Sunday, 19 August 2012

Plain packets will just make dumb people think smoking is cool again.

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley is said to be watching closely the outcome of a ruling made by the Australian High Court on the sale of cigarettes in plain packaging. Big tobacco companies down under had contested the banning of all logos from cigarette packets on the grounds that it infringed their intellectual property rights, the high court found this not to be the case and upheld the law requiring cigarettes to only be sold in plain packets carrying graphic health warnings that has been in place since late last year.

Health campaigners in countries including the UK, Canada, India and New Zealand are encouraging their governments to adopt similar rules. In the UK it is expected that the government will eventually given in to pressure from campaigners and introduce plain packets, if only because it will deflect a little of the criticism being heaped upon them for their inept handling of the NHS.

Scott McIntyre, a spokesman for British American Tobacco in Australia said that banning logos from cigarette packets was ‘a bad law that will only benefit organised crime groups which sell illegal tobacco,’ he added that the existing black market in cigarettes would ‘grow further when all packets look the same and are easier to copy.’

I have no great love for big tobacco companies, but I have to admit that Mr McIntyre might just have a valid point. The more draconian laws banning smoking become the more profit there is to be made from selling black market cigarettes and the local spiv is rapidly replaced by the international crook.

Even if that weren’t the case I would still be dubious about the wisdom of only selling cigarettes in plain packages. Like the rule introduced in the UK last year that cigarettes cannot openly be displayed in shops it is predicated on the idea that smokers are idiot children; only they aren’t, they’re ordinary people just like you and I.

Lets be honest smoking is a mugs game and I ought to know since I used to be a smoker. This means that unlike many anti-smoking campaigners I also know what it isn’t and what it isn’t is an addiction from which society must be protected at all costs.

People who give up smoking don’t pass through some horrific ‘cold turkey’ experience to win a moral victory, at worst they feel like they’ve got a bad cold for a couple of weeks. Those smokers who don’t give up aren’t therefore lacking in moral fibre, they’ve just made a choice. Not a very wise one I’d argue; but one they should be free to make and accept he consequences of in the long term.

The hysterical crusade against smoking that began about a generation ago and has seen smokers banished from pubs, cafes and busses and soon from smoking in the privacy of their own cars is rapidly becoming counterproductive. There is a constituency of people for whom anything ‘they’ don’t want you to do has to be exciting just because someone wants you to avoid it. Putting cigarettes in plain packets runs the risk of making impressionable people think a bad habit is a cool one.

Smokers, like dinosaurs, are on the wrong side of evolutionary change and within another generation or so the habit will seem as arcane as taking snuff or believing in witches. This presents a problem for the professionally self righteous brigade for whom the campaign against smoking has provided a platform, if they are given their head and allowed to use ever more stringent laws to curtail the rights of smokers it cannot be long before they turn their attention to everyone else’s freedoms too.

School playing fields are not safer under the Tories.

As if it wasn’t already enough of an embarrassment the government has had to revise upwards its admission of how many school playing fields have been sold off since 2010 from twenty one to thirty. Even worse it has emerged that ministers pushed five of those sales through despite objections from the panel set up to advise them on this issue.

Questioned by the press about the sales by the press last week absurd Education Secretary Michael Gove sanctimoniously replied that school playing fields are safer under the coalition than under the last Labour government.

Labour certainly don’t have clean hands when it comes to the selling off of school playing fields, but the levels of hypocrisy required for ministers to pose with Olympic athletes whilst simultaneously selling off school playing fields are surely deserving of a gold medal. If things carry on like this it’s probably the only one we’ll win.

And another thing

Olympic cyclist Victoria Pendleton puts on a slinky dress and pouts for the cameras whilst claiming to be a ‘reluctant sex symbol.’ Yes dear and Richard Burton really only liked an occasional sweet sherry after evensong.

For the first time in twenty years the number of students achieving top grades in their A Levels has fallen, for some reason a lot of silly people think this is a good thing. That swishing sound you can hear is the result of a lot of tall poppies having their heads lopped off. Who needs ambition when you can know your place instead?

The Dandy is to go out of print at the end of this year after almost eighty years of entertaining children large and small. Personally I always preferred the Beano or Whizzer and Chips myself, but it is still a shame.

Before he hangs up his Stetson for good I’d like to point out that Desperate Dan with his huge belly, stubble and expression of dim witted belligerence always reminded me a little of John Prescott. Even more worryingly Michael Gove is the spitting image of Billy the Cat.

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