by David McDonagh
It is hard not to despair when one pays attention to current events or hears programmes like Any Questions on the radio or Question Time on TV. The latest idea is that blank cigarette packets might affect the smoking habits of people, maybe children. Why anyone would think such a thing is far from clear. But they are trying it out in Australia. Plans to copy it were delayed this week. Dianne Abbott said it was sacrificing health to the tobacco lobby.
But why would anyone think this idea was even one whit realistic? Do they similarly feel sweet sales would fall if all sweets were put in plain packets?
The Labourites were using it to get the Tories to drop Lynton Crosby, as they maybe feel he is useful to the Tories. He has worked for Philip Morris, the world’s largest tobacco firm. They asked Cameron, the Prime Minster if he had ever spoken to Crosby on tobacco but got the reply that he had not lobbied him.
Too much respect has been paid to Anna Soubry, a Junior Heath Minister whose father died of lung cancer. She thought it germane that a poll showed that 64% agreed with here that plain packets could lower demand for cigarettes.
If the low level of political opinion is annoying the press seems to even surpass them for stupidity. The Independent, a misnomer if ever there was one, though there is a journal that calls itself The Economist, says the Tories are not only thinking of retaining Crosby but also fear that they might lost funding from the big tobacco firms.
Backward Joan Smith writing in the in The Independent on Sunday had a similar deadhead outlook to Anna Soubry. She wrote, “Ministers should hang their head in shame. Smoking kills around 100,000 people a year in the UK, among them my own father who died of lung cancer at the age of 63. Yet the tobacco companies – forever in need of new customers to replace those they kill – have managed to persuade 25% of people in their 20s to take up the habit. The government should be doing a\ll it can to persuade them to quit.”
Clearly, the tobacco firms killed no one. The pleasure that smokers get is immediate but the effect on current health are slight, though they might accumulate over a few decades. That clearly looks like a price worth paying to most smokers. The presentation of the packet is clearly not going to affect that ratio of incentives to disincentives one iota.