Dann on plain packaging

August 25th, 2012 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

writes in NZ Herald:

For capitalism to work properly the companies that bring us wonderful shiny things such as smartphones, or services like insurance and banking, need to have security about the rules for doing business. Property rights and the security of intellectual property are crucial to provide a platform for a healthy, thriving economy.

Agreed.

British American’s New Zealand general manager, Steve Rush, says proposals create a “disturbing precedent” for other industries.

They don’t.

Here I disagree. Health officials overseas are already advocating plain packaging for other products such as fast food. It is naive to think otherwise.

But nothing, no free trade deal or international treaty will ever trump the right of a society to protect its young from harm.

I agree also.

We should include tobacco with the other legal highs being regulated out of existence by Peter Dunne’s new legislation. That legislation puts the onus on distributors of legal highs to prove their product is safe.

If someone invented tobacco today and applied to sell it, it would be declined. But we live in the real world where people have been smoking for hundreds of years, and no country in the world prohibits the supply of tobacco – mainly because such prohibition would not work.

On the one hand it claims that branding and design are of little significance with regard to making smoking more attractive. On the other hand it lobbies at huge cost to maintain those brands.

There is the old argument that packaging is all just inter-brand warfare – that the Marlboro red appeals to one kind of consumer and the Benson & Hedges gold to another. That sense of self-identification with a brand is important in advertising.

It might convince us to choose one kind of jeans over another. But it is the combined effect of all the stylish advertising from the apparel industry that keeps denim cool and hip for each new generation.

As there is little evidence that denim is more dangerous than, say, corduroy – other than in a fashion sense – it would be wrong for a government to get involved in regulating trouser advertising.

If there was clear evidence that denim was deadly, it would be wrong for it not to.

Here Dann misses the point. Look if there was proof that plain packaging reduces smoking rates, I’d have little issue with it. But there is zero proof.

Rather than make decisions to confiscate property rights on close to blind faith, why not do a trial? Have plain packaging in one area of NZ (maybe the SI) and over three years monitor the change in their smoking rates to the rest of NZ.

Shouldn’t decisions be based on science?

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49 Responses to “Dann on plain packaging”

  1. Harriet (4,514 comments) says:

    “….Shouldn’t decisions be based on science?…”

    How about just a bit of history?

    Cigarette cases from the 1930″s are far far more attractive than any sort of cardboard packaging. Jean Barlow for example.

    I live in QLD where we are moving to ‘plain packaging’ in the next month or so and already ‘cigarette cases’ are starting to be sold and used.

    Girls are going to love smoking even more now!

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  2. Dave Stringer (183 comments) says:

    yes please David

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  3. Hamnida (905 comments) says:

    Yes, of course the matter should be based on scientific evidence.

    In this case, the fact that smoking kills tens of thousands of New Zealanders every year.

    My solution – phase smoking out over the next 12 months with free alternatives like patches. If a significant black market develops, treat it like cannabis. I don’t think there will be a significant black market, as smoking tobacco is not as enjoyable as cannabis.

    Smoking has no place in 21st Century New Zealand.

    [DPF: So you think NZ should jail people for smoking? I hope you stand for election on that platform]

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  4. Anthony (768 comments) says:

    There are already smoke free cigarettes that give the user their nicotine orally but without the need to burn anything – why aren’t we seeing those for sale? It’s all the tar that is dangerous and annoying rather than the nicotine.

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  5. bhudson (4,734 comments) says:

    I think Hamnida is nought but a parodisic troll

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  6. hj (6,350 comments) says:

    Dann on….

    out come the tabacco company shills………..

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  7. salt (123 comments) says:

    Look, maybe doing a regional trial first would have been preferable – but since the ‘participants’ in any such trial (especially the ‘control’ group) aren’t volunteering, if it turns out that plain packaging does indeed cut uptake rates (which you have to admit is likely), do you not think the government *might* then be vulnerable to legal claims from the ‘control’ communities for harm done? That may sound ridiculous but more pathetic claims have found sympathy.

    Also, there’s the small problem that people and goods can travel around New Zealand very easily and without any kind of customs record, so it would be a scientifically dubious trial. And I’m sure tobacco companies would whine their butts off about having to produce BOTH plain and branded packaging for New Zealand.

    [DPF: I think it is hugely unlikely plain packaging will cut uptake rates. Your suggestion that the control population will have a case if it does, is ridiculous. Not having plain packaging on a cigarette packet is not like being giving a placebo instead of a drug. The risks as you admit are minscule, and should not be a reason to not do a scientific test.

    You argument over internal movement of packages is close to hysterical nonsense. Why are you so terrified of a trial? Do you work for an advocacy group, and are worried your claims will not stack up? The trial simply has to mandate that retailers can not sell non-plain packs in the South Island.

    I’m not too worried about whether the manufacturers will like the policy. I’m worried about ineffective policies.

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  8. Harriet (4,514 comments) says:

    Hamnida#

    “…phase smoking out over the next 12 months…’

    Idiot – hospitals are for sick people – not healthy ones!

    Smokers pay EXTRA taxes for their healthcare – just like everyone pays ACC rates based upon the probability of having a work or sports injury.Electricians pay more than officeworkers.

    Are you suggesting we get rid of firemen or police officers because they use the hospital more than lawyers do?

    Oh….BTW……And how many Asian tourists do you think would visit NZ?

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  9. Hamnida (905 comments) says:

    Harriet – I didn’t mean ‘smokers’ as in people who smoke. I meant not allowing people to be ‘smokers’ over the next 12 months.

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  10. salt (123 comments) says:

    Also, correct me if I’m wrong DPF, but weren’t you quite happy for National Standards to be introduced without prior trials? Consistency, etc

    [DPF: The purpose of national standards is to provide clearer information on student achievement. That is not remotely akin to a measure that is claimed will reduce smoking - that can be tested scientifically.]

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  11. bhudson (4,734 comments) says:

    @Hamnida,

    So if you already smoke that’s ok, but pass a law to prohibit people taking it up?

    That would be workable…Tui

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  12. eszett (2,334 comments) says:

    Shouldn’t decisions be based on science?

    Well, I would say there is a lot of science and evidence on brand strategy and brand power to drive sales and market share, etc. Brand appeal is a huge weapon especially when you are not allowed to advertise. I don’t think that such a decision is made without consideration for evidence and facts.

    The claim that brand is only used for “inter-brand warfare” is a just plainly wrong as any brand manager will atest you. A brand is hugely important in winning new customers. (first buyers that is)

    In Germany advertising on cigarettes are a bit less restrictive, Marlboro recently did a huge brand advertising campaign aimed specifically at young people. It was called “Don’t be a maybe” (naff, I know, but it is Germany after all) animating young people to take risks, have fun, etc, etc, and all tying it to the brand. Not once was smoking mentioned or shown, it was all around the brand.

    It was clear as mud that this campaign was aimed at young people taking up smoking, trying to tie these positive attributes of adventure, spontaneity, risk, individualism, etc, to the brand.

    On the other hand the argument that they will then have to compete on price and make it cheaper is certainly one to consider.

    I am not clear cut about the plain packaging, but I think the arguments for it are pretty strong. Given the squealing of the industry I think there is a pretty good case that it will work in reducing people taking up smoking and thereby reducing smoking rates.

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  13. peteremcc (341 comments) says:

    “Look if there was proof that plain packaging reduces smoking rates, I’d have little issue with it.”

    And there we go. When you aren’t apply the principles of freedom yourself, you can’t complain when others don’t either.

    [DPF: Oh yes the libertarians complain I live in the real world, and am not philosophically pure. Good luck advocating that there shpuld be no advertising or marketing restrictions at all on tobacco.]

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  14. Harriet (4,514 comments) says:

    DPF #

    How does smoking in my Marriage effect you?

    Smokophobe!

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  15. Liberty (235 comments) says:

    Hamnida
    “Tobacco is not as enjoyable as cannabis.”
    So we have a brain melting weed smoker.
    That would explain the quality of your posts.

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  16. Pongo (371 comments) says:

    What the hell has got into this countries mindset, didn’t we boot Clark out for this nonsense. There are 600,000 smokers in NZ that’s a lot of votes, we have taken the price rises on the chin, hiding cigarettes behind screens is a bit OTT and dumb plain packaging will have me voting for Winston.
    Couple that with the hysteria over drinking and Sky City what is next..Sharia Law. Bloody media have gone all Victorian on us and this crap from the business editor of all people.

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  17. Liberty (235 comments) says:

    “DPF: Oh yes the libertarians complain. I live in the real world”
    You are a BLUE/pink with socialist tendencies That’s not the real world.
    Give you credit you are mostly blue :)

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  18. peterwn (3,157 comments) says:

    The ‘intellectual prpoperty’ rights of branding are merely anciliary to marketing tobacco products. If sale of tobacco products were banned tomorrow, the ‘intellectual prpoperty’ rights become worthless anyway and any talk of compensation would centre round the banning of the product, not associated ‘intellectual prpoperty’ rights. So the ‘intellectual prpoperty’ rights argument is essentially the tail wagging the dog here.

    It is rather like buggy whip manufacturers demanding compensation for the devaluing of their marketing brands from the motorcar industry. The demise of the tobacco industry is just as certain as the demise of the buggy whip industry, and the tobacco industry should get used to the idea and seek alternative business opportunities in the social stimulation industry. USA’s oldest surviving company successfully made the transition from buggy whips – why not the tobacco industry.

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  19. Shunda barunda (2,965 comments) says:

    Corporate rights trump societal well being aye DPF.

    What a surprise.

    Like I said, NZ has no true conservative voice, the left and right diverge only on economics and property rights, hence DPF has to support big tobacco as a matter of principle.

    Try new DPF brand alco-pops!, nothing gets you mutherf@ckered quicker than a DPF! ;)

    [DPF: Are you unable to read? I explicitly said that in this case corporate rights do not trump societal wellbeing?

    Eitehr you are a moron, or a troll, or you do not actually read what I wrote and just react on the basis of what you assume I wrote. Which is it?]

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  20. Harriet (4,514 comments) says:

    “….Bloody media have gone all Victorian on us….”

    Sums up beautifuly the social engineering that has gone on in NZ since I left almost 20yrs ago.

    Go read what I said over on GD….if any stupid minority veiw, and no matter how stupid, is being indocrinated on children, you are still not allowed to call those who are doing it – niggers!

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  21. Mark (497 comments) says:

    This is a freedom of speech issue – DPF you are for banning somebodies right to free speech just because you do not like what they do. Whats next?

    The Bill of Rights should protect everbody not just the people who you agree with.

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  22. salt (123 comments) says:

    With respect, DPF, I think it is more than likely that plain packaging – provided it actually was universally plain throughout a given market – would cut uptake rates. Nobody *starts* smoking because of the effects of nicotine; after all, there are much cheaper, more effective, and less deadly ways of relaxing. They take it up because of the social cachet that smoking still holds. The whole point of branding and advertising, particularly for “lifestyle” products like tobacco, is to associate your brand of a particular product with glamour or a desirable lifestyle. Remove that association in people’s minds, and products eventually lose popularity. Why else would companies bother spending millions on branding? And as Dann points out, the cumulative effect is that the product itself, regardless of brand, is associated with glamour.

    I’m all for a trial, but I think to be effective or scientifically sound the trial subject would have to be enforced throughout a particular market. I simply don’t see the South Island, or a province, as discrete enough for that to be the case. There would still be plenty of branding around, even if it couldn’t legally be sold in the South/that province. New Zealand as a whole, on the other hand…

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  23. tvb (4,202 comments) says:

    I think plain packaging plays with the problem and achieves very little. I would favor a rolling prohibition. Like banning sales and possession of tobacco for everyone born after the year 2000.

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  24. kowtow (7,616 comments) says:

    The equating of tobacco with “‘other legal highs” is ridiculous. What about tea and coffee then? Chocolate? And the next one is sugar,esp when in soft drinks.

    Doesn’t any one see where this is going?

    Tobacco is harmful,well what bloody isn’t if you think about it.

    There’s more to this than health nazis (go on Godwin me) throwing their govt funded weight around. Now govts the world over are getting on the “progressive” bandwagon and telling us what’s good for us.

    There are real issues of personal choice and freedoms at play here,and the more we give in to this the more we will lose.

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  25. Viking2 (11,128 comments) says:

    Look if there was proof that plain packaging reduces smoking rates, I’d have little issue with it. But there is zero proof.

    Indeed, one could argue the reverse may be the truth for plain packaging in supermarkets . i.e. non branded is increasing in sales volume.

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  26. bhudson (4,734 comments) says:

    I would favor a rolling prohibition. Like banning sales and possession of tobacco for everyone born after the year 2000.

    So would the gangs.

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  27. Harriet (4,514 comments) says:

    As long as people pay their own health costs by way of taxation or private insurance then smoking on private property is reasonable.

    Does anyone seriously believe that you can’t have a smoke every so often?

    All the statistics for poor health caused by smoking are from long term cigarette smoking – not from casual smoking.

    It’s our God given right to have a smoke and a drink at the end of the working week.

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  28. Hamnida (905 comments) says:

    Harriet – some of us find the N word very offensive.

    Liberty – I do not smoke cannabis. If I had a choice between tobacco and cannabis, I would chose cannabis.

    I just think tobacco and tobacco companies offer New Zealand society nothing positive. Perhaps a rolling ban would be a sensible compromise.

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  29. Paulus (2,500 comments) says:

    Doubt it will cut down smoking to any degree.
    The Roll your own seems to be gaining popularity, as it can be mixed with cheap hash.

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  30. Pauleastbay (5,035 comments) says:

    Since Milkymild became Hamnida he has become more of a drop kick than he was prior.

    Plain packaging for fast food, plain packaging for alcohol, white the only colour allowed for cars, ban makeup, limit the size of TV’s because fat bastrads watch too much of it

    Lastly, just where is this government going to go for the extra 875 million that British American paid last year? I would have thought that amount of tax was pretty fucking positive. Nevermind, our personal tax rates will just be hoisted to make up the shortfall.

    Fuck we are a sad wee country, and I am mighty sick of National carrying on with the bullshit just to appease a small percentage of the population.

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  31. Scott Chris (5,878 comments) says:

    Heck Farrar, if you’re gonna trial it in the SI you may as well trial it nationally. I don’t buy the argument that cigarette branding merely distinguishes brands. It undoubtedly adds allure.

    I suspect the alcohol industry will feel most threatened by any such trial (other than the tobacco companies) so no doubt they’ll be adding their corporate might and influence to resist any move towards mandatory plain packaging.

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  32. Pauleastbay (5,035 comments) says:

    If photographs of cancerous tongues, rotting feet and tumours didn’t have any effect, how is plain packing going to do anything?

    Obviously we willl never hear of anyone admitting failure regards the pictures just like we will never have anyone admit that plain packaging is a waste of time as well.

    This whole thing is just another plan by academics tucked away in safe little government jobs interferring, taking up a huge amount of time justifying (attempting) their positions.

    To the government, work on the economy, I don’t care if my neighbour smokes, you are elected to govern not be my fucking mother.

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  33. bhudson (4,734 comments) says:

    I think plain packaging would be a waste of time, but one of things that, once done, will never be undone, regardless of any evidence showing a lack of efficacy,

    Packing has zero influence on taking up the habit. Three simple stages:

    1. Emulation – it looks cool (smoking, not the packet.) Emulation could be of peers, family or other role models
    2. Effect – it makes them feel good (nicotine principally, but I don’t claim to understand all of the chemicals released)
    3. Addiction

    None of these are related to the design or colours of the packet. Packaging creates a link to a brand, which can influence choice between competing options. Packaging does not influence overall uptake – whether it is plain or current designs.

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  34. The Scorned (719 comments) says:

    Peoples individual rights trump “harm” everyday…….”harm prevention” is a subjective fug that can be used to justify any violation of rights….no thanks.Fuck your kids…..my life is mine and my choices too….

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  35. xy (151 comments) says:

    I can’t figure out why anyone cares about ‘property rights’ here. It’s not like the tobacco companies are actually having anything confiscated – they still have all the intellectual property they always did. What they’re losing is advertising rights – you still own your car, but we’re not letting you park it anywhere you like.

    Plus, if you want to get up in arms about property rights, there’s a far scarier situation blowing up in Christchurch – business owners who’ve survived the quake and rebuilt are going to be forced to sell to the government, which will then on-sell the property to selected developers. I’m kind of shocked I haven’t seen more backlash against this from the right-wing blogs!

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  36. Harriet (4,514 comments) says:

    Scott Chris#

    “….I don’t buy the argument that cigarette branding merely distinguishes brands. It undoubtedly adds allure….”

    Wait then till you see what cigarette cases are going to do for the uptake in smoking by young women – some men like you too.

    Here’s some -

    http://www.google.com.au/search?hl=en&q=cigarette%20cases%20vintage&um=1&ie=UTF-8&tbm=isch&source=og&sa=N&tab=wi&ei=uT04UIK4CcuciAe444GQBA&biw=920&bih=492&sei=vD04UPTsG4eTiQf13YDQBw

    The packeging arguement is just point scoreing nonsense.

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  37. Rightandleft (636 comments) says:

    I don’t think any of this is really about cutting the smoking rates, it’s about punishing the big bad tobacco companies by ruining their brands. The scariest thing is that after they deal with tobacco fast food and sugary food will be next. I don’t smoke, nor do I drink more than occassionally, but I like my fast food. I’m sick of the government trying to protect us from ourselves.

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  38. MT_Tinman (2,989 comments) says:

    Is there any proof, anywhere, that a single person has purchased (or for that matter stolen) a pack of cigarettes because of their individual packaging design?

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  39. Shunda barunda (2,965 comments) says:

    [DPF: Are you unable to read? I explicitly said that in this case corporate rights do not trump societal wellbeing?

    Eitehr you are a moron, or a troll, or you do not actually read what I wrote and just react on the basis of what you assume I wrote. Which is it?]

    Oooooo, tetchy tetchy

    Here’s what I think DPF, I don’t reckon you really care about the packaging of smokes at all, but you have to back them up due to your principles.

    Which is fine, but why pretend this is not the case and start talking about testing plain packaging? are you seriously suggesting that marketing makes no difference to those purchasing a product? all I am doing is calling you on your inconsistency.

    [DPF: You are a troll, I can only conclude. Where the fuck do you get off deciding what I actually believe. Do you have a mind reading device?

    If you are incapable of responding to the actual arguments I make, and can only throw mud - well fuck off out of here.

    And please stop inventing what I have said also. I have never ever said marketing makes no difference to purchasing a product. I have said I don't think plain packaging will impact the smoking rate or uptake]

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  40. bhudson (4,734 comments) says:

    @Shunda,

    Actually I think DPF had been pretty clear on that – [to me] he agrees that marketing (packaging design in this case) makes a difference between which tobacco product on offer that the consumer chooses, but that there is no evidence that unique packaging amongst competitors results in more people taking up smoking in the first place.

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  41. Shunda barunda (2,965 comments) says:

    If you are incapable of responding to the actual arguments I make, and can only throw mud – well fuck off out of here.

    Seriously DPF, why the hell are you so upset about this? you let other people pay you out far more than I do without so much as a single word.

    [DPF: I don't see all the comments. But I don't mind people attacking views I actually hold. You have continually misrepresented and invented what my views are. I never tolerate that.]

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  42. Shunda barunda (2,965 comments) says:

    I don’t see all the comments. But I don’t mind people attacking views I actually hold. You have continually misrepresented and invented what my views are. I never tolerate that.

    Are you talking about just this thread or in general?

    The problem is David, I don’t know much about you and the temptation is to try and provoke a reaction in order to try and figure it out.

    I consider you to be very influential and I guess I am trying to understand what makes you tick and why you hold the opinions you do.

    I apologize for my unfair comments and I will try to read your posts more carefully in future.

    [DPF: This thread. And I suggest you get a better reaction from me by rebutting my arguments, than trying to provoke me]

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  43. swan (659 comments) says:

    “Look if there was proof that plain packaging reduces smoking rates,TO THE EXTENT THAT THE BENEFITS OUTWEIGH THE COSTS WITH THE BURDEN OF PROOF ON THE LIBERTY REDUCING REGULATORS, I’d have little issue with it.”

    Fixed it for you.

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  44. expat (4,048 comments) says:

    Tobacco is an adictive poison cynically marketed to kids.

    Outlaw it.

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  45. Hamnida (905 comments) says:

    expat – hit the nail on the head.

    Tobacco is a killer, ban it.

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  46. swan (659 comments) says:

    Hamnida,

    I agree. Lets add: cars, bikes, skiing, skydiving, tramping, hunting and fishing to the list. All killers. Ban em.

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  47. MT_Tinman (2,989 comments) says:

    Swan, you forgot living and breathing, both of which lead to death.

    Ban ‘em!

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  48. expat (4,048 comments) says:

    tobacco kills 50% of users, need any more data you eedjits?

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  49. Liberty (235 comments) says:

    For those who want to ban anything.

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