Anti-smoking spending

December 6th, 2010 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

I’ve been sent a copy of an OIA response from the Ministry of Health about how many organisations receive taxpayer funding for anti-smoking programmes, and to what level. The OIA is embedded below.

MOH OIA – Tobacco Spend for Period 200809 200910 201011

As one can see there is a nice wee industry out there all funded by the taxpayer. Around 100 organisations getting around $50 million between them.

Now I’ve not got an issue with the total amount of funding. Smoking is highly addictive and helping people to quit or not start can be a good use of Vote Health dollars.

It is more the sheer number of groups that get funded. I’d rather have a few dedicated highly professional groups, than 100 or so. A large number appear to be Maori groups. Again, I’d rather fund one or two groups with a proven track record in reducing Maori smoking rates, than the 35 that have been getting funding.

The cynic in me wonders how much of the funding goes on lobbying for more money, and reporting on what they have done.

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28 Responses to “Anti-smoking spending”

  1. Manolo (13,839 comments) says:

    “I’d rather have a few dedicated highly professional groups, than 100 or so. A large number appear to be Maori groups.”

    What a surprise? Aren’t these people experts in sucking off the public teat? In milking the system to their own advantage to get the grants and easy money they want?

    Of some of them is fitting to say: Once a bludger, always a bludger.

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  2. Whaleoil (767 comments) says:

    Nice to see the veteran trougher Shane Bradbrook at Te Reo Marama looks to be having a poor time in getting his trotters on dollars.

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  3. BeaB (2,125 comments) says:

    Sheer appalling waste of money. $50 million!!!!
    Find out who wants to give up, send them Nicorette or patches and offer them a hefty cash incentive – to be paid in installments over, say, two years as long as they are still off the fags.
    Result – lots of quitters with some handy sums of money including the savings on fags.
    And a whole industry closed down – offices, cars, admin costs…It makes my head hurt just thinking of the leeches. Then we could start on the alcohol gravy train. And the rest…

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  4. YesWeDid (1,048 comments) says:

    DPF, how much in tax does the government collect from the sale of cigarettes each year and what percentage of this does $50M represent?

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  5. Gooner (995 comments) says:

    @ borrowings of $250 million per week, this is “only” one working day’s borrowings.

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  6. david (2,557 comments) says:

    YWD so you would advocate an “easy come – easy go” approach?

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  7. david (2,557 comments) says:

    I’ll wager that not one of them has a mission to do themselves out of a job.

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  8. Alfred (52 comments) says:

    Looks like Whaleoil’s efforts at exposing “veteran trougher Shane Bradbrook at Te Reo Marama”funding actually resulted in his funding being cut. So does that mean that the only reason any one of these groups gets seriously looked at is when a blogger looks into wasteful government spending?

    Nice to see ASH right up the top receiving over half a million dollars! Hell for that amount it’s no wonder they want to “be seen” to be doing something. Sucking the tit of the Health Ministry seems to be their particular skill set.

    The big question David is what mad methodology does the Health Ministry use when dolling out public money to these groups….$100,000 there, $200,000 here, oh let’s put another $250,000 there. What a complete lolly scramble. Where is Ryall in all of this.

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  9. ben (2,380 comments) says:

    David, it is an absolutely terrible waste of taxpayer money to discourage smoking. Money spent on this sort of thing is a triple whammy of losses to the government and society.

    First, smokers more than pay their way in taxes: they pay far more than the costs they impose on the health system. If you’re prepared to argue that a nationalised healthcare demands control of people who impose costs on the system, then be prepared to argue for less antismoking money. That’s because campaigns that discourage smoking means everybody else has to pay more in tax: smokers subsidise the health system with all their taxes. Please be consistent. On top of that, its $50 million of resources spent convincing smokers to do this: that’s pure deadweight loss.

    Also I saw a paper which argued this sort of expenditure is especially costly in economic surplus terms. When you discourage through taxation, you at least capture some of the lost consumer surplus through tax. But with anti-smoking, which essentially convinces people not to smoke by badly exaggerating the harms from tobacco, society just loses the surplus. Again pure deadweight loss.

    Sure you might argue that people being misinformed about the harms from smoking justifies government intervention. Except you’d be exactly wrong: smokers and non-smokers badly overestimate the harm from smoking. Again, being consistent, misinformation argument is turned on its head to argue for inefficiently low levels of smoking.

    So smokers more than pay their way, and they think smoking is worse than it is. Remind me again the value of anti-smoking campaigns.

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  10. side show bob (3,660 comments) says:

    So where is our fiscally responsible government, what a fucking con. National are losing voters, not a mad tidal wave of voters bit a constant drip drip drip. This sort of tit sucking was rampant when the diseased socialists ruled the roast, what’s changed, very fucking little. Most of this cash would be simply hush money to keep the parasites in sleep mode. When is Shonkey and his fallow appeasers going to go into bat for those that actually pay the bills, I will not hold my breath. Is it any wonder that winnie is smiling, National will do his work for him.

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  11. kowtow (8,524 comments) says:

    Correct me if I’m wrong but a lot of this indiscriminate splashing away of taxpayer money started under Labour with the idea of Maori servicing Maori.Thus we saw the proliferation of Maori Trusts set up to sort out Maori problems. This seems to be part of that philosophy.

    Will we never get a line by line accounting of how our money is spent? If ever there was a time to do it ,with justification if needed, it’s now!

    Deficit now 275 million a week.

    http://www.interest.co.nz/news/govt-deficit-nz19-bln-higher-forecast-4-mths-oct-low-corporate-tax-gst-receipts-treasury-says

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  12. backster (2,174 comments) says:

    I agree a total waste of money, ENGLISH is always on about the big picture and the macro issues. If he started dealing with the micro financial waste the big picture would get a lot clearer and less appalling.

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  13. BeaB (2,125 comments) says:

    And of course we old faggers all gave up when we thought the time had finally come. I laughed at a youngie I know who has a pretty box to empty her ciggies into because she doesn’t like the nasty photos. So she doesn’t look at them! One day, like me, she’ll decide she’s had enough and will give up.
    I can’t believe we fund this ridiculous industry in a time of financial crisis.

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  14. OTGO (557 comments) says:

    Message to John Key and the National Party. Look after the cents and the dollars will look after themselves.

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  15. bka (135 comments) says:

    Ben, your analysis leaves out the possible alternative uses that smokers can put their money to, which might wind up being positive for the govt and society. People would be more able to save for their retirement, pay down debt, save to bridge periods of unemployment, self insure, put money into their children getting ahead and the like. Even just other consumer spending would help reduce the feeling of a wealth gap social classes. Smokers seem to be more concentrated amongst low income people, if they are more than covering the health cost of their smoking as you say, then I think there is a bit of an ethical issue in the govt using an addictive substance to screw extra money out of them if they don’t do something to help them stop as well.

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  16. BlairM (2,341 comments) says:

    Every cigarette smoked is just a little less money spent on someone’s superannuation at the end of their life. Smoking saves the government money. Why they would spend $50million telling people to stop on that basis I have no idea. If you don’t like someone smoking, tell them yourself – don’t expect some QUANGO to do it for you.

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  17. calendar girl (1,244 comments) says:

    DPF, it’s convenient to say “Smoking is highly addictive …”. The mantra is repeated ad nauseam, especially by the anti-smoking industry, within which it is important to portray smokers as lacking freedom of choice in their smoking habits.

    There are numerous so-called studies that purport to prove your contention about tobacco addiction, but few that grapple with how approximately one million New Zealanders are former smokers who have quit the habit through an exercise of their own free will.

    Addiction to tobacco (in the sense of being “physically dependent on a particular substance” – cf. Concise Oxford English Dictionary) is probably more rare than you think. Undoubtedly many smokers develop a psychological dependency in relation to tobacco, a powerful habit if you prefer, but if they were truly “addicted” it would take something more than a lifestyle decision and a bit of personal determination to quit that habit.

    This significant misalignment between the “science” and what actually happens in the real world suggests to me that most of the $50 million of public spending is misdirected by well-meaning opportunists.

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  18. Pete George (23,602 comments) says:

    how approximately one million New Zealanders are former smokers who have quit the habit through an exercise of their own free will.

    Calendar girl – approximately how many ex-smokers have personally explained to you how easy it was to give up? And how easy it was to not start again? And how many who have tried to give up but still smoke have said how it’s simply their own free will that they still smoke?

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  19. ben (2,380 comments) says:

    Ben, your analysis leaves out the possible alternative uses that smokers can put their money to, which might wind up being positive for the govt and society. People would be more able to save for their retirement, pay down debt, save to bridge periods of unemployment, self insure, put money into their children getting ahead and the like. Even just other consumer spending would help reduce the feeling of a wealth gap social classes. Smokers seem to be more concentrated amongst low income people, if they are more than covering the health cost of their smoking as you say, then I think there is a bit of an ethical issue in the govt using an addictive substance to screw extra money out of them if they don’t do something to help them stop as well.

    bka, those options are second best. We know this because smokers aren’t putting their smoking money there instead. And smokers anticipate, on average, much worse outcomes from smoking than actually occur: its not as if smokers were duped into smoking. Quite the opposite,actually. So what the government is doing is paying a tonne of money to convince people to take second best. It’s a bad deal. Anybody can list all sorts of good things that could be done with money. The $1000 you spent on that LCD television could have been put into child cancer research. Is society worse off with you watching tv? Absolutely not. i trust you to know what you like more than government, if not every time, then certainly on average. The Ministry of Helath is running around as if it is society’s goal, delegated to them, to minimise smoking. Of course that is nonsense. Society has no goal, the collection of people in it are each pursuing their own objectives, quite a few no doubt being to enjoy life as much as possible, and maximise quality rather than quantity of years. The Ministry is taking your money and then using it to tell people they are wrong about this. What nonsense.

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  20. ben (2,380 comments) says:

    First best would be to have the government not spending other people’s money telling people what they shouldn’t put in their bodies.

    But since the world is second best, I like the idea expressed above: get rid of all the silly spending on advertising nonsense, and simply pay people to quit. Pay $500 to pass weekly? monthly? tests for not smoking over a six month period. This would save about $45 million per annum and get measurable results. Which is more than you can say for the current mess.

    Give me $5 million and I’ll give you 10,000 fewer smokers.

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  21. Redbaiter (13,197 comments) says:

    What cost benefit analysis is done on this expenditure?

    None I’ll bet.

    Well hell, its only taxpayer’s money. Plenty more where that came from.

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  22. john.bt (170 comments) says:

    I did an OIA request to find this out a couple of years ago. Also asked if all that money made any difference. The answer was, of course, no. The percentage of smokers (24%) had stayed the same for years which, I pointed out, meant that the actual number of smokers had increased. They were just wasting $50 million a year. Well, yes, but…

    I did offer some real options to explore that might make a diffence but because I was probably a tad blunt regarding their incompetence the response was, shall we say, muted. They have now taken up one suggestion which was the use of a drug called Champix which works great but costs $10 a day. We can’t freaking win when it comes to these bloody bureaucrats spending our freaking money.

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  23. kowtow (8,524 comments) says:

    I started to and gave up smoking of my own volition.

    No government incentive paid for by the taxpayer needed or requested.

    If the govt were to incentivise people to give up, then like every other bastard in this country I ‘ll demand an apology and compensation. After all smoking has been part of my culture for 500 years or so.

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  24. Steve (4,565 comments) says:

    Is being ‘Maori’ or feeling like a ‘Maori’ something special that gives you more taxpayer funding to give up nicotine? Do Maori who choose to smoke become addicted more/ quicker that non Maori?
    Maori have the choice to smoke and they have the choice to quit, just the same as any other person. I detest paying for someone ‘special’ over and above the normal funding for all nicotine addiction

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  25. adam2314 (377 comments) says:

    Stop the money.

    Keep increasing and increasing the price of smoking.

    Simple really.

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  26. jackp (668 comments) says:

    276 million a week in deficits. I thought John Key was suppose to stop this unnessary spending. This is the biggest killer of New Zealand and Key is only meandering around the edges because of votes. I didn’t vote for Key, I voted against Helen Clark. Anything was better than her and National isn’t much better. National increased government spending by 2 billion. I am glad Brash put John Key in his place.

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  27. calendar girl (1,244 comments) says:

    PG@4.18 – Thanks for those insightful questions, Pete. Your impulse is to defend the conventional wisdom, and the generous government funding that flows from it, but you appear unwilling to examine possible alternative scenarios. For example, as a starter please explain to me how most former smokers have given up their smoking habit without the assistance of government grants and well-funded cessation intermediaries?

    Some people clearly find it difficult to give up smoking. That’s not at issue. But categorising their difficulty at quitting as a physiological “addiction”, and throwing tonnes of money at it on that basis, could well be a serious misapplication of public funds. And one that is not working – see john.bt@5.04 on the static 24% incidence of smoking.

    The objective of reducing the incidence of smoking is a worthy one. But continuing to blindly spend $50m p.a. on strategies that do not reduce the proportion of smokers makes no sense outside the industry that is now dedicated to hundreds of uncoordinated quit-smoking activities.

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  28. Pete George (23,602 comments) says:

    I wasn’t defending the money being spent and how it was being spent, just pointing out that it’s bloody hard for many people to give up smoking. I have seen close up how addicted people can be.

    It would appear that cessation programs (and therefore money) have not made a lot of difference over the last few years – or they have held the levels steady. The graph at the bottom of http://www.socialreport.msd.govt.nz/health/cigarette-smoking.html shows that tobacco consumption rates dropped significantly between 1991 and 2003, and has stayed level since then apart from a small drop in the last year.

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