1/6/15

Fine print in government crackdowns

The results are in, many Koreans stopped smoking after the government raised the tax on cigarettes. The tax hike has been so effective, according to the Joongang Daily, that some people stopped smoking even before the tax went into effect.
"Of those surveyed, 10.6 percent had quit smoking sometime between the price increase announcement in September and Jan. 1, when it was implemented. Another 26.7 percent answered that they had reduced the number of cigarettes they smoked per day." 
This reminds me of the 1990s, when Bill Clinton announced that the federal government was going to help police departments put an extra 100,000 cops on the streets. There were reports that crime went down after the announcement. Apparently criminals didn't read the fine print that the cops weren't going to be on the streets for at least a year or so, and that they would be spread out across the country. They just heard: 100,000 cops.

This is why I suggest that the government should make random announcements--"Jaywalkers will be executed on the second Tuesday of every month." "People who litter will be shot on sight." "1 million police officers will investigate sexual harassment at the office."

As criminals in Korea and smokers in Korea have shown, people don't always read the fine print, but they hear or read the headlines.

And now that the cigarette tax has gone into effect:
"In a survey conducted by the JoongAng Ilbo of 700 smokers, 63.9 percent answered that they had either already stopped smoking or plan to quit."
Whoa! Already stopped smoking or "plan to quit." That seems to be the fine print of the article. Many people "plan" to do or stop doing many things. Many people "plan" to exercise more, eat healthier, drink more water, volunteer more, save more money.

I won't doubt the newspaper, but it has been, what, 5 days since the tax went into effect? Many smokers quit at the beginning of the year, or several times a year. I wonder if the newspaper will do a follow-up story in 6 months and see how many of those who stopped or "plan to stop" smoking will be puffing again.

As Mark Twain said: "Giving up smoking is the easiest thing in the world. I know because I've done it thousands of times."

Casey

P.S.: This is a comment about journalism, not encouragement for people to keep smoking.

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