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What¹s Wrong with Tobacco Money

What¹s Wrong with Tobacco Money

by Jim Peron

A group promoting healthy lifestyle choices to children, the Life Education Trust, received donations from British American Tobacco totaling $300,000 over the last three years. Now this is public knowledge and the health Nazis are coming out of the woodwork having fits of irrationality and hysteria.

Education Minister Trevor Mallard was one to hypocritically attack the private charity. ³I know a lot of organisations who turn down money from tobacco companies because they see it as conscience money. I think that the fact that someone has been turned down by an organisation is not an excuse for what would otherwise be viewed as inappropriate behaviour.²

He then hinted that the Trust¹s anti smoking program might be barred from the schools‹it brought it¹s message to 250,000 school children last year‹for taking the money. The New Zealand Herald reported: ³He said the trust should be transparent in who it was receiving money from so schools could consider if they wanted to use the programme.²

Typical of Labour this is hypocritical and deceitful. They are heaping scorn on a private charity for accepting private funds from a private company to support a private programme. And if there is one thing Labour hates it¹s anything that they can¹t control and regulate. Without meddling petty bureaucrats and pernicious politicians sticking their unwanted noses into the matter Labour can¹t use the issue to promote their agenda.

Of course Labour is quite open about their anti civil society agenda. They think government should control the commanding heights of society and everything is a commanding height. What they are hypocritical and deceitful about is their claims that taking money from the tobacco industry is somehow immoral.

The fact is that the Labour government takes millions every year from tobacco in the forms of various taxes. If anything the current Labour government probably receives more money from big tobacco than all the other organisations and groups combined. If receiving money from tobacco makes one immoral than big government is the most immoral group around.

Labour uses the coercive powers of government to force tobacco companies, and consumers, to pay for their agenda. They aren¹t upset when tobacco money is confiscated by government. Then the use of these stolen funds, according to Labour, is upright and moral. But when tobacco voluntarily funds a pro-health programme for a private charity Labour comes out of the woodwork dripping with sarcasm and invoking their version of morality.

What really upsets them is that British American Tobacco did what they did freely and voluntarily and freedom has never been big with Labour. Precisely why, Mr. Mallard, is confiscated tobacco money moral but voluntary donations immoral? It's certainly not that the Trust was bought off. No one is saying that.

It certainly can¹t be the money. In both cases the money has the same value and comes from the same source. In fact in both cases the money is used to promote anti smoking campaigns. The only difference is that in one case Labour forces tobacco to fund a project and in the other case it¹s done voluntarily. The only other difference is that in one case Labour bureaucrats dispose of the money and in the other a private charity does it.

If the only real differences are that one is coercively done with Labour spending the money then it appears, through deduction, that Labour¹s real complaint revolves around these issues. They think its moral to fund an anti smoking programme as long as the donations are taken involuntarily from their victims and only as long as they get to determine how it¹s spent.

Of course I can be wrong. Maybe Labour really does believe that tobacco money is tainted with immorality and corruption. If that is so then I expect that some of the newest legislation we¹ll see from Labour will reduce taxes on tobacco and tobacco related earnings down to zero. But I won¹t hold my breath.

Jim Peron is the excutive director of the Institute for Liberal Values.

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