Ian O'Doherty: €20 for cigarettes pack a 'jaw droppingly asinine' plan
'Well done Minister, you’re the black market’s biggest friend'
I must admit that I am glad that James Reilly is a Minister for Health – I just wish he was a Minister for Health for another country.
After all, everybody gets a kick out of looking at hapless, clueless and woefully out-of-touch politicians who make grandiose pronouncements while the walls crumble around them.
But the joke isn’t so funny when it’s someone who has, bafflingly, managed to bag himself a senior Ministerial role in this country despite proving, constantly, that he is simply not up to the job.
In fact, Reilly has become the Irish equivalent of Comical Ali, the pathetically deluded Saddam spokesman who boasted on live television that the Republican Guard would feast on the bones of the American invaders even as we looked at American Abrams tanks fill the streets of Baghdad behind him.
Yes, there is a touch of Comical Ali about Reilly, although culture vultures might argue that he is more similar to South Park’s depiction of Rob Reiner, the corpulent director who huffed, wheezed and waddled around an entire episode, red of face and wagging of finger, as he bullied people into giving up smoking.
Our poster boy for healthy living has come up with a new, wizard idea which categorically proves that he has completely lost the plot – assuming he ever knew what the plot was in the first place.
His plan to double the price of a packet of fags to 20 quid is a jaw droppingly asinine plan that will obviously meet with the approval of health fascists and quangos everywhere, but has left those of us who live in the real world in desperate need of a calming, restorative fag.
How to count the many ways this is wrong?
Well, there is the obvious reality that Reilly proves Big Government, and all Governments, will always, always make people’s lives worse.
Whenever they have a chance to infringe on someone’s rights, they will do it every time and this is a perfect example.
He’s well aware that a full and honest proposal to ban cigarettes completely – which is what these people ultimately want - would allow people to see into the heart of his fundamentalist and deranged philosophy, so he snipes around the edges, preferring to make smokers’ lives as uncomfortable as possible, both financially and physically.
Interestingly, he says that raising the price to a euro a smoke will encourage people to give up but the opposite is true – it just means they will go to cigarette smugglers, who are already making a killing with cheap fags on the black market.
The people who use these under the radar cigarette hawkers aren’t criminals and they certainly don’t feel bad about depriving the system of the tax revenue.
That is because, apart from being so obviously smarter than the average Minister (and we have so many Ministers who must dream of attaining the exalted rank of ‘average’) they are well aware that successive Governments have declared war on smokers. So, under those circumstances, consumers have every right to shop around – and if that means a deficit in our exchequer, well the Minister only has himself to blame.
It really doesn’t matter whether you smoke or not. It doesn’t matter whether you think this is a filthy habit, or whether you couldn’t get through the day without a packet of Carroll’s by your side. This is actually about an administration which is so pathetically clueless and unreasonable that they don’t even see the sheer wickedness of doubling the price of a legal product and foisting that extra expense on an already bankrupt citizenry.
The insanity of this move will, of course, be welcomed by those bitter, eternal-life fantasists who would prefer to ban harmless e-cigarettes, which are an effective aid to quitting, on the grounds that they ‘normalise’ smoking - as if having a cigarette was some sort of weird and debased endeavour, like badger baiting or happy slapping or playing Gaelic football.
But perhaps the Minister, in shooting himself in the foot, has done us all a favour.
Because by continuing this persecution of a large portion of his own citizens, they will simply look at this latest news, flip Reilly the bird and go down to Moore Street to buy 60 smokes for a fiver.
Well done Minister, you’re the black market’s biggest friend.