235,000 sign petition against plain tobacco packsA petition against controversial plans for plain tobacco packaging signed by 235,000 people has today been handed to the Department of Health.
The petition, organised by the Hands Off Our Packs campaign, has been presented two days ahead of the deadline for responses to a public consultation on Friday.
This is a quite phenomenal result, particularly when you consider the government's expectations...
Based on past consultation exercises, we expect to receive around 100,000 responses to the consultation.
It is notoriously difficult to get people to put pen to paper in favour of the status quo, especially when you're dealing with a 'denormalised', minority habit such as smoking. It is therefore very encouraging to see that so many people have spoken out against this ridiculous scheme. This, remember, is in addition to opposition from the country's biggest trade union, nine out of ten police officers and members of Parliament.
It should go without saying that this massive petition does not guarantee success in post-democratic Britain. We know that the Department of Health is firmly behind the idea (why else would it spend millions of pounds campaigning for it?). We also know that the Department of Health are past masters when it comes to sexing up public consultations until they get the 'right' result. And we know that ASH, Smokefree South-West and all the other state-funded sock-puppets have been given the resources to gather many signatories themselves.
But even if the liberal side had no more than 235,000 supporters—and there will be many more on paper by the time the consultation is published—it will be a significant and irksome thorn in the prohibitionist's side. The government might start to ask itself, finally, why on earth it is pursuing this obscure policy. Where are the votes in it? And then perhaps we can see a return to some semblance of sanity and perspective from the mother of all parliaments.