Monday 18 June 2012

How very reassuring

The Department of Health has released a statement in response to fears that plain packaging will be rolled out to other products...

"We have no plans to introduce plain packaging for food," a Ministry spokeswoman told this publication. 

As anyone who is familiar with the jargon of politics knows, 'we have no plans' is very different from 'we will not'. However, as Food Production Daily points out, the DoH's comment is more revealing for what it did not say than for what it did. The statement was released in response to the following comment from Mike Ridgway, a representative of the British packaging industry...

“With legislation around minimum alcohol pricing in the pipeline, high profile debates about a “fat tax” and calls for cigarette style health warnings on alcohol and ‘junk food’; brand owners and manufacturers have to open their eyes to the very realistic threat of ‘plain’ packaging being introduced on a wide range of consumer products. Indeed the Parliamentary Select Committee for Health has already called for evidence on “plain packaging and marketing bans” in its scrutiny of the government’s alcohol strategy.”

Since Mr Ridgway repeatedly named alcohol as the next prime target after tobacco, it is rather disconcerting that the DoH chose only to mention food in its rebuttal. I would be tempted to not read too much into that were it not for the fact that the UK and Ireland are indeed both looking at plain packaging for alcohol.

Meanwhile in New Zealand, Prime Minister John Key has said that "we have the sovereign ability to control what's on our shelves and the way we present it." A strange thing for the leader of a nominally free market society to say, but somehow not so surprising.

Still, we mustn't worry about a slippery slope here. As anti-smoking campaigners keep reminding us, tobacco advertising has been banned for ten years and yet nobody is seriously considering banning alcohol advertising.

Oh wait, they are.

If you pop along to this conference you will get the chance the hear Gerard Hastings speak. Hastings works at the UK Centre for Tobacco Control Research but—would ya believe it?—is now applying lessons learnt in tobacco control to the field of alcohol control. We know what he wants because he was at the 'Learning from Each Other' anti-tobacco/anti-alcohol love-in last year.

Professor Gerard Hastings, director of the Institute for Social Marketing and the Centre for Tobacco Control Research at Stirling University, said: "I’m very gratified to hear the minister talking about a complete ban as I believe that’s the way forward."

So, definitely no slippery slope there then. We can all rest easy.


Ivan D said...

The DH is totally and utterly out of control but merely reflects a wider malaise. In the long term absence of any major crises our society has turned upon itself in a self destructive orgy of petty illiberal politics. Health policy is at the forefront because repressive control by the few is easier to justify when it can be claimed to be "good for us" It is not not, never has been and it is high time that the Westminster clique grew some balls and did something about it.

manwiddicombe said...

Hastings is also involved with the campaign to restrict advertising certain food types - a proper prohibitionist role model.

Stinky said...

Here's hoping the c*nt chokes to death on an asparagus.

Stinky said...

Oops. I mean doesn't choke to death, of course. What a typo to make!

Because we wouldn't want any poor, innocent prohibitionist types to think anyone wishes them ill.

Ivan D said...

Hastings is an unlovable "professor" of a non-subject at a very average university but the government gave him his own plaything at his request in the form of the laughable plain packaging consultation. The previous government gave him an OBE for "services to healthcare". People like Hastings have always existed, the difference at the moment is that they are heavily government backed using our money. Social Marketing? Professor? They seem to be having a laugh at our expense.

dearieme said...

Do you think he'd eat asparagus? It demands a rich, creamy sauce, after all.

Anonymous said...

That the Doh is totally out of control is well illustrated by the fact that it has apparently funded "Operation Smoke Storm", a game to infiltrate the tobacco industy -see

It will be the booze industry next, just what are those guys at the DoH smoking???