Quite a few blog visitors have shared what they received with me - which is always welcome - and it would seem the general response is to run through the standard ASH-provided anti-smoking stats and state that there has been no decision yet ... which we already know. Very few actually address the very real dangers plain packaging might encourage.
If you receive one of these, it's always worth sending a follow-up letter to show that you're not a sheep who is happy to be fobbed off in such a way (the same applies to routine rejections of parking ticket complaints, by the way).
Here is an object lesson on how to do exactly that from fellow jewel robber, The Meissen Bison.
Many thanks for your letter and its contents which I read with interest and, of course, with a predictable sense of disappointment.
There is so much in this business which ought to be anathema to a Conservative and the attitude evinced in your letter embraces precisely the kind of authoritarianism and nanny-knows-best approach which your party now shares with the other two.
You begin by stating that 'we want to reduce the number of young people who take up smoking' and my immediate reaction is who precisely is this “we”? It certainly doesn’t include me and it probably doesn’t include anybody who recognises that people have a right to go about their lives without interference if they aren't breaking any laws. Furthermore, a Conservative used to know that young people are the responsibility of their parents and not of the state and that to encroach on a parent’s responsibilities in one area is to encourage an abrogation of responsibility in others, a process which is already quite far advanced.
You continue by referring to your Tobacco Control Plan designed to stop over 200,000 people smoking by 2015..
‘Control’ in the context of lawful human behaviour is the language of totalitarian regimes and should be abhorrent to you. The figures of course (and I suspect we both know this) are bunkum but I notice that you sidle away from the target group of young smokers-to-be in your first paragraph to include inveterate smokers of all age groups in your second. This obfuscation and manipulation of statistics and forecasts is favoured by those who want to dress up flimsy and partisan positions as substantive arguments and history tells us, alas, that this can be quite effective up to a point and for a while. As indeed can all forms of ‘control’.
You go on to refer to your public consultation process. I have to question the validity of any process where lobbying organisations have free rein to grind their axes in complete harmony with a government target already posited in the title of its earlier policy document.
When you write to say that you are carefully considering and analysing responses to the consultation, I am bound to wonder how likely it is that your analysis will conclude that for 200,000 people to have given up between 2011 and 2015 no special action is required; that death, taxes and consumer choice will achieve the reduction you are looking for?
This is not even a remotely likely conclusion. What we will get instead is that two years into the process from 2011 signs will be said to be encouraging but further measures will nonetheless be appropriate for the promotion of human health and to protect our young people. It’s a script which almost writes itself.
Underpinning all of this is the hypocrisy of successive governments in hounding the luckless smoker while milking him for excise. Your administration is therefore not the first but certainly the most entrenched as far as I can see in ratcheting up antismoking measures in concert with a rabid corpus of lobbying ‘charities’ for whom enough will never be enough.
Ultimately, if people are not to be trusted with the choice of whether or not to smoke, after taking into account the attendant risks to their own health, why not simply fight the next election on a manifesto that embodies a policy to ban tobacco entirely?
As a non-smoker this is a policy which would have no personal impact for me but neither would it garner any party many votes which is why it won’t be adopted. On the whole it’s safer to stick with stealth repression – the sort that nobody actually voted for – and continue to reverse the relationship between the state and the individual in which the former becomes ever more the master of the latter.Bravo!
Directed at the party which introduced the sound bite of 'stealth taxes' to the public, I found the term stealth repression to be particularly well-drawn.
If you haven't already, why not tell your own MP that they should butt out of our choices by urging them to oppose plain packs? It's simple to do via this site, and will only take a minute of your time.
When you receive the usual boilerplate dismissive response, like The Meissen Bison, you too can use the opportunity to tell them precisely what you think about their unwelcome and disgraceful assaults on your freely chosen personal enjoyments. Whether it be plain packs, controls on what you drink, taxes on food and soft drinks, or banning e-cigs - just unload on them and enjoy doing so.
And don't ever give them the respect of believing you will be inconveniencing them, they are the ones treating the public with contempt. You are merely exercising your democratic right of objection as their Boss.