The ongoing furore around smoking and the new Government’s stance is reaching farcical levels.

Smoking remains a choice. Smoking is not about to become compulsory. For anyone.

The voice of reason was Casey Costello, the Associate Health Minister, rejecting the criticism.  

“I think the narrative has got away on itself,” she told AM, speaking to host Ryan Bridge.  

You’re talking about reversing the amendments to the legislation because we just think it’s bad legislation and that’s the reality; this isn’t about walking away from smokefree, it’s not about walking away from reducing smoking addiction – nicotine addiction – it’s about practical, workable legislation that will actually have some impact.

Smokefree legislation scrapping narrative ‘has got away on itself’ – Associate Health Minister Casey Costello | Newshub

Sir Ian Taylor was one of many who have condemned the new Government for their decision to allow people’s right to make a choice. If parents do not want their kids to smoke then they should teach them about the dangers of the habit. Effective parents teach their children about all the dangers in life and about making good decisions to bring about the best outcomes.

Sure, it would be better if people chose not to smoke. It would be better if they did not eat until they became obese. Should food be rationed, under the same principle that Sir Ian Taylor and others, including the well-nourished Labour health spokesperson, Ayesha Verrall, are now in full cry about?  

That cigarette smoking is bad for us has been known since the 1940s and 1950s when it was found that smoking was responsible for a global epidemic of lung cancer. It is no surprise that disease and premature death can and do follow cigarette use. Ultimately however it is up to the individual if they want to take that risk or not.

We are told that Maori will be the worst affected by the lack of state control, and they will bear the tax burden. If they choose to smoke then they choose to pay that tax. They are not, have not been, and will never be forced into making the choice to smoke.

As the new Government states, there are other ways of discouraging smoking and those methods are showing decreasing use and people are choosing not to smoke. Isn’t it amazing, that they are able to make that choice in the absence of state control. (sarc)

The point of view that Maori are unable to make healthy decisions and choices for themselves is a strange one. Why are Maori, and Pasifika, patronised in this way? That poor health outcomes are, in some cases (not all), a direct choice, escapes scrutiny and does no one any favours.

The fact that life requires accountability and personal responsibility seems to have eluded these people. As it does for those who drink to excess, like the Wellington Mayor, whose drunkenness and appalling behaviours are being excused and enabled by a selection of Councillors in Wellington and Auckland.

I am sorry that Tory Whanau has an alcohol problem, but that is her problem and one that has been made a civic problem. It remains to be seen what the outcome of Mayor Whanau’s inexcusable personal choices will be, but it was, and is, her decision to behave in the ways she did. She cannot be removed from her position and so presumably can continue to behave just as she wishes, without regard for her position or the city she represents.

That there are consequences associated with choice is the main issue and the one that many on the political left do not wish to understand or accept. Choice is a consequence with a long memory.

Sir Ian Taylor seems confused by his take on MMP – on the one hand, he is happy that it represents the wishes of minor parties, and on the other, he smarts when it does just that and has resigned from his position on several boards after exactly one week of the new Government and its coalition agreements.  

He doesn’t like “the way that power has manifested itself through the coalition discussions and on into the first week of the new government”.

And the fact that he was not asked for his opinion on the smoking issue.

This was a deal done behind closed doors, seemingly to accommodate the vagaries of MMP. It was not something that I was given the advantage of thinking about when deciding where to cast my vote. I may be missing something here but surely we can all accept that science has inarguably taught us that there is no upside whatsoever in taking up cigarette smoking.

Um – so He Puapua was all out in the open? Available for discussion prior to the 2020 election? So Three Waters was what the Labour Government was elected on? Rhetorical questions, of course.

Sir Ian was born to a Pakeha father and his mother was of Ngati Kahungunu and Nga Puhi descent.

To put in place an intergenerational plan that would remove that risk from our tamariki was something being acclaimed across the world. It was the sort of bold initiative we need to be taking as we face the other intergenerational changes around education, health and climate change.

To argue that we needed people to continue smoking so we could collect a billion dollars in tax, to fund tax cuts, brought back to me a phrase I learned in my Latin class back in the 60s.

“Reductio ad absurdum” – if we are going to justify smoking as a tax generating revenue why don’t we go the whole hog and start selling methamphetamine in our hospitals. For our libertarian politicians this would be the perfect “user pays” scenario. Users get to fund the health system that they end up relying on when all of the health impacts of their drug use kicks in. Apparently, it is a huge business so it is likely that there would be millions left over to properly fund Pharmac.

And then there is the really cool ‘unintended consequence’ where gangs are put out of business because hospitals would have completely destroyed their market.

Reductio ad absurdum – a bit like Maori not being indigenous to the land because they had to travel to get here.

Sir Ian Taylor: The unintended consequences of the new government | Stuff.co.nz

Well, I also learned Latin in the 1960s, and Sir Ian’s phrase equally describes his take on the issues he mentions, disproving a proposition by showing how absurd it is when carried to its logical conclusion.

His comments may form an argumentum ad captandum, “for capturing” the gullibility of the naïve among the listeners or readers. It is an unsound, specious argument designed to appeal to the emotions rather than to the mind. It is used to describe “claptrap or meretricious attempts to catch popular favour or applause”.

What a disappointment that such a learned and impressive man has fallen prey to the insidious mantra that says that Maori are incapable of making wise choices and must be protected from themselves.

I am saddened that Sir Ian has taken this stance, as he is a person for whom I have had great respect. I will continue to hold him in high regard; however, his comments about our new Government and their smoking policy are unhelpful.

KSK has a Master of Management degree from the University of Auckland. She has a business management background following many years in the medical field. She is a former business mentor with Business...