November 14, 2013 3.46 pm This story is over 95 months old

The case against plain packaging for cigarettes

Against plain tobacco packaging: Pat Nurse argues the case against government plans to introduce plain packaging for cigarettes.

Any politician who thinks they can win in 2015 by attacking adult tobacco consumers, should think again. Labour’s blanket smoking ban, for example, didn’t do much for former Labour MP Gillian Merron who was soon booted out because of it.

As a lifelong Lincolnian, and a former Labour supporter until 2007, I find it disturbing that any politician just swallows propaganda without having the intellect to look behind it, nor the manners to want to represent all potential constituents including those who smoke.

To make the case for the defecation of tobacco packaging, which includes images of excrement and urine in a toilet bowl, the anti-smoker industry uses paid-for propaganda which when scrutinised is found to be false.

Of course if they never use the product, ignorant politicians who are being misled wouldn’t care that adult consumers will have their rights to brand recognition, price comparison and product information stolen via plain or standardised packaging.

In addition, such an infantile idea if pushed into law will encourage the already thriving black market to grow and those managing it won’t ask kids how old they are, like regulated, accountable and responsible shopkeepers do at present.

Young people are being shoved into the hands of ruthless criminals to an unregulated contaminated and inferior product because of this backward piece of immature thinking. It has shown that it does not reduce smoking rates but does drive the product underground where fake brands are produced and sold easily to minors with all good protection to date removed in one fell swoop.

And scroll down to Day 15 at this link and you will see an Australian grass roots consumer who says smoking rates have not dropped but consumers are even denied the right to know how much tar and nicotine are in their product of choice.

Once the nannies and puritans get their way on stealing one consumer group’s rights, they can move on to others such as those who like the occasional glass of wine, tot of whisky, or can of beer as public health moves to attack alcohol, chocolate and who knows what else in this age of healthist paranoia on smoking, drinking and obesity.

Don’t tell me that smokers cost the NHS more. They don’t cost nearly as much as those who don’t smoke. Half of us don’t die young either. People like myself who have smoked for a lifetime, longer in fact than politicians like Lucy Rigby, who recently showed her support for such an illiberal and dangerous measure, have been breathing. We have paid far more in tax over several decades than we will ever get back in healthcare at the end of our lives. And to deny us that is downright churlish, nasty and mean.

There is nothing worse than immature politicians who would sleep walk into criminalisation of consumers and that is where plain packaging will take us – another step towards it. If I hear another claiming that the current government has broken a promise to make plain packaging law, I think I’ll spontaneously combust.

There never was such a promise, only a commitment to consultation before deciding on legislation. A staggering 500,000 grass roots consumers said no. 200,000 quangocrats and healthist astroturfers wanted it and quite rightly, the coalition listened to both sides of the argument and found the anti-smokers’ lacking – hence the very sensible delay to see what happens in Australia before condemning our kids to criminals and a loss of billions of pounds to the Treasury unnecessarily.

Politicians should remember that smokers not only enjoy smoking, they vote too and they will not vote for anyone who sets out to attack them more than they are being attacked already. They just want to be left alone.

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Patricia is a freelance journalist in Lincoln and a university lecturer. She earns her keep by writing news and features, and rants about the nanny state and the smoking ban.