So Sir Cyril Chantler, a paediatrician fresh from a fact finding mission to Australia has recommended that plain packets of cigarettes are to 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.”
Labour’s Luciana Berger is tripping 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.
Ironically David Cameron said in 2008 “The era of big, bossy, state interference, top-down lever pulling is coming to an end.” To be fair he did reject the proposal originally but a defeat in the House of Lords forced him to reconsider.
Before Nick Clegg’s banishment from politics he said in his Freedom Bill will “roll back the power of the state.” Another LibDem fail.
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 by their own metric and there is nothing like ratcheting up the ante on discrimination of smokers.
Sir Cyril’s “fact finding” tour from Down Under seems to have been a waste of taxpayer’s money. While 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 Organization (WTO) and inevitably the European Union (EU). It seems 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 gave 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 admit the government admits to the result in their literature.
Never mind that the previous hapless Junior Minister pro plain packs Anna Soubry failed, possibly wilfully to report to the House of a Commons European Scrutiny Committee from January to June 2013 on the EU Tobacco product Directive. The Conservatives have not been good on tobacco all round.
The positives from this are that since the smoking ban in 2007 is the first time bullying of smokers was 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.
If you look at previous Ministers for “Smoking” they do not have staying power. Gillian Merron the Labour MP for Lincoln Central was dumped at the last election. Anne Milton who one Westminster insider described to me as NVG, not very good was sacked. Anna Soubry has been packed off to Defence (see above) and too can be looked upon as sacked. Et Tu Jane Ellison?