A SENIOR Liberal politician has encouraged smokers to keep up their habit, saying smokers who die early save the health system money.
Senator Nick Minchin has criticised the Federal Government's plan to increase the tax on cigarettes as he told smokers to: "Go for it".
"They die early, they actually save us money," he told ABC television last night.
He rejected comments by another panellist on Q&A that smokers should pay more tax because they cost the health system money by getting sick.
Senator Minchin, who is leaving politics at the next election, is a key figure in the Liberals' conservative faction and was a minister under former Prime Minister John Howard.
He has kept a relatively low public profile this electoral term, but broke loose last night.
He said that smoking was a "hideous habit" but people had the right to indulge it in a free country.
"We've all got to choose our way to go, everyone's going to die of something," he said.
"If people choose to die of smoking, I as a Liberal think, 'Well that's your problem but go for it'."
The Government was "slugging poor old smokers every time they need money" by proposing the tax hike.
Senator Minchin, a prominent climate sceptic, also expressed doubt about the science of climate change.