Smoking bins being installed at the Greymouth railway station are being partly funded by British American Tobacco.
Pass the smelling salts. Is there no end to the schemes of these evil-doers?
Keep New Zealand Beautiful announced the bin deal on on September 30. The press release did not mention the link with the international tobacco giant.
Dirty, underhand stuff. Looks like Big Tobacco has been caught pushing their evil, er, litter bins on rail companies.
Or perhaps not...
Keep New Zealand Beautiful national programme manager Tracy Shackleton said KiwiRail had requested the bins.
"If a company rings up and requests the bin, we will, of course, oblige."
KiwiRail passenger general manager Deborah Hume said the company was not aware of the connection with British and American Tobacco.
So now what happens?
However, it agreed to accept the bins in order to address a litter and safety issue "and that still stands".
What was the problem again?
West Coast Tobacco Coalition chairwoman Anne Hines, in a letter to the head of KiwiRail, said butt bins normalised smoking.
Of course, it's an issue of denormalisation. There was I thinking that litter was a problem that could be alleviated with litter bins, but I forgot when when tobacco is involved the only solution is the stigmatisation of its users and the total eradication of cigarettes. How silly of me, and how silly of the train company to have made the same mistake.
The bins normalised smoking, and allowed tobacco companies to claim social responsibility, she said.
Actually, what 'normalises' smoking is all the smokers hanging around smoking after being forbidden from smoking for their entire train journey. And since, as already mentioned, the press release did not mention the tobacco company, they can hardly be accused of claiming social responsibility. Nevertheless, social responsibility is what we would call it from any other industry.
They did nothing to encourage people to stop smoking, which would reduce the number of discarded cigarette butts.
This may come as a shock to you, Anne, but not everything in the world is designed for the purposes of social engineering. However abnormal you may view the habit, 20% of New Zealanders continue to smoke and they do so in an increasingly limited number of places. In your excitable imagination, abolishing cigarette bins in designated smoking areas will make smokers think "there's nowhere to put this, I'd better give up smoking now", but here in the real world a lack of cigarette bins leads to lots of cigarette litter. If tobacco companies pay for some cigarette bins, the financial burden is shifted from the taxpayer to the smoker (because, of course, smokers fund the tobacco companies). This is an equitable solution to a negative externality. So, really, what is the problem?
The truth is that tobacco controllers like Ms Hines don't like cigarette bins because they are practical solutions to a simple problem. They prefer to deprive smokers of somewhere to put their litter and then portray them of being inconsiderate, socially irresponsible litter bugs. Like all neo-prohibitionists, they create a problem—in this instance, banning smoking in every indoor place and then abolishing cigarette bins outdoors—and then blame other people for the inevitable consequences.
Cigarette litter is a useful weapon to use against smokers, particularly now that outdoor smoking bans are a priority. A staggering amount of junk research has been produced on the topic this year alone (have a look). Take this article from the anti-smoking comic Tobacco Control for example. It encourages advocates to make alliances with environmental groups to capitalise on the cigarette litter 'problem' while attacking the tobacco industry for having the temerity to support tidy-street programmes. As with the New Zealand "news story", the article contains scandalous "revelations" about cigarette companies which don't exactly set the heart racing.
The tobacco industry has been concerned about cigarette butt litter as an issue since the 1970s; a 1979 Tobacco Institute memo stated that smokers’ ‘careless, offensive and occasionally harmful’ cigarette butt disposal practices were contributing to the declining acceptability of smoking. A decade later, the industry was concerned about the ‘potential for anti-smoking groups to seize [the litter] issue to attack cigarettes’.
They got that right then, didn't they? How very prescient.
The tobacco industry has responded to the litter issue through partnership with Keep America Beautiful (KAB), an anti-litter organisation.
Yet more secret funding and backroom dealings?
The industry has made no secret of its ties to KAB and similar organisations
Well, fine. Why should they? Cigarette butts are an important source of litter, as tobacco control groups are constantly telling us. So, what is to be done?
Currently, Philip Morris is funding KAB’s ‘Cigarette Litter Prevention Program’. This program has four strategies: increasing smoker awareness that ‘cigarette butts are litter ’; installing public ashtrays; promoting pocket ashtrays; and ‘encouraging enforcement of existing litter laws’.
In other words, treat cigarette litter the same as every other form of litter. Sounds fair enough. Other industries are expected to encourage responsible disposal of waste, why not the tobacco industry? The answer, apparently, is that...
Like secondhand smoke, litter is a consequence of smokers’ behaviour; the industry has no direct control over it.
That's rather contentious, to say the least, and also flatly at odds with the following sentence...
The tobacco industry has managed the litter issue to its advantage by blaming it on individuals and - as with other issues, including tobacco-related disease - denying its own responsibility.
So which is it? Is cigarette litter the result of individual behaviour which the industry has no control over, or is the industry responsible for cigarette litter while blaming helpless individuals? Or do the authors of this article have no coherent argument at all?
Industry-preferred ‘solutions’ to the litter problem are smoker education, installation of permanent ashtrays and distribution of pocket ashtrays. Although they implicitly blame smokers for litter, these approaches also enable smokers to keep smoking despite increased restrictions and declining social acceptability.
I case you hadn't noticed, smokers are able to smoke regardless of whether there are permanent ashtrays and do so in abundance. It's not a choice between a world with cigarette bins and a world of mass abstinence. It's a choice between lots of cigarette litter and less cigarette litter. The "industry-preferred" solutions are identical to governmental solutions used for every other form of litter: education and the provision of disposal units. No one would seriously argue that removing litter bins from the streets would result in the abolition of rubbish, so what makes cigarette butts any different?
The authors then proceed to give tips on how anti-smoking campaigners can infiltrate environmental groups on the pretext of being concerned about litter while actually pushing an abstinence-only message.
Allies should reach mutual understanding about the nature of the problem. An organisation focused on ‘litter ’ might regard ashtray installation as a reasonable solution.
No kidding. But what do they know, eh? As far the experts from Tobacco Control are concerned, these organisations are deluding themselves (and probably in the pay of Big Tobacco), so they need to be re-educated by the Johnny-come-latelys of the anti-smoking movement.
The environmental principles ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ should be foregrounded, ensuring that smoking prevention and cessation (ie, ‘reduce’) are considered fundamental.
That's right. Anti-smoking campaigners—who are not in the least bit interested in littering as an issue—are going to alter the decades-old environmental message of "reduce, reuse, recycle" and turn it into "reduce, reduce, reduce." The hubris of these people beggars belief. Take this gem of an idea, for example...
Legislation could require that a sealable return envelope be included with each pack sold, that retailers only accept returns in those containers
Recycling mandates and waste mitigation regulations are not ordinarily designed to curb use...
You're right. They're not, but a handful of monomaniacs briefly and disingenuously joining the environmental movement can change all that, right?
However, if laws requiring cigarette retailers to accept butts back for recycling cause them to stop selling cigarettes, this would also be a gain for tobacco control.
Amongst the many problems with this three-o'clock-in-the-morning idea is that the waste involved in manufacturing envelopes to be sold with every pack of cigarettes, combined with the energy used in posting cigarette butts around the world for no useful purpose, is far more environmentally destructive that a few butts on the pavement. And since the aim of this plan is explicitly to inconvenience smokers and shop-keepers, I suspect that even the looniest green activist will be happy to forego this "gain for tobacco control".
The authors also see a chance to pursue their usual objective of upping the price of cigarettes and limiting availability. If you've got a hammer, everything looks like a nail.
Waste mitigation programs may also raise the price of cigarettes, a well-established means of reducing smoking prevalence rates, and reduce the number of retailers willing or qualiﬁed to sell particular goods.
And the madness keeps on coming...
One idea that has not been tried is banning cigarette filters.
Filters have not been shown to reduce the harms of smoking.
Actually they have been shown to reduce the harms of smoking (I could write a whole post on this subject if anyone's interested). Filters are probably the only innovation in cigarette design to have helped reduce the harms of smoking in a century of searching, and yet here are alleged health campaigners recommending their abolition.
So let's get this straight. On the pretext of protecting public health, cigarettes need to be made more dangerous. On the pretext of environmentalism, countless trees need to be cut down to manufacture billions of pointless envelopes. On the pretext of reducing cigarette litter, smokers need to be deprived of litter bins.
How can anyone take these people seriously?