You've heard of Egypt; they were in the news last year for riots and for making Twitter relevant. But dictatorships, oppression of women, sexual discrimination and religious intolerance are apparently not the most important cultural fight they face, in the eyes of ultra-conscious New Yorkers - getting people to smoke less is. 

Bloomberg Philanthropies announced today the winners of the Bloomberg Awards for Global Tobacco Control and Egypt's Ministry of Finance was recognized because they raised taxes - ooooh, higher taxes. Revolutionary!  Or not. That sounds like what a Ministry of Finance does, why is that so special?  Well, they really went overboard, slapping a 100% tax on shisha and cigarette taxes for the most popular brand in Egypt. Supposedly this generated more than $2 billion in government revenue but, like record companies discovered when they shut down Napster, revenue did not actually go up at all because no one was buying their crappy CDs just because they couldn't download them.  In Egypt, they forced a lot of poor people to not enjoy themselves and doubled the tax for everyone else.  It was not any new revenue.

Michael R. Bloomberg, philanthropist and Mayor of New York City, was at the awards ceremony, maybe to wonder why Egypt did not have more important things to worry about, like not implementing Sharia law and going backwards into fundamentalism? No, he thinks tobacco is their big issue.  To be fair, tobacco usage is implicated in real deaths, but then it is also implicated in a whole lot of fuzzy ones. It isn't like everyone with lung cancer smoked cigarettes, only 50% of lung cancer patients ever smoked at all, and the almost "six million people" annually they claim die from smoking can't actually be attributed to smoking.  Why not go after trans fatty acids? Why not legislate bad luck out of existence, since random mutations are behind most cancers?  If every disease is attributed to smoking if the person smokes, and cardio-pulmonary diseases are attributed to tobacco even if the patient did not smoke, something is wrong.  But that is what a culture war is; data goes by the wayside. Bloomberg says low- and middle-income countries are where 80% of tobacco-related deaths occur but how they can establish that is unknown, since we don't even know how many people are dying much less why.  

But here is the official blurb: The Bloomberg Awards for Global Tobacco Control recognize governments or non-governmental organizations in low- and middle-income countries that demonstrate excellent progress or achievement in implementation of MPOWER policies established by the World Health Organization as the six most effective tobacco control interventions: Monitoring smoking, Protecting people from secondhand smoke, Offering help to people who want to quit, Warning about the dangers of tobacco, Enforcing bans on advertising, promotion and sponsorship and Raising tobacco taxes and prices. 

Now we're getting to why the mayor of New York City loves this stuff. These are all buzzwords for social engineering.

The revolution was all worth it.  Maybe Mubarak should have increased taxes on cigarettes. Photo:

So who won?  Egypt, for raising taxes more than anyone else.  Uruguay for putting on GIANT warning labels, the Philippines for being the best monitors, Turkey for protecting by monitoring, though it sounds a lot like monitoring - maybe they ran out of countries, have you seen how many people in Turkey smoke?? - and Colombia, for being harder on legal cigarette smokers than they are on their drug cartels.

Don't you feel safer in those countries already?