Neu Arbeit, our glorious leaders, have a plan to reduce the number of smokers in the country.
It is in the best traditions of totalitarianism (think the goose-step) both farcical and terrifying. They want to ban retailers from displaying cigarettes. They will now have to be sold like Corporal Jones’s sausages from under the counter.
There are also plans afoot to remove all logos and branding from ciggies.
This plan is aimed to discourage children from taking up the weed. It will do no such thing. Pete Doherty is a hero to many kids (he’s always winning “sexiest man on the planet” and “NME hero of the year” awards. Part of his glamour is his heroic consumption of restricted substances. Kids like that sort of thing. Kids like being a bit naughty and rebelling against “The Man”. All this will achieve is shop assistants scrabbling about to find 20 Marlboro, under a counter in an unmarked pack… The queues in newsagents and petrol stations will be Biblical. People will be late for work.
It is of course also a move towards criminalizing smoking and prohibition on this scale will be a once in a century opportunity for organized crime. Are these people not aware that because of the spectacular levels of tax on UK fags we already have a massive black market in them. I often smoked Polish ciggies bought on the sly. They’re very easy to tell. The EU mandates that fag packets are 40% health warning and these health-warnings have way to many consonants. Christ, I’ve even smoked Chinese (not an experience to repeat) cigarettes. Putting all cigarettes under the counter is a boon to smugglers. They don’t get it do they? This could make prohibition-era Chicago look like a law-abiding town.
They’re also considering banning the sale of cigarettes in packs of ten (a peculiar UK tradition due to how highly taxed they are) and banning cigarette vending machines. The latter are almost invariably in pubs. If this really is to keep kids away from ciggie-wigs then I do wonder if the cart is pulling the horse here.
I watched this on the news with my dumb-struck wife. She was dumb-struck because they quite clearly don’t have the slightest idea that they are utterly totalitarian, or even if you discount that, what the unintended consequences might be. She finally managed to say, on the branding issue, “They might as well call them all ‘Victory Cigarettes’ and be done with it.” Thresher’s the off license chain already calls it’s own brand gin, “Victory”. Someone in their marketing department must have a sense of humour.
God, I hate them. They are utterly illiberal, utterly dishonest, utterly useless and completely, totally, thoroughly incapable of even grasping the concept that they might, even sometimes, get it wrong.
This is not a post about smoker’s rights. This law will harm everyone. It will harm the back of the shop-assistant who has to rummage for the cigarettes under the counter. It will harm the none smokers in the queue. It will harm all of us by promoting organized crime, it will harm children by giving smoking an extra, forbidden, glamour. It will harm tax-payers who will have to take up the slack when we realize it is promoting more smuggling. It’s nuts on so many levels. It harms our society because if they get this through God knows what they’ll be clamping down on next. Booze, fatty foods, cars, being under the approved dress-size… Whatever your thing is whether hurtful or harmful (and smoking certainly is harmful) they’re coming to get you.
Unsurprisingly, this latest scheme is the work of “Red” Dawn Prim’n'Proper, the minister for public health. As I type this I imagine I can smell her burning at the stake. Or maybe that’s just my Polish Mayfair smouldering in the ashtray. I’m committing an offence there too. This shed is my place of business and smoking is illegal in a place of business. I don’t even have the officially mandated signs up. The fact that I don’t meet clients here (this is my space where I work subtle magic and sometimes just hit it with a hammer) is irrelevant ‘cos it’s the law innit.
The whole sorry farrago of Ms Primarolo’s plans is recounted by the Guardian.