There is an activity which is perfectly legal but has a proven ill effect on people's health. While its incidence has been reduced in recent years, more still needs to be done to stop people taking up the habit. In particular, stopping youngsters from taking it up must be a top priority and the temptation for them must be removed by taking it out of public display.
I am of course referring to New Labourism, in particular media appearances by ministers such as Nanny-in-Chief Dawn Primarolo. Her appearance on Radio Five Live this morning to justify the Government's ridiculous idea of banning the public display of cigarettes certainly had the effect of raising my blood pressure by several points. I think I also set a new world record for the five-minute swearing at a radio event.
I'm not a smoker, but listening to her almost made me want to start. She was saying that the idea of banning the public display of cigarettes would help to remove temptation from youngsters to start smoking. I don't know what planet Primarolo is on (is there a planet called Condescension?) but absolutely nobody starts smoking just because they can see cigarettes on sale in a shop.
This idea is wrong for so many reasons. Here's just a few of them:
1) It will be ineffective. Nobody will stop smoking as a result of not being able to see cigarettes on sale.
2) There will be a significant cost implication for retailers, particularly smaller ones.
3) While the smoking ban in public premises could be justified on the grounds of the harm which passive smoking can do, there is absolutely no such thing as passing viewing.
4) People start smoking largely due to peer pressure or because of the supposed glamorous image of smoking. This will do nothing to address that.
5) If we're going to ban the public display of cigarettes because of their harmful effect on health, why not also ban the public display of alcohol? Indeed, Primarolo was asked this question on Radio Five Live but couldn't give a coherent answer.
6) Extending the last principle, should we also ban the public display of chocolate on the grounds it causes obesity? Or of non-free range meat on the grounds of animal welfare? Why not also peanuts because of their effect on people with a nut allergy?
7) If this came into effect, I suspect there would be an increase in cigarette smuggling and/or black market cigarette dealing.
8) If banning things is the solution, why not just go the whole hog and ban smoking entirely?
It's unbelievable that anyone could think this was a potential solution to the problem of stopping people from starting smoking. The sooner we ban public utterances by New Labour ministers, the better off we will all be.
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