You may have heard on the news that since Friday it has been illegal to display tobacco product openly in medium and large sized stores, with smaller shops following suit over the next couple of years.
Now I’ll declare an interest int that I used to be a heavy smoker – 80 odd a day – but gave it up back in 1979 when they hit the exorbitant price of £1 a packet. I haven’t smoked since, but I defend the right of smokers to kill themselves if they want to without criticism from me. After all, it’s their life…
But what I don’t get is the logic of shutting away tobacco behind a big grey door with the word ‘TOBACCO’ written on it in sodding great big letters. Just exactly how is this diverting the attention of potential smokers from cigarettes? On the contrary, I would have thought that it is making it more noticeable, more appealing, just more…naughty.
Have we learnt nothing from the US experiment with prohibition. What happened when they made alcohol illegal? Well. basically it became more risque, more exciting, naughtier to have a drink. Crime flourished in illegal alcohol trade. People still drank – and the same thing will happen with this latest blunder on tobacco.
So if you want to stamp out smoking, then what’s the answer? Clearly simply making it illegal won’t work. There are two solutions :
The first is education – also known as propaganda, depending on your viewpoint. Then again, they just abolished the COI so could be a shortage of public information films to ram the message home. If you want to reduce smoking, then you need to convince people that it’s bad for their heath, that it’s anti-social. You need to stigmatise it.
The other solution is the good old fashioned pricing mechanism. I gave up all those years ago because I decided that it wasn’t worth the cost, so how about sticking £5 a packet on the duty in the next budget. That might out a few people off although doubtless it will cause a few bleats about penalising the working classes.
In the meantime, it’s now easier to find fags if you want them. They’re behind that big grey door with ‘TOBACCO’ written on it…