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

Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher A specialist primary school i...

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

 

Political satire is funny, but it also causes cynicism and apathy

Yasmin Alibhai Brown
As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links