Sunday, June 01, 2008

New Labour, new nanny state proposal

I see that the Government have launched a new consultation document on smoking. Whilst I don't use, and never have used, cancer sticks, I respect the right of others to do so, albeit not in my home and not in places where I am obliged to be.

Again, the notion that 'something must be done' rears its ugly head. I'm not convinced, for example, that banning the sale of cigarettes in pack sizes of less than twenty will make a huge difference. I'm fairly confident that the average young person, against whom these proposals are aimed, can work out that by waiting a little, they can save up for the first pack (assuming, of course, that they can't just buy a pack of twenty straight away) in the knowledge that they will not have to buy the next pack quite so soon.

As for banning 'brightly coloured packets', are we to presume that those youngsters trying cigarettes are really attracted to bright red, or blue or green and that this attraction makes them want to smoke the contents of the packet? Doesn't the stark warning on each pack make it abundantly clear?

If we really want to stamp out smoking, keep increasing the duty and price it out of the range of most people. At least that would imply a sense of honesty about the course of action being taken. Talk about how much it costs me to support smokers who die prematurelyn and balance that against the amounts of revenue brought in by taxing tobacco. Then we can make a fair choice as to what we do to our bodies...

Instead, the Government opts for criminalising those who are insufficiently aware of their agenda. Publicans and shopkeepers will have something else to watch out for, with the risk of fines and penalties for accidental non-compliance.

At the rate we're going, we'll only be able to do what the Government tells us we can, not as currently presumed, anything that isn't actively proscribed...


Alasdair W said...

There is a physcological effect of the cigaret packets lined up in display. The warning give an effect of rebellion. Smoking is a serious thing. I believe we should be doing everything we can to combat it. Hiding the cigarettes may or may not make a significant change. However I think it's worth it. Doing it could ultimately save lives.
Smoking isn't a freedom-it's an addiction it chains people. So as liberalists I think we should be all for stopping smoking. We need to liberalise people from it. That includes protecting them from it.

Mark Valladares said...


I fully accept the perspective from which you view this. However, there has to come a point where individuals take some responsibility for their lives. Government should not, and cannot, run your life for you and determine the level of risk which you take.

Cars kill unacceptable numbers of people, yet we don't physically limit cars to a top speed of 70 mph, even if that is the maximum speed limit in this country. Instead, we rely on legislation that makes it illegal for them to do so. Likewise with alcohol, where we limit access on the basis of age, and ask publicans not to serve those who are clearly intoxicated.

Indeed, drinking and driving itself is not illegal, as long as alcohol consumption is restrained to a limit whose exact measurement requires technical equipment.

Yes, government should protect those less able to protect themselves, and balance the freedom of individuals against the interests of the wider community but it shouldn't take away our right to balance risk and reward.