Sunday 21 November 2010

The children! The children!

Readers will recall that in May this year, a new British government was elected that promised to cut unnecessary regulation and put an end to Labour's nanny state. How do you think they're getting on?

From the Beeb:

Make cigarette packaging plain, government urges

I think it was Roger Daltry who sang something about meeting the new boss. Other people have said that patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel. I'm not so sure. I think scoundrels can sink much lower than that when they need to. See if you can see a theme running through the feeble claims for this latest piece of Sovietisation...

The government is currently planning to ask retailers to cover up their displays of cigarettes from next year to protect children. But now cigarette packets could also be made a standard colour like grey, rather than the existing bright colours.

Campaign group ASH says this is "an enormous leap forward". The Department of Health is considering the idea of asking ['asking' as in "we'll fine, bankrupt and imprison you if you don't agree" - CS] tobacco firms to put only basic information and health or picture warnings on their packets.

Making the cigarette packets a plain colour would protect children from taking up smoking in the first place, it suggests. It would also help support people who are trying to give up smoking, the department said.

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley, said it was time to try a new approach. "The evidence is clear that packaging helps to recruit smokers, so it makes sense to consider having less attractive packaging. It's wrong that children are being attracted to smoke by glitzy designs on packets.

"We would prefer it if people did not smoke and adults will still be able to buy cigarettes, but children should be protected from the start. The levels of poor health and deaths from smoking are still far too high, and the cost to the NHS and the economy is vast. That money could be used to educate our children and treat cancer," Mr Lansley said.

"We will shortly set out a radical new approach to public health in a White Paper."

Martin Dockrell, director of policy and research at ASH, (Action on Smoking and Health), said the industry calls packaging "the silent salesman".

"They use it to seduce our kids and mislead smokers into the false belief that a cigarette in a blue pack is somehow less deadly than a cigarette in a red one.

"By helping smokers who want to quit and protecting our children from the tobacco ad men this will be an enormous leap forward for public health, perhaps even bigger than the smoking ban," he said.

I am so tired of this unceasing nonsense that I can barely summon up the energy to mention that children have not been allowed to buy cigarettes since 1906. It seems barely worthwhile to point out that 40% of cigarette packs are already made up of warnings which say 'Smoking Kills'. There is no use in saying that colours and logos alone cannot "seduce" anyone. And it is futile to note that any government that forms policy on the back of hysterical yelps about protecting children treats all its citizens as children.

The wish-list of anti-smoking extremists is long and publicly available. It should be no more a surprise that they want plain packaging of cigarettes than it is that Los Angeles is calling for a total ban on smoking outside the home. These policies have been discussed in hushed tones at tobacco control conferences for several years, and it is, of course, their job to come up with wild, new directions for tobacco control.

It is also—so we thought—the job of elected politicians to tell fanatics and nut-jobs where to get off. But that is no longer the case, and the anti-smoking fraternity must be pinching themselves when they hear their fruitiest schemes being discussed by a nation's Minster for Health.

In truth, the coalition of the unwilling, like every government in recent memory, will use "tough" (but ultimately pointless and counter-productive) measures on smoking as a distraction from its failure to do anything about real issues. It's pathetic and predictable, but that's how it is. Evidence, logic and ethics don't come into it. It's simple politics and those of us who didn't vote Conservative at the election should feel vindicated today.

UPDATE: A tweet from Leeds University's Faculty of Medicine of Health rather gives the game away:

That's first step, you will notice. Not even 'next logical step'. Truly, they haven't even begun.

(PS. You can follow me on Twitter at cjsnowdon.)


Anonymous said...

Where do I get these 'glitzy' packets? Me want!

Seriously, who looks at the packets? The only time I can remember looking at a packet was in 2004 in Canada because the pictures of teeth and lungs were a novelty. Not being able to remember the unfamiliar brands, and being unfamiliar with the concept, I resorted to asking for a pack with 'the lungs'.

Have these idiots not realised that, if you make the packets plain, people will just go back to using cigarette cases and personalise them, thus making them far more glitzy than a relatively boring and uniform piece of cardboard?

Smoking'll become so cool that the kids'll be queuing up to start!

BTS said...

I'm with you pal, except that I shall be investing heavily in Crayola shares as I believe there will be plenty who would enjoy decorating their packets individually for each night out.

I could actually almost understand the logic behind the idea were it not for my own personal experience: some years ago my local supplier ended up with Cartier cigarettes instead of the usual Marly lights and I agreed, somewhat reluctantly, to try a carton (obviously at the regular price). When offering someone a cigarette at the pub (this is pre-ban btw, when you could see the damn things without the aid of a streetlamp) they always either accepted or declined before noticing the brand. But they only commented after accepting the cigarette as otherwise they wouldn't pay any particular attention to the brand (unless checking beforehand to ensure that they weren't a particular one which they disliked).

A lot of friends (or just whoever I happened to be playing pool against at the time) really liked them as they were a very smooth smoke (I bought his entire stash upon tasting the first pack), but I never once had a non-smoker decide to ask for one because the pack 'looked cool'.

Strange, huh?

It's worth a mention that I'd definitely buy some more if I come across them again (even in a shop, perhaps), but how would I know if they enact such idiotic policy?

Magnetic said...

Just a point in passing.

In the Godber [eugenics] Blueprint, the antismokers were happy with 16 years of age being the lower limit for the legal use of tobacco.

Smoking Hot said...

This is just pure desperation because the anti-smoking righteous have nothing left. They've lost! Smoking continues despite everything they've done.

This latest idea they've come up with is a counterfeiters dream come true. Doubt the tobacco companies will be crying either ... no-one buys their tobacco because of the packaging. Lansley is a complete ass as is the rest of the coalition ... not to forget the lies and broken pre election promises.

Go head Lansley, change all packaging to brown ... no-one cares!

Chris Oakley said...

"The evidence is clear that packaging helps to recruit smokers, so it makes sense to consider having less attractive packaging. It's wrong that children are being attracted to smoke by glitzy designs on packets."

Perhaps Mr Lansley would care to present us with clear evidence from an independent source before he passes yet another bill on behalf of workshy, publicly funded zealots such as Mr Dockrell. I for one would love to see it.

Anonymous said...

Every time I see a pic on a cigarette packet I imagine Arnott minus her teeth, Dockrell with a limp D**k, and Britton laid out on a slab.

Magnetic said...

The Los Angeles Council considers fulfilling the Godber [eugenics] Blueprint.

The Los Angeles City Council unanimously directed its attorneys Wednesday to prepare an ordinance that would ban smoking in "all public areas and common areas where people congregate."

Councilman Bernard Parks said the idea is not to ban smoking, but regulate where it can be done.

The motion was voted for unanimously – 13-0.

The Godber Blueprint: Don’t ban the sale of tobacco, but ban smoking in essentially all the places that people typically smoke.

Check out the rationalizations (i.e., lies) for the ban.

Anonymous said...

Actually, I'm quite happy about the fact that your government is admitting that it is possible to recruit by means of cigarette packaging.

Something I've suspected for a very long time.

-the question of course is, who has been recruiting who?

Magnetic said...

From the LA article.

"I think you go down a path that you can't recover from (when you begin) talking about banning smoking because I think that's an individual decision, but we can protect people who have no desire to smell smoke," Parks said.

So, nonsmokers are now to be “protected” from the smell of smoke.

In eugenics terms, superior nonsmokers are being protected from having to endure even the smell of smoke from the vile, dirty, filthy habit of corrupted, inferior smokers.

A perusal of the Godber Blueprint, particularly Godber’s early addresses which are standard eugenics-speak, depict nonsmokers as “desirable”, “normal” and “superior” and those that smoke as “undesirable”, “abnormal” and “inferior”. Hence comes the “need” to ban smoking in public so as not to offend the sensibilities of the superior nonsmokers and lest The Children® be led “astray” by seeing the “vile habit” on public display.

This is very, very tragic. Most tragic is that the majority wouldn’t have a clue what’s going on and many lend themselves, perhaps inadvertently, to the derangement. Whether intentional or inadvertent, the damage produced by superficiality and bigotry is the same.

Anonymous said...

The real purpose is an attempt to stop people smoking cheaper imported tobacco.

Chris Oakley said...

I am not following you anon, surely the more simplistic the packaging the easier it is for the fraudsters to copy the products and flood the market with counterfeits at the expense of the taxpayer and the NHS. I note that Mr Lansley is keen to point out the costs of tobacco whilst failing to mention the huge amount of money the government takes from it in revenue. Surely he hasn’t bought the latest cost benefit argument emanating from ASH has he? I had him down as a man of greater intellect than that. Too many taxpayer funded lunches with Martin and his cronies perhaps? Maybe they spiked his tea?

Anonymous said...

Chris, when I take out a packet of Golden Virginia from my pocket, you have to be very close to tell where it came from. When a shopkeeper passes it to a customer and it's not plain white, that's eventually going to get the shopkeeper into serious trouble. And, as we have seen recently with the tape of the customs officer, Customs are a law unto themselves. Is the Gov going to turn an even blinder eye to confiscation of tobacco in the wrong packaging?

Anonymous said...

I, like Chris, did think that politicians were elected to save us from the execesses of pressure groups like ASH. But it seems that the DoH have caved in entirely to their demands without any independent assessment of the likely impact. But, when the secretariat for the All Party Parlimentary Group on Smoking and Health is provided by ASH, what does one expect? I have to ask myself (and I hope others do too!) how can this be, when ASH receive funding from the DoH?

Anonymous said...

Glitzy cigarette cases:

Tell me that these won't become a topic for conversation in the same way that present packets aren't (and have childeren asking to see them out of curiosity).

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr Snowdon

I suspect the anti-tobacco cabal do not want tobacco to be banned. That would kill the goose and end their careers. In the early '70's an American surgeon told me that a cure for cancer would never be found because research grants were too lucrative.
It all boils down to too much time too little to do: how to get from the start of (working) life to the end of it with as much cash in the bank as possible, and perhaps have some fun on the way, which for some is to indulge their obsessions.

Selling ideas and 'solutions' to politicians and bureaucrats who have the onerous problem of spending taxpayers' money is by far the most lucrative enterprise to be in. As Milton Friedman pointed out, spending someone else's money on someone else is the easiest route to extracting cash; trying to pry it from the pockets of the people who actually worked hard to earn it is the most difficult. Far better to let the government use brute force to do that, then go for the rich pickings in departmental budgets.

ASH have a dual duty: obtain funds to pay themselves (£60-70k plus £4,141 pension contributions for the highest paid staff member Note 5 P 15 2009 annual accounts) and help the government take more in taxes.

Their annual report 2009 has some really sensuous smoke curling down the sides of the pages. What are they trying to sell? I trust no tobacco was burnt in making those images.


1 July is National Smoking Day

JJ said...

Plain packaging...what plain packaging?

Does anybody remember years ago cigarette cases a little larger than a 20 cigarette packet being sold. How long would it be before some entrepreneur made cigarette cases that looked like famous brands? You simply put the plain packet in the case, or transfer the cigarettes to the case.

Money spinning idea I would say…wouldn’t you?