Why the delay on plain packs for cigarettes?

It's hard to see how the PM can justify holding back when lives are at stake

Share

If you manufacture a product which steadily kills off the people who use it, you have to keep finding new customers. That's the unusual, if not unique, problem facing the big tobacco companies. Picture a queue for cigarettes in your local supermarket and the fact is that half the people in it will gradually disappear, struck down by cancer, heart disease, pneumonia or emphysema. Around 100,000 people die from smoking-related diseases each year in the UK.

With such a high attrition rate, it's no surprise that the tobacco companies kick and scream whenever someone suggests measures to discourage smoking. They did it in Australia when the government proposed legislation to enforce plain packaging; they lost that battle, but they're doing better in the UK where the Government has announced a delay in introducing similar proposals.

The Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, said in a written statement yesterday that he wants to see the impact in Australia before going ahead in this country, but the delay makes no sense at all. Plain packaging is actually a misnomer – it involves brand names in plain type, overshadowed by huge health warnings – and photographs of gangrenous limbs are hardly likely to encourage anyone to take up the habit. So the Government had nothing to lose by making the change, and potentially a lot to gain in terms of improving public health.

To anyone who's witnessed the dire effects of smoking on a friend or relative, the decision is indefensible. I remember vividly how the final 18 months of my father's life were blighted by lung cancer; he died at the age of 63, too young to enjoy the retirement he'd saved for throughout his working life. He got hooked in his teens, and it's obvious that getting people young is the most effective way of creating lifelong addicts.

Critics of the Government's decision suspect another Australian connection in the shape of the Tories' election campaign manager, Lynton Crosby. His company, Crosby Textor, does not reveal its clients but is said to have long-standing links with the tobacco industry in Australia, where the three biggest companies spent $5m on their campaign against plain packaging.

The Conservative MP Sarah Wollaston demanded "clarity" on Crosby's role in this and another controversial announcement, shelving a minimum price for alcohol; Labour's Diane Abbott asked why the Tories were backing down on a proposal they supported before David Cameron gave a job to Crosby. Cameron insists Crosby hasn't lobbied him but refuses to say whether they've discussed plain packaging.

One thing is clear. Few modern industries kill as many of their customers as the tobacco companies. They've managed to persuade more than a quarter of people in their twenties to take up the habit, despite all the evidence of damage to health. Ministers should hang their heads in shame for not doing everything possible to encourage them to give up – and for failing to protect the next generation from this pointless, health-destroying habit.

www.politicalblonde.com; twitter.com/@polblonde

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

Recruitment Genius: Works Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Hire Manager - Tool Hire

£21000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is seeking someone w...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

I don't blame parents who move to get their child into a good school

Chris Blackhurst
William Hague, addresses delegates at the Conservative party conference for the last time in his political career in Birmingham  

It’s only natural for politicians like William Hague to end up as journalists

Simon Kelner
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent
Markus Persson: If being that rich is so bad, why not just give it all away?

That's a bit rich

The billionaire inventor of computer game Minecraft says he is bored, lonely and isolated by his vast wealth. If it’s that bad, says Simon Kelner, why not just give it all away?
Euro 2016: Chris Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Wales last qualified for major tournament in 1958 but after several near misses the current crop can book place at Euro 2016 and end all the indifference