Monday 7 March 2011

Lansley Plain Packages The Conservative Party

Things have been quiet around here recently, and I'm afraid this may continue for a while since a few developments - a couple ecstatically good, a couple the polar opposite - have relegated my writing this drivel a few notches down the Puddlecote pecking order.

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.

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'
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.

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.


The Travelling Toper said...

I suppose that i'm just being paranoid if I think that plain packaging might also link to even more stroppiness from UKBA about bringing tobacco through customs. Surely there won't come a time when one of the countless official snoops seeing a citizen with an obviously imported packet of ciggs will have the authority to raid his or her home on the suspicion of smuggling tobacco.

Anonymous said...

This country used to be a good place- now look at it, every day we hear about crap laws being forced on us it seems. What the fuck's going on?

The Wasp said...

Psst: You were saying ...

Most smokers want to quit but struggle to go without

Anonymous said...

Stupid fuckers. What they don't realise it that it will make it easier and cheaper for counterfieters (scuse my spelling I can't be arsed to look up the correct) to produce the boxes that the cigarettes are packaged in.

William said...

Plain packaging is a vague term indeed. It seems to me to be deliberately vague.
He isn't yet clarifying vague.
Does he mean all in exactly the SAME packaging?
Does he mean all in the same colour packaging?
Does he mean the shopkeeper buying them as loose cigarettes and then counting them into brown paper bags?

He is of course in a competition with his mates Hammond, Huhne, Cable, Clegg, Osborne and Cameron to see who gets committed first.

Dick Puddlecote said...

Wasp: Nice spot. Earlier than expected - the 63% is exactly the figure I linked to (press releases always point to it). ;)

It's two years old, by the way, so ASH's response on that article is well rehearsed (they just look up what they said last year).

Anonymous said...

Lets get down to the nitty gritty,
Tory,LibDems,Labour, same gang,
same Neo Trot attitudes,same end game,same aims.
Time to start getting physical with these two bit pinkos,their
dream is a serf populos sitting on
sofas watching Corrie and X factor
with the odd excursion to Sainsbury's and a once every 5 years gallop to the polling station. Looks good in the history books.Time is ripe for collar feeling and ass kicking

A 20 year old soldier on leave
cant be served in Wetherspoons after 7 pm, you have to be 21 and show proof

Says it all about this England,
going down the drain with hardly a murmur of protest

Anonymous said...

Oh they will have plenty to protest about soon.
But it won't be fags or booze.
It will be because their standard of living will drop through the floor.

Old BE said...

"on little or even no evidence"

"the first country in the world to mandate that cigarettes be sold in plain packaging"

So nobody has tried it, therefore it is not proved? Three half claps for that bit of logic. Who would you rather tried first, the Aussies?

Anonymous said...

This is probably the most stupid idea I ever heard of, ever, and I've heard a lot of stupid ideas come out of government in my lifetime. I hear in New York state, just outside of New York City, one can buy cigarettes from the Indian tribes at a low discount price with no tax and they come packaged held only in a clear plastic bag. I guess that's what we'll be seeing next, is brown paper wrapped cigarettes and plastic bags of smoking tobacco being sold out of the backsides of vans and that's all this latest fiasco will cause. Oh wait, they've already caused that to happen, they'll just cause it to quadruple and kill off their tax takings entirely. ASH will have to find some other source of revenue to sponge from or else don machine-guns and badges maybe and re-position themselves from anti-smokers to anti-smugglers. Politicians just kill me. They're so bloody dumb and now another party is ready to fail its constituencies as did Labour. They'll be noone left to vote for soon.

richard h said...

Perhaps then politicians should practice what they dictate. They should also forfeit their particular "branding". No more Conservatives, Dems, liberals etc.just politicians. And no more different clothing as that is a form of "packaging" - branding and advertising - all must wear plain black and white simple pants and shirt - maybe to include graphic warning labels on the shirts.

Anonymous said...

Will we now be forced to identify our chosen tobacco by the picture of the Mexican bandit with his throat cut or the sweet eating monster kid with mangy teeth?

Anonymous said...

@richard h - but if you're a smoker your plain shirt and pants will be adorned with a big yellow 'S' so that the nice people can avoid us in case those fatal carcinogens leap from our clothing to theirs.


Anonymous said...


"You could even call it part of their own branding".

Interesting parallel there.

I suggest we dispense witht he Red, Blue and Yellow rosette theme for party branding, as they're all exactly the same now.

I suggest plain white [for cowardice in the face of the EU] with a message:



Gregster said...

I don't know what your problem is Blue Eyes. Australia can be first if it wants as well as every other country in the world. Why do we have to be the first mugs?

Angry Exile said...

"Australia can be first if it wants..."

Oh, and they're determined about it here. It's all about being seen as a world leader in frothing anti-baccy zealotry. Oh, and getting a bit of revenge for losing the ashes. Boom boom, I'll get me coat.

WV: "plain". Even Blogger is at it.

Anonymous said...

So after ASH has got the display ban and plain packaging, where else can they go? Obviously, there is the smoking in cars ban, but they are now venturing upon serious liberty issues. I mean serious....

I have no doubt that they will try to dream up some further extension of the ban which can be dressed up as 'public health', but it is hard to see where, without the serious liberty issues.

That being the case, once the display ban is in place and plain packaging is in place, where can ASH go, apart from a complete smoking ban?

Hard though it may seem, I can imagine even politicians saying that prohibition is not on the cards.

So let us not worry about the display ban and the plain packaging. If they go through, then ASH have reached the limit without actually invading private property.

There comes a point where people say, "Erm...just a minute!" We have not yet reached that point, but we are nearly there. The display ban and the plain packaging stuff are really quite minor matters - they will not stop us enjoying our tobacco.

ASH is reaching the end of its 'raison d'etre'. I can see its demise happening fairly soon. That would be quite simple - end of Gov funding equals reliance on public subscriptions equals almost nothing.

We will see.

Anonymous said...

Anyone see Panorama the other evening when HMG's tax collectors were bemoaning the loss of revenue from smuggling? Are these people's brains programmed for doublethink?

When ASH has got smoking banned from cars, outside buildings, parks, pavements and parents potentially accused as child abusers for smoking in their homes the bastards will still be bleating about loss of revenue from smuggling.

I fantasize about every UK smoker not smoking en masse for a month to see the reaction to loss of revenue from duty-paid fags.


Anonymous said...

If cigarettes are sold in plain packaging how will we or the shopkeeper know which brand is which ?

Laogai said...

Is there anything illegal about selling cigarette package covers? I mean, a re-usable cardboard cover that just happens to be the same size as a cigarette packet, decked out in the attractive retro-advertising colours formerly used by the company.

Seems like a gap in the market.

You could even have joke 'health warnings'. Any suggestions?