However, I couldn't let the recently announced (Sunday, isn't it always with these tedious grey-faced doom-mongers?) double whammy of banning tobacco displays and plain packaging pass without comment.
You see, it's incredible to think that it is a Conservative politician who is going to announce this poppycock on Wednesday because, as Ian B notes in a highly recommended piece over at Counting Cats, Andrew Lansley seems to have completely forgotten what conservatism is.
To remove branding is to remove the possibility of choice, that most glorious consequence of free market capitalism. Branding is the most wonderful thing, because it is a manifestation of the reality that products are not fungible. We don’t just buy “bread”. We buy Warburtons Soft White Farmhouse or Hovis Brown or what have you. A brand identifies the manufacturer; it allows you to make market judgements like “that was good last time, I’ll have that type again”. Without it, you cannot exert your will in the marketplace.Perfectly put. And the marketplace is where Conservatives have always claimed to hold the upper hand on their own competitors. You could even call it part of their own branding.
They're the business champion, the ones who recognise that personal choice, and the freedom of commercial enterprise to interact with the freely exercised purchasing will of the public, is paramount.
Yet here they are, on little or even no evidence, wiping valuable brand goodwill from British balance sheets, and deciding that businesses are no longer allowed by law to communicate with the consumers who wish to be communicated to. No precedent there, then (eh, drinks industry?).
Even the most frenzied of health lunatics admit that there is no compelling evidence that tobacco display bans will deter youth from smoking. Under 18s are banned from buying the stuff already, after all. But plenty to suggest that such a stupid policy will make the already substantial problem of kids getting black market baccy much worse.
Don't believe me? OK, how about the 'proof' that hiding tobacco has worked in Ireland. The BMA jumped up and down with glee at the fact that ...
Recall of displays dropped significantly among adults and teenagers post-legislation and there were encouraging signs that the law helped de-normalise smoking.Brilliant! So kids didn't remember seeing fags as much (which would appear to be self-evident), but did they smoke any less?
There were no significant short-term changes in prevalence among youths or adults.Of course not. In fact, there was some evidence that youth smoking rates had actually increased.
Oh yeah, and did I mention that the equivalent UK Bill was only passed because the chief proponents lied their arses off?
As for plain packaging, that's even more of an inept idea ... if it were possible. As far as I understand it, what Lansley is saying is that he is going to hide cigarette packets so that kids can't see them. Then, once no-one is allowed to see them anymore, he's going to make them less 'glitzy'. It takes some special kind of idiocy to come up with such laughably disjointed nonsense, does it not?
And the evidence that plain packaging will work? Well, there is none. Seriously. None. Because it has never been tried anywhere in the world. Ever.
Lansley is busting his gut to screw legitimate businesses selling a legal product; to ignore serious concerns from largely-populated small business associations; to make counterfeiters come in their pants at the potential for future profits; and to aesthetically sovietise our country further on the back of a few weak, gerrymandered and desperate studies which prove the better part of fuck all.
Since there is no proof - or even vague evidence - that plain packaging will have any effect at all, we can only assume that Lansley is solely motivated by political self-preening.
So what we have here is either pompous self-indulgence, singularly superlative stupidity, or possibly - considering the regularly mentioned intransigence of DH civil servants - limp cowardice from Lansley.If we act quickly, Australia can overtake the British Government and become the first country in the world to mandate that cigarettes be sold in plain packaging (page 2).That's right. It's a global game of 'keeping up with the Joneses'
It matters not, though, whether Lansley is a victim of a vacuous ego, his lack of mental capacity, or the yellow streak running down his spine. The result is still the same.
He's a Conservative who has damaged his party's reputation for defending the principles of conservatism** and, as such, it's impossible to trust him, or his fellow pretty plastic pillocks, ever again.
** Unless his idea is to open up new free markets in counterfeiting and smuggling, of course, in which case he's a pioneer.
Psst: Watch out for the media regurgitating two year old stats such as 'two thirds of smokers want to quit' (page 18) in advance of Wednesday, by the way.