The topic I resisted writing about yesterday was the ban on the display of tobacco products that came into force yesterday. I’m a smoker you see, so I risk condemnation or accusations of bias. But then I thought, what’s new?
The rationale behind this latest crack down on the evil weed is that it will curb the numbers of young people who take up smoking, but I’ve seen no evidence to back-up this claim.
There are places, like Canada, that have hidden supermarket cigarette stocks behind shutters that claim have seen a small drop in the number of young smokers, but without any evidence of cause and effect.
The argument goes that all the effort that the tobacco companies put into packaging and point of sale material is designed to influence impressionable young minds and attract the next generation of smokers.
Personally, I think they do it differentiate their brand from another, but setting that aside, the argument for hiding the displays falls down because next on the list of things to be banned is any sort of branding. All the packs will look alike in plain white wrapping, so why bother with hidden displays?
The answer, of course, is that it is another victory for the anti campaigners in the ongoing war with smokers. Andrew Lansley admitted as much when he said:
‘We want to arrive at a place where we no longer see smoking as a normal part of life. We’re doing it by stages with constant active pressure.’
And that would be a laudable aim if the government were upfront and honest about the final destination.
We know from the research that the two biggest influences on young people to take up smoking are their parents and peer pressure. If mum and dad smoke, then smoking becomes normalised and if a friend offers you a cigarette, it would be uncool not to accept.
The ultimate aim then has to be make tobacco illegal, but before you clap you hands and shout hoorah, just remember who it is that will have to make up the shortfall in the taxman’s coffers.