Archive for January 20th, 2014

Perverse Incentives III: Alcohol, Tobacco and FUD

[ US & Them IUs & Them IIUs & Them IIIUs & Them IV ]

This is not, in fact, an essay about the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms; they fit neatly into the Beltway enforcement establishment I described two posts back. This is a post about the two of those things which do not provide evening news headlines for ATF bosses to make political hay out of. Representing industrial drug-merchants like Phillip Morris and AB Inbev, Big Booze and Big Tobacco lobbies are significant contributors to the propaganda campaign that underpins the War on Drugs, and just like Big Pharma, they’ve got skin in the game.

Profit Motive

Big Tobacco's 7 Dwarfs, 1994

Big Tobacco, 1994

I mentioned before that as early as 1972, the US Government’s own experts were reporting that were cannabis legal, alcohol use rates would fall by up to 25%. As far as the Big Booze lobby is concerned, I could end the article here: a 25% drop in market value would make even Inbev wince. Big Tobacco has a more complicated problem with marijuana; more or less every lie they told about tobacco back in the day is true of cannabis. The tobacco lobby used to claim tobacco was good for you, which it isn’t: but cannabis has well-understood health benefits. The tobacco lobby used to claim tobacco didn’t give you cancer; cannabis is believed to inhibit cancer formation. Basically, Big Tobacco have been pushing the wrong drug all this time, and the world has rolled on far enough that they’re getting called on it.

But simultaneously, Big Tobacco care less, and spend less, than the beer brewers: if cannabis were widely legalised, no industrial superpowers are better placed to move into that market than tobacco companies. They already operate a vast industry based around a semi-tropical crop; and marijuana is much easier and cheaper to grow, harvest and package than tobacco, which is notoriously prone to horticultural misadventure and is tricky to store. To the beer giants, the competitive threat posed by the specter of cannabis legalisation is more direct, and it has kept the big booze concerns reaching for their cheque-books, year after year, for decades.

Continue reading ‘Perverse Incentives III: Alcohol, Tobacco and FUD’


January 2014
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Per Argument Ad Astra

Politics, history, economics and rampant speculation from a victim of the Great Recession, currently at large in the West Midlands.

"When the regulation, therefore, is in favour of the workmen, it is always just and equitable; but it is sometimes otherwise when in favour of the masters."
                -- Adam Smith