Wednesday, 10 June 2009


Here's a tricky subject - smoking.

The anti-smoking brigade have continued apace in the years of NewLab. With their own work being paid for by the government - in effect being paid to lobby the government with its own money - they have gained the upper hand with bans in the workplace (not too bothered about that one tbh) to the pub smoking ban (I'll get back to that) and have no intention of stopping there.

Currently the Health Bill is being read in the House of Commons (2nd reading) after it passed the House of Lords. In this bill there is a section that bans display advertising in newsagents. I worked with the National Federation of Retailers and Newsagents about this subject and I have no doubt that this will be the death knell on the traditional corner shop, no doubt in favour of supermarkets. The fact this was sneaked in under a Health bill was dubious enough but why shouldn't retailers be able to sell a legal product openly? Why place more power in supermarkets' hands? Even Lord Mandy understands this and according to sources was urging his health colleagues to drop this clause right up to the 2nd reading in the House of Lords as he understands the cost to communities of losing this vital lifeline.

The anti brigade crowed when the smoking ban came in for pubs. Now, I quite like a smoke-free atmosphere - going to Madrid 8 months after the ban gave me a sore throat and a half with the smokey bars - but pubs are reporting trade down substantially and reportedly one pub shuts a week. Anecdotally there's yet to be hoards of non-smokers piling in for food as promised. Why didn't the government offer a choice? Say 25% of the population smoke, offer 25% of pubs in a licensing area smoking licences dependant on proper ventilation. Unfortunately, it seems yet another fine British tradition is going to fall unless something changes.

It is the bare faced cheek of anti-smokers that manages to put these messages out and continues to put them out. They tell us "Businesses won't suffer"? Tell that to working men's clubs or to pubs. Oh and the Germans think their ban is unconstitutional as well. They said at the time of the work-place ban: "We only want enclosed areas where people's health is an issue to be smoke-free." Really? Not in Birmingham.

Also there is the latest "fact" that smoking costs the NHS £5bn a year. Really? I'll leave it to better bloggers such as Leg Iron and Mark Wadsworth to fisk this bit of news but I will leave this topic with some stats from the the NHS; ONS and HRMC's own figures and ask a question -

At what point does taking away the freedoms of one person become aceptable and at what point does the taking away of the freedoms of an individual become the subjugation of an entire populus?

Interesting stats:

  • Treating illnesses and disease associated with smoking costs the NHS between £1.4bn and £1.5bn a year
  • Make your money through patches - Cost of Stop Smoking Services: £61m
  • £3bn is lost in revenue through tobacco smuggling
  • Since 1996 (just) duty on cigarettes has risen 70% around 93p a packet
  • Taking inflation into account and the rise in household income the cost of tobacco products has gone up by 143% making it 17% less affordable
  • Household expenditure on tobacco has more than trebled to £16.6bn despite volumes dropping since 1980

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