Leading article: Out of sight will not be out of mind

Share
Related Topics

There is an injunction that could be applied as well to ministers as to gamblers or even smokers: quit while you're ahead. Unfortunately, it is not advice this Government always understands.

Last summer England joined Scotland and much of Europe when the long-heralded law banning smoking in public places finally came into effect. We would have preferred a ban that was driven by the market, rather than by legislative diktat: one that pubs and clubs – say – would choose to impose because they attracted more custom that way, rather than because the Government told them to.

In the event, though, the move seemed to chime with the public mood. The prohibition has been widely observed, with relatively few businesses complaining that profits have declined. Smoking is reported to be down sharply, which should be good for the nation's health.

Then last autumn, in an effort designed specifically to cut the number of young smokers, the legal minimum age for buying tobacco was increased from 16 to 18. Bringing the law on tobacco into line with that for alcohol seemed an entirely sensible move. And again, aside from a few predictable grumbles, the change seemed to be quickly accepted.

Now, though, the Government – in the person of the minister for public health, Dawn Primarolo – seems to be pressing its case too far. Among the new measures she is considering to discourage young smokers is a requirement that shops remove cigarettes and tobacco products from view. Shops would have to sell tobacco literally under the counter.

The thinking is that invisibility would reduce the temptation: out of sight and out of mind. We wonder, though, whether it might not rather introduce an additional element of desirability, as cigarettes came to be seen even more as forbidden fruit. By all means require cigarettes to be kept beyond reach behind the counter – they are mostly there already. Having to ask for them may make the purchaser think twice and gives the sales assistant time to verify ID if necessary.

So long as tobacco – and, for that matter, alcohol – are legal, however, it is ridiculous to suggest that there should be a ban on displaying them. Temptation and choice are integral to marketing and consumption in the modern world. Coping with that is part of being an adult.

If there is any tightening up to be done, it is in enforcing the existing age restriction on buyers, whether of cigarettes or alcohol. Shopkeepers caught selling to minors – either because they are careless or feel intimidated – should be subject to the full force of the law. Selling cigarettes and tobacco under the counter would be every bit as reprehensible as it sounds.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Cover Supervisor

£75 - £90 per day + negotiable: Randstad Education Group: Are you a cover supe...

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Piper Ryan Randall leads a pro-Scottish independence rally in the suburbs of Edinburgh  

i Editor's Letter: Britain survives, but change is afoot

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
Some believe that David Cameron is to blame for allowing Alex Salmond a referendum  

Scottish referendum: So how about the English now being given a chance to split from England?

Mark Steel
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam