Sentences to ponder

by on April 27, 2010 at 12:34 pm in Economics, Law | Permalink

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.

And this:

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.

Indonesia remains one of the last places in the world where cigarette TV commercials still run, featuring rugged men and beautiful women smoking. Billboards plastered above four-lane highways encourage motorists stuck in Jakarta's notorious traffic jams to "Go Ahead" or "Become a Man" or let Marlboro Lights "Style Your Party."

Leggy women in short skirts and strappy heels promote cigarettes at events, sometimes even giving out discounted or free samples to "taste."

The full story is here and I thank Daniel Lippman for the pointer.  How many of you will bite this bullet?

1 Nathan April 27, 2010 at 12:53 pm

Do we have any practical options other than biting this bullet? I am not ready for a global war on Tobacco.

2 Bob Lawson April 27, 2010 at 12:58 pm

An (likely) inferior good with a large income effect? An excellent candidate for a Giffen Good.

3 John Paul Lewicke April 27, 2010 at 1:13 pm
4 Allan April 27, 2010 at 1:31 pm

Yes, they gave the chance of a higher rate of emphysema and cancer to poor people.

Bully for cigarette companies.

5 burger flipper April 27, 2010 at 1:51 pm

still puzzled that no one else in the GMU blogosphere commented on Hanson’s contention there’s no evidence cigs are bad for you, whether to back him up or comment on his thinking process.

6 Rahul April 27, 2010 at 2:15 pm

What’s the classical libertarian position on cigarettes anyways? Just curious.

7 William April 27, 2010 at 2:26 pm

I’d bite but I don’t think I am important enough to count.

8 wlu2009 April 27, 2010 at 2:32 pm

@Rahul,

There are a number of so called “socially responsible mutual funds” that the average person can choose from. These funds don’t invest in tobacco, pornography, liquor companies, etc. So if a shareholder is legitimately opposed to this kind of activity, there’s no need for him to comb through his mutual funds portofolio on a daily basis. Just call up Chuck and and say you want you’re money in a socially responsible fund. I think most people just don’t enough care about the 4 year old indonesian who’ll have cancer at 10 to give up a little extra yield.

9 Byrk April 27, 2010 at 3:25 pm

There are a number of so called “socially responsible mutual funds” that the average person can choose from. These funds don’t invest in tobacco, pornography, liquor companies, etc.

That’s assuming that this is available in everyone’s 401(k) plan.

10 Will April 27, 2010 at 3:46 pm

There are also socially responsible investment firms that specialize in shareholder activism

11 Mike Huben April 27, 2010 at 4:06 pm

“What’s the classical libertarian position on cigarettes anyways? Just curious.”

Here’s what I have at Libertarianism In One Lesson:

“All food, drugs, and medical treatments should be entirely unregulated: every industry should be able to kill 300,000 per year in the US like the tobacco industry.”

I’ve yet to meet a libertarian who can explain to me why libertarianism would oppose somebody selling any drugs to that smoking 4 year old. Narcotic lollypops? Yet for some reason libertarians usually get incensed when I suggest that a neighborhood entrepreneur should sell or give drugs to their 6 year olds.

12 liberalarts April 27, 2010 at 4:56 pm

“most people just don’t enough care about the 4 year old indonesian who’ll have cancer at 10 to give up a little extra yield”

Actually, if stock markets are efficient, then restricting any class of stocks, such as tobacco, should only increase the variance of the now less diversified portfolio. If those stocks had a better expected return, then their prices should already be bid up to the point that the return is not above average.

13 Joe April 27, 2010 at 5:07 pm

“We have a problem with you wanting to treat grown adults who know the risk of smoking as if they where 4 year old children.”

Just as a reality check:

I can count the number of grown adult smokers I know who don’t want to quit on one finger. (He was an angry libertarian protester at a presentation by a former FDA official, who kept interrupting the speaker to claim cigarettes weren’t harmful.)

I don’t know anyone who started smoking when they were truly a “grown adult.” One college freshman, and the others were all in high school.

14 Zephyrus April 27, 2010 at 5:40 pm

Constant, for a century you had tobacco companies pumping out loads of propaganda that the “coffin nails” were actually more or less harmless. Sometimes even that they were healthy! And this convinced many people to ignore the inconvenient truth that smoking, well, killed you.

Really, a regular commentator on Marginal Revolution, of all places, should recognize the ability of large corporations to convince even intelligent people to reject well-attested-to scientific evidence.

15 Andrey April 27, 2010 at 5:48 pm

I’m not so sure that advertising and “corporate greed” is a major problem here. Consider USSR/Russia and alcohol for example. I don’t have any serious statistics, but I think that there was a reason for a joke that drinking is a national past time in Russia.

Note that before soviet-style prohibition alcohol wasn’t advertised (officials actually tried to attach stigma to alcohol abuse), yet even after legal supply was limited there came moonshining wich was widespread despite risks associated with it.
I remember seeing vodka ads during nineties but at this time as far as I know alcohol advertisement is banned. Yet I keep hearing about anecdotal evidence of child alcoholism and all other traditional problems of substance abuse on large scale.

Again, I admit that I don’t have any solid numbers and my opinion comes from personal experience and anecdotal evidence, but so far I’m sceptical about role of advertisement. My guess is that reason for alcohol and tobacco abuse is more likely to be the low(er) quality of life and maybe common knowledge or tradition. If someone’s life is bad enough, probably cheap distraction like smoking or drinking outweights concern for effects in the long run in “how can it can get any worse?” way.

16 Colin April 27, 2010 at 8:22 pm

“Is the bullet laced with nicotine? if so, then yes.”

Oh sweet, sweet delicious bullets…

17 anon April 27, 2010 at 9:11 pm

I don’t know anyone who started smoking when they were truly a “grown adult.” One college freshman, and the others were all in high school.

So, if it’s not the high school kid’s parents’ responsibility, why is it now my responsibility? Or yours? And aren’t there laws about not selling tobacco to people under 18?

Really, a regular commentator on Marginal Revolution, of all places, should recognize the ability of large corporations to convince even intelligent people to reject well-attested-to scientific evidence.

Really, an adult in America, of all places, should recognize the ongoing willingness, ability and demonstrated success of the government to lie and convince even intelligent people to not think for themselves but rather defer to their betters, including politicians, experts, and better educated, morally superior and more enlightened folk.

18 anon April 27, 2010 at 9:14 pm

How many of you will bite this bullet?

Ah, “The White Man’s Burden” bullet….

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_White_Man%27s_Burden

19 Zephyrus April 27, 2010 at 10:00 pm

Whoah, calm down, anon. I thought it was widely accepted nowadays that most people accepted that tobacco companies lied and paid hacks to pump out tons of bad research to misinform the public and undermine informed choice, at the expense of the lives of consumers. Do you really disagree?

20 doctorpat April 27, 2010 at 10:58 pm

Yes, I was just reading a poem from the 1890s that referred to cigarettes as “gaspers”.

Likewise P.G. Wodehouse books from the 1910s and 1920s accept it as obvious that smoking makes you less healthy and athletic.

I’m firmly convinced that anyone who says “but we didn’t know in the 1950s” is just faking ignorance to get sympathy and money.

What next? We didn’t know living on a diet of Big Macs and Thick Shakes and Fries was bad for us in 2010 because MacDonalds ads said they were good?

21 Rafi April 28, 2010 at 12:00 am

Wow, sucks for those people. Someone should fly over there and tell them that cigarettes are bad for you. I nominate all those who wish to spend my money to do so to instead spend their own. You will be a better person for it.

Seriously though, if I ever see a four year old kid on my block smoking cigarettes I’ll ask him what’s going on and try to talk to his parents. If they don’t care, then they will be a worse person for it.

As for the child? Hey, nobody grows up in a perfect environment. Is this kid forced into smoking? Is he being lied to? I guess those are the questions we should be asking.

22 Bob Layson April 28, 2010 at 4:22 am

In a moslem country it may not be easy to obtain, or considered proper to consume, alcohol. So you seek out a substitute.

23 get your girlfriend back April 28, 2010 at 7:05 am

The problem could be that most stock is selected by middlemen transacting on behalf of a large population.There are a number of so called “socially responsible mutual funds” that the average person can choose from.

24 anon April 28, 2010 at 9:13 am

Whoah, calm down, anon. I thought it was widely accepted nowadays that most people accepted that tobacco companies lied and paid hacks to pump out tons of bad research to misinform the public and undermine informed choice, at the expense of the lives of consumers. Do you really disagree?

Whoah, calm down. I thought it was widely accepted nowadays that most people accepted that the government lies and that taxpayers bear the financial burden of paying politicians and political appointees to establish liberty-negating and fiscally irresponsible programs AND to also pump out tons of propaganda, errr, bad information, at taxpayer expense to misinform the public and undermine informed choice, at the expense of the lives and liberty of citizens. Do you really disagree?

Open your eyes, crony capitalism is on the ascent. Free markets and individual liberty and freedom are under assault by the state and its corporate cronies.

25 Will April 28, 2010 at 12:05 pm

“If people wanted to quit, they would have quit already. Clearly they don’t want to quit.”

That’s not really how addiction works. It kind of makes me sad that you think this.

26 Will April 28, 2010 at 12:21 pm

The Journal of the AMA ran cigarette ads in the ’30s-’50s

“Family physicians, surgeons, diagnosticians, nose and throat specialists, doctors in every branch of medicine… a total of 113,597 doctors… were asked the question: ‘What cigarette do you smoke?’ And more of them named Camel as their smoke than any other cigarette! Three independent research groups found this to be a fact. You see, doctors too smoke for pleasure. That full Camel flavor is just as appealing to a doctor’s taste as to yours… that marvelous Camel mildness means just as much to his throat as to yours.”

Camel Ad, 1946

You guys can argue your point about revisionism but at least include some balance, otherwise it’s useless

27 sumvision cyclone     April 29, 2010 at 3:40 am

Tuesday for failing to deal normally with Cyprus and opted to keep the brakes on Ankara’s attempt to join the European Union.

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