Is the point of number 10 e-petitions a way of letting us know that we'd be better off spending our time trying to demolish a block of flats with a spoon? The latest response that defecated itself into my inbox yesterday would seem to suggest so.
In reply to this perfectly reasonable request ...
“We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to ban all harmful toxins and chemicals from cigarettes and all other tobacco products in this country.”
Details of Petition:
“We are told by the Government that it is not the tobacco itself, but the toxins and chemicals in cigarettes and other tobacco products, that cause a danger to our lives. If this is the case, then we call upon this Government to ban all harmful toxins and chemicals from cigarettes and all other tobacco products in this country, and to make all tobacco products safe.”
... came this one small paragraph that prefaced five, count 'em, five longer ones extolling government policy on tobacco control entirely unrelated to the question.
The Government’s view is that all smoking is dangerous. While we are concerned about the many toxic ingredients and emissions from tobacco, we do not consider that the evidence supports the view that a ban on certain additives alone will lessen the harm caused by smoking.
It seems a very odd reply considering that this is exactly what Mrs Balls was advocating a few short years ago.
The government has called on tobacco companies to reduce the number of cancer-causing chemicals produced by cigarettes.
Public health minister Yvette Cooper urged the industry to agree to cut down on potentially harmful chemicals added to cigarettes.
Furthermore, a Department of Health spokesperson was wheeled out to put meat on the bones.
She [isn't it always?] added: "At the moment there is technology for the industry to reduce significantly or remove carcinogens.
"What Yvette Cooper is saying is she want's** the tobacco industry to completely remove or reduce alot** of these carcinogens."
The spokeswoman said the minister could enforce her decision under the Consumer Protection Act which provides a wide range of powers to regulate consumer products to make them safer.
There you have it, then. There exists legislation to empower the DoH to force tobacco companies to stop chucking in the 600 additives that Alan Milburn triumphantly announced in 2000.
Smokers are inhaling a lethal cocktail of 600 additives as well as nicotine every time they light up. In an attempt to disgust people into giving up, the Health Secretary Alan Milburn has released for the first time the exact make-up of a cigarette.
Isn't that exactly what this petition was calling for? An end to the addition of chemicals by those nasty, evil tobacco companies? Surely the government should be in full agreement with this seeing as it mirrors their press releases from the start of the millenium?
Or are smokers expendable for the sake of the greater good?
Because let's face it, the "Smoke is Poison" campaign by Cancer Research UK in 2006 would have been a lot less effective had these additives been banned. You must remember the ads, where Donal McIntyre (funded by the Department of Health, funny enough) went undercover to expose what a righteous cock he was, ignorant of the fact that Labour could have banned these materials from cigarettes years before.
Mrs Balls was very concerned about the effects of the additives in 2001, yet Labour have done nothing to stop the practice and, indeed, in 2009, dismiss an e-petition on the subject out of hand. If the issue of additives was pressing enough to move Mrs B to comment on it eight years ago, it follows that deaths must have occurred in the interim which could have been prevented. One can only assume that smoker deaths are less worth avoiding than non-smoker ones. All for the common good, of course.
I've long advocated that if you smoke, then Labour isn't the party to vote for, but the latest e-petition nonsense shows that if you smoke, they don't give a shit whether you live or die.
It also calls into question the point in the number 10 e-petition site. If a petition that agrees with Labour policy is swatted away in such a dismissive manner, shouldn't the next petition be that the whole process is a bastardisation of public consultation and unfit for purpose?
I've submitted one myself to that effect but I don't expect it will pass the approval stage, the petitions being subject to prior censorship, and all.
**BBC not dumbed down at all, it's only 8 years, they'll spot it soon.