Aussies pay the price for bad habits

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AUSTRALIA has been ranked the third most expensive country in the world to buy drugs, alcohol and cigarettes, according to the Bloomberg Vice Index.

The same basket of goods tobacco, alcohol, amphetamine, cannabis, cocaine and opioids will cost you just $US41.40 in Laos and a staggering $US1,441.50 in Japan.

The index compares the cost of the basket of goods as a share of average weekly income, with the US used as a benchmark. In the US, the goods cost almost $US400, or about one third of the average weekly income.

In Australia, the six items will cost $US984.20, followed closely by New Zealand at $US980.50. Crisis-hit Venezuela technically tops the list due to rampant inflation, with a bottle of beer, a packet of cigarettes and a gram of cocaine now costing 17 times the weekly wage.

The tiny European country of Luxembourg is listed as the most affordable country, with the basket costing $US259.30, or just 12.7 per cent of the $US2035 weekly income.

In terms of absolute costs, Congo, Honduras and Laos are the cheapest places to score. Many of the cheapest countries are close to the source, such as the Golden Triangle opium-producing region in Asia.

Its all about distribution costs, Peter Reuter, professor in the School of Public Policy and the Department of Criminology at the University of Maryland, told Bloomberg. Being closer to the producer lowers costs.

The index uses Bloomberg research, the United Nations annual World Drug Report and data from the World Health Organisation. While the prices for alcohol and tobacco reflect local taxes, law enforcement policies are key to determining drug prices.

Illegal drugs prices will of course have a premium that reflects local zeal for enforcement, Philip J. Cook, professor at the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University, told Bloomberg. The same can be said for the heavily taxed legal commodities, since the street price may be dominated by smuggled goods.