Horror of all horrors. The Mexican government is renewing its assault on us smokers, with renewed vigor and intensity. By that I mean to say they’re slapping another 6 or 7 pesos on the price of a pack of twenty. That’s a cheap shot. As if general price rises aren’t hurting already. Smoking is a pleasure of the less well off you know. But I guess something and someone has to start making up for the drop in oil revenue.
When I arrived in Mexico in 2005, the cost of a packet of Marlboro Azul or Camel was 18 or 19 pesos. Now the prices will be getting toward 40 pesos, pretty much double. There are cheaper brands, such as Delicados, Pall Mall and the marvellously named Boots, which also accurately describes the taste and smoking pleasure obtained from lighting and inhaling one of them.
This has had me wondering, how much is a packet of smokes in Guatamala? Or Belize, Honduras or El Salvador? If at any stage the difference is great enough, a smugglers market will be created, and Mexico may find itself with a new drug trafficking business on its southern border. If so, let’s hope it’s less traumatic than the one on the northern border. I suspect it would be.
This happened in the UK, when the British government kept increasing the duty on cigarettes by an annual, hefty sum. To encourage people to quit. The prices went up, the number of smokers went down. But before you knew it, smugglers switched from dope to smokes, and the prices of smokes (legal and illicit) came down, along with tax revenues. And the number of smokers increased again, along with the costs of enforcing customs policies.
At one stage, Drum tobacco was the most popular brand of rolling tobacco in the UK. And, at that time, it wasn’t actually legally on sale in the country. There’s a balance to be struck. I hope Mexico finds that balance and accepts it, works with it, rather that starting another futile fight.
In my last couple of years in the UK, I did smoke roll ups, with Golden Virginia being my choice of poison. A little milder than the throat splitting Old Holborn, and a lot milder than Drum, which has a kick to rival a donkey. And for those who think I have no time for religion whatsoever, think again. I always had a small pocket Gideon bible handy, having stolen it from a hotel somewhere.
And in the event I ran out of cigarette papers after the stores had closed, I’d choose myself a cheery little verse, usually Old Testament, carefully remove the page, fill it with tobacco and smoke it. There’s no length a hardened nicotine addict won’t go to for a hit of the good stuff. Desperate, yes. But good practise for my future life with hellfire and brimstone and stuff.
Rolling tobacco isn’t something Mexicans are into, yet anyway. I’ve never seen any on sale here. Ready rolled have always been too cheap. One thing they do have here that died some time ago in the UK and elsewhere. Tobacco art. As seen in the pictures of a couple of recent packets of Camel I have purchased. Pride. Love. I’ve not been paying much attention to the words till now to be honest. Are there more designs to complete the set? Life and Liberty perhaps.
I should make a quick defence of smoking while I’m on the subject. Against the whining non smokers in the UK who complain that us smokers cost them money they’ve paid in taxes to fund the NHS. Fact: smokers cost the NHS less money than non smokers. We all die. Smokers just die sooner and more quickly, saving the dear tax payer the cost of elderly care. And ourselves the indignity of having pretty young nurses change our granny nappies and comodes.
Non smokers should have a look at the state of the pensions system while they’re at it. Want to ban smoking? Sure. Well you subtract that enormous chunk of revenue the government gets from cigarette duty, and add a big chunk of expense to the cost of pensions with all those ex smokers living longer. Do the math.
And then take a chill pill relax and enjoy the status quo. I hope to join you this Thursday when I embark on my 50th effort to quit this year. 🙂 One of these days it’l work out! If only I didn’t enjoy some of those daily smokes so much…