IoS letters, emails & online postings (1 January 2012)

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Tobacco is a deadly product, with around half of regular smokers dying as a direct result of their tobacco use ("Blank cigarette packs will prove a multi-billion drag on the Treasury", 18 December). Mark Leftly suggests that introducing plain cigarette packaging to deter smokers won't work. Yet peer-reviewed studies from around the world consistently show that plain packaging will make smoking less attractive, particularly to young people. This is important, given two-thirds of smokers start before they're 18.

Plain packs will make the health warnings more prominent and reduce the tobacco industry's ability to mislead consumers about the harms of smoking with "healthier-looking" colours and branding.

There is no evidence plain packaging will make cigarettes easier to counterfeit. The tobacco industry already has to put covert markings on all packs to distinguish between authentic and counterfeit goods – and this will continue with plain packs.

Far from "throwing a sop to public health groups", Andrew Lansley has decided to consult on plain packaging based on the evidence – something the tobacco industry is clearly finding uncomfortable.

Dr Vivienne Nathanson

British Medical Association

Maura Gillespie

British Heart Foundation

Jean King

Cancer Research UK

Deborah Arnold

Chief executive, ASH

Katy Guest's disturbing article about gender stereotyping struck a chord with me as a parent of two girls and a boy and a headmistress (The New Review, 18 December). Single-sex schools offer hope in a relentlessly pink and blue world, expose the tyranny of gender-stereotyping and encourage boys and girls to choose who they want to be. Such schools do not fall into the trap of ascribing differences in learning style or behaviour to gender. At girls' schools, more girls opt for stereotypically male subjects such as chemistry, physics or maths, while the same has been observed in boys' schools with subjects such as languages, drama and art.

Jane Gandee

St Swithun's School, Winchester

The High Court's ruling that the Government's plans to reduce feed-in tariffs were "legally flawed" come as no surprise to those in the industry. You cannot make changes before a consultation period ends.

In capping funds at an arbitrary level, the Government would be restraining the momentum of a burgeoning industry with huge potential in which companies have invested millions. But most small and medium enterprises in the market are specialist solar PV installers which are not geared up to install cavity or solid wall insulation. If the model set out in the consultation goes ahead, it will favour large firms which are.

Paul Roche

Director, The Grafton Group plc


Janet Street-Porter praises the Queen for "having done a remarkable job... being 85 years of age" (18 December) I will be 88 next month. Last year, I took a ferry from Newcastle to Amsterdam and motored 200 miles south. I did not have a driver, paid for the petrol, had no one to direct me or to lay out my clothes, packed and unpacked my own cases – and the hotel was not five star. Does the Queen know what it takes for ordinary people to live? As one of the richest women in the world, she should be ashamed to accept taxpayers' money.

Marianne Harrison

Eyemouth, Berwickshire

Janet Street-Porter (18 December) is pleased about Tracey Emin's elevation to RA Professor of Drawing, but drawing is more than line and feeling; it's also about reason, structure, perception and imagination. To judge it needs expertise in both practice and theory. At the RA schools in the 1970s some of us learnt about Leonardo, Michelangelo and co from academicians such as Peter Greenham and Norman Blamey. German philosophy (Lessing, Kant, Hegel, Benjamin) with its dialectical and ecological thinking helps explain why the skills – like the colour optics of Turner or late Cézanne – matter. Without it, art can't wise up.

David Rodway

Woldingham, Surrey

You report that, while it awaits the independent panel on forestry's final report in April, "the Forestry Commission is pressing ahead" with sales of the Public Forest Estate ("The true scale of Britain's woodland sell-off", 18 December). In fact, all sales have ceased since April 2011. The sales referred to were already committed to before the current suspension, which was introduced by the Government last February.

Simon Hodgson

Chief executive, Forestry Commission England

David Randall claims that the far-sighted French introduced house numbering in Paris in 1463 ("What did France ever do for us?", 18 December). But 400 years later, in Le Figaro, Baudelaire decried the new-fangled numbering of houses as the death of the flâneur – the city streets' poetic stroller.

Chris Sladen

Woodstock, Oxfordshire

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