So Sir Cyril Chantler, a paediatrician and Tory place-man fresh from a fact-finding mission to Australia, has recommended that plain packets of cigarettes should be introduced. Health Minister Jane Ellison has said: “It is very likely to have a positive impact on public health and stop children from starting to smoke,” and Labour’s Luciana Berger tripped over herself when she said: “There is an overwhelming body of evidence in favour of standardised packaging and there can be no excuse for a further delay.” The Liberal Democrats seen a bit mute for some unfathomable reason.
Collectively LibLabCon seem not to have clue what is going on. Ironically David Cameron also said in 2008: “The era of big, bossy, state interference, top-down lever pulling is coming to an end,” and before Nigel Farage banished Nick Clegg from politics the LibDem leader said the his Freedom Bill would “roll back the power of the state”. That’s another failure.
Sir Cyril’s guestimate of 2% reduction in youth smoking is seen as “reasonable” and “significant if smoking is to become denormalised”. The effect will barely register even by the Tories’ own metric and there is nothing like ratcheting up the ante on discrimination of smokers.
Sir Cyril’s ‘fact finding’ tour Down Under seems to have been a waste of taxpayers’ money. While it is far too early to draw any firm conclusions, certainly there seems to be no evidence of any reduction in smoking or sales.
Black market cigarettes are increasing in sales. A report by KPMG, paid for by cigarette manufacturer Philip Morris International (PMI) found a rise in contraband from 11.8% to 13.3%. PMI also have reported a rise in sales of 0.3% during 2013.
Another effect of brand homogeneity has been an increase in costs at the point of sale. Identical packs have seen a dramatic increase in sales times. The Australasian Association of Convenience Stores (AACS) reported in September 2013 on the effects in the retail trade, amongst many negatives these two stand out.
- Overall, around three-quarters of small retailers have experienced an increase in the time taken to serve adult smoker customers, and three in five report additional time is spent communicating with these customers about tobacco products.
- Three in five small retailers have faced increased frustration from adult smoker customers, and nearly two-thirds have seen an increase in the frequency of staff giving the wrong products to customers (primarily due to difficulty in recognising/distinguishing between brands).
With some Conservatives rebelling, Nick de Bois’ piece on Conservative Home is quite compelling. He describes the policy as a ‘reckless risk’ and poses: “Do we really want more criminals selling more fake cigarettes to children?”
Then we have the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and inevitably the European Union (EU). The move seems to be directly against the principles of Article 20 of Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) from the 1986 Uruguay Round. The clause is quite unambiguous: “The use of a trademark in the course of trade shall not be unjustifiably encumbered by special requirements, such as use with another trademark, use in a special form or use in a manner detrimental to its capability to distinguish the goods or services of one undertaking from those of other undertakings.”
A number of countries including Ukraine, Honduras, Dominican Republic, and Cuba have lodged objections. If the Australian and British governments lose, their taxpayers stand to pay £millions in compensation to tobacco companies, never mind 64% of people rejected plain packs and the government admits to this in their literature.
This is a positive in that this is the first time since the ban in 2007 that bullying of smokers has been defeated. It may have been resurrected like a decaying corpse but at worst, any government now knows any future restrictions will be fought hard at considerable political cost and inconvenience. As other nanny statists want to go the ‘new tobacco’ route, as in sugar, salt, fast food, alcohol being the ‘new tobacco’, we may yet see a white flag being waved over Parliament on smoker prejudice.
In the hermetically sealed world of never-had-a-real-job Westminster-bubble politicians, Nigel’s drubbing of Nick Clegg in the EU debates confirms just how out of touch are the ruling elite, who are surrounded by yes people and peer groups that nod in sage agreement over dinner parties.
It appears that they think we do not exist or can be brow-beaten into submission to think in their ‘Metropolitan Elite’ way. I remember the BBC interviewing Nigel and there were at least five cutaways to Nigel’s Rothmans cigarettes as if the very fact that he smokes (and drinks) is a negative.
I am in no doubt Nigel’s simple lack of an apology for liking a pint and a fag has had a profound effect on LibLabCon. He is the litmus test for the political climate. It is not the pages of The Guardian or the BBC where opinion-forming is pervasive, it is UKIP, the comment pages of newspapers and the saloon bar at your local festooned with UKIP supporters.
For compromising the nanny state Nigel has notched up another #win.