The latest report says Customs have nabbed 12 million contraband cigarettes. Twelve million! That’s 600,000 packs of cigarettes.
You know what they do with them all?
They smoke them. They have a special team of heavy smokers at Customs headquarters. Pasty-faced men and women with permanent scowls, yellowed fingers and one eye shut. Full ashtrays everywhere. Wheezing.
Right, lads. Here’s another truckload. Quick, get those Cuban cigars finished. Call in the cigarillo squad and the snuff team if you have to. I don’t care. Just be ready for these 12 million smokes by midnight.
Tough work. Demanding work. Sometimes, even the contemplative types with broad-brimmed hats and tweed waistcoats have to set aside their pipes and grab a fistful of faux-Gauloise.
Meanwhile, down the corridor, there’s a crack unit of hardened alcoholics gulping back industrial quantities of bad Japanese whiskey and pina coladas. They get a tax break on their Hawaiian shirts. There’s a battalion of old ladies for the sherry and a gang of Leinster supporters for the Heineken.
Of course, in these difficult times, with little or no money to fund services, it will be harder to keep this effort going without privatising it, so I have a proposal.
For a modest fee, I’ll provide a dedicated crew of poor people to smoke all the cigarettes. Obviously we won’t give them the smokes free, but we’ll only charge them whatever the government would have got in taxes.
This will have many advantages. People will spend less on cigarettes and so have more disposable income, which means we can reduce their dole slightly. The government will get the tax it would otherwise have lost out on, and the heavier smoking patterns will kill off more of the poor, thus reducing the burden on the State of paying their social welfare.
We’ll do something similar with the drink, though of course it wouldn’t be right to give a good-quality wine or a 12-year-old malt to a poor person who wouldn’t appreciate it. For this work we’ll need a hand-picked team of heavy drinkers, but luckily I know the very people for the job.
Leave it with me.