of drink driving. When something becomes socially unacceptable, most people don’t do it.

    Cannabis is (largely) socially acceptable because it doesn’t hurt anybody. People have a different view of P because the perception is that it does hurt people. And small scale drinking is tolerated in our society, but no one wants to be fingered as an alcoholic (though what constitutes alcoholic is a matter for debate).

    Most people can see that alcohol doesn’t destroy the lives of most users. And the reality is that that’s true for most other drugs, but it’s never the harmless use you hear about: Everyone’s got a story about how their mates’ mates’ mate took E and drank half a bottle of vodka and had to get their stomach pumped. Not many people know their office mate went to a dance party on the weekend, took half an E and half a tab, had a fantastic night and was back to work on Monday morning. You don’t hear about it but it happens.

    If only people knew what really went on, much more sensible decisions could be made.

    Comment by Ben — April 29, 2010 @ 2:02 pm

  15. As the GDP/capita in Indonesia is 7.5% of that in NZ, the price of $1 per packet is comparable to the price in NZ.
    Your argument that low price leads to more addiction is therefore bogus.

    Comment by Dimmocrazy

    GDP per capita is not a good measure for price comparisons. It’s “bogus”. Well bogus, dude. Using that measure pays no attention to income equality – you assume that everyone in Indonesia has equal earnings. Also, you need to use a PPP measure because otherwise you’re not making a fair comparison. So rather than outstrip Indonesia’s per capita GDP by a factor of 13, under PPP terms it’s only about 6.5.

    But in reality, you should be looking at PPP median income, or even better, have a look at the Big Mac Index. Indonesian average prices for goods according to that are undervalued by a factor of twenty compared to NZ and by a factor of 35 compared to the US (which is the currency used in the original report). Not that I can be arsed doing the maths right now, but it seems that a packet of cigarettes in Indonesia is actually comparatively much more affordable than the equivalent packets in NZ. Added to which, you can buy those things in singles in Indonesia – in NZ you have to buy in 20s or 30s.

    Comment by dontsurf — April 29, 2010 @ 2:45 pm

  16. Yeah, you can buy a single smoke for a couple of dozen rupiah which works out at way less than 1c NZ.

    Comment by danylmc — April 29, 2010 @ 2:49 pm

  17. If you’re old enough to work you’re old enough to smoke, so leave the indonesian kids alone.

    Comment by Pat — April 29, 2010 @ 3:06 pm

  18. Do Key and Rudd swap policy notes?

    And do they wager on whose will be bigger – tax cuts, excise taxes etc?

    And once we end up being exactly like Australia, is there any point in not being Australia?

    Comment by Pat — April 29, 2010 @ 3:17 pm

  19. And once we end up being exactly like Australia, is there any point in not being Australia?

    Comment by Pat

    I would have thought the beer and the TV was reason enough.

    Comment by dontsurf — April 29, 2010 @ 3:45 pm

  20. e cigarettes are great!

    Comment by Kim Purdon — April 29, 2010 @ 6:46 pm

  21. Pat @ 17: i hurt myself roffling and it’s your fault.

    Comment by Clunking Fist — April 30, 2010 @ 1:38 pm

  22. Oh look! A middle class pseud-fest.

    “Waitakere Man” etc

    Comment by x-pat — May 1, 2010 @ 8:52 am


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