Readers will recall that in May this year, a new British government was elected that promised to cut unnecessary regulation and put an end to Labour's nanny state. How do you think they're getting on?
From the Beeb:
Make cigarette packaging plain, government urges
I think it was Roger Daltry who sang something about meeting the new boss. Other people have said that patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel. I'm not so sure. I think scoundrels can sink much lower than that when they need to. See if you can see a theme running through the feeble claims for this latest piece of Sovietisation...
The government is currently planning to ask retailers to cover up their displays of cigarettes from next year to protect children. But now cigarette packets could also be made a standard colour like grey, rather than the existing bright colours.
Campaign group ASH says this is "an enormous leap forward". The Department of Health is considering the idea of asking ['asking' as in "we'll fine, bankrupt and imprison you if you don't agree" - CS] tobacco firms to put only basic information and health or picture warnings on their packets.
Making the cigarette packets a plain colour would protect children from taking up smoking in the first place, it suggests. It would also help support people who are trying to give up smoking, the department said.
Health Secretary Andrew Lansley, said it was time to try a new approach. "The evidence is clear that packaging helps to recruit smokers, so it makes sense to consider having less attractive packaging. It's wrong that children are being attracted to smoke by glitzy designs on packets.
"We would prefer it if people did not smoke and adults will still be able to buy cigarettes, but children should be protected from the start. The levels of poor health and deaths from smoking are still far too high, and the cost to the NHS and the economy is vast. That money could be used to educate our children and treat cancer," Mr Lansley said.
"We will shortly set out a radical new approach to public health in a White Paper."
Martin Dockrell, director of policy and research at ASH, (Action on Smoking and Health), said the industry calls packaging "the silent salesman".
"They use it to seduce our kids and mislead smokers into the false belief that a cigarette in a blue pack is somehow less deadly than a cigarette in a red one.
"By helping smokers who want to quit and protecting our children from the tobacco ad men this will be an enormous leap forward for public health, perhaps even bigger than the smoking ban," he said.
I am so tired of this unceasing nonsense that I can barely summon up the energy to mention that children have not been allowed to buy cigarettes since 1906. It seems barely worthwhile to point out that 40% of cigarette packs are already made up of warnings which say 'Smoking Kills'. There is no use in saying that colours and logos alone cannot "seduce" anyone. And it is futile to note that any government that forms policy on the back of hysterical yelps about protecting children treats all its citizens as children.
The wish-list of anti-smoking extremists is long and publicly available. It should be no more a surprise that they want plain packaging of cigarettes than it is that Los Angeles is calling for a total ban on smoking outside the home. These policies have been discussed in hushed tones at tobacco control conferences for several years, and it is, of course, their job to come up with wild, new directions for tobacco control.
It is also—so we thought—the job of elected politicians to tell fanatics and nut-jobs where to get off. But that is no longer the case, and the anti-smoking fraternity must be pinching themselves when they hear their fruitiest schemes being discussed by a nation's Minster for Health.
In truth, the coalition of the unwilling, like every government in recent memory, will use "tough" (but ultimately pointless and counter-productive) measures on smoking as a distraction from its failure to do anything about real issues. It's pathetic and predictable, but that's how it is. Evidence, logic and ethics don't come into it. It's simple politics and those of us who didn't vote Conservative at the election should feel vindicated today.
UPDATE: A tweet from Leeds University's Faculty of Medicine of Health rather gives the game away:
That's first step, you will notice. Not even 'next logical step'. Truly, they haven't even begun.
(PS. You can follow me on Twitter at cjsnowdon.)