A legal product should be just that


by Rumbold
24th March, 2008 at 5:10 pm    

The government is planning to ban the display of cigarettes in cornershops and other privately-owned premises. Since tobacco is as yet not illegal, it is unclear on what basis this proposed law rests. Cornershops will still be allowed to sell packets of cigarettes, but presumably they will have to be sealed in a titanium vault in case somebody notices them. As the government also disapproves of alcohol, pornography and calorie-causing foods, the average cornershop is soon going to be looking pretty empty.

“Outlining the proposals, Public Health Minister Dawn Primarolo said it was “vital” to teach children that “smoking is bad”. “If that means stripping out vending machines or removing cigarettes from behind the counter, I’m willing to do that,” she said.”

Keen to support any measure which increases the power of the state, David Cameron gave it his backing.

“The Department of Health, which is keen to prevent youngsters from smoking, has cited research that suggests someone who starts smoking at the age of 15 is three times more likely to die of smoking-related cancer than someone who starts in their late 20s.”

So someone who starts smoking 10-15 years earlier than someone else is more likely to develop lung cancer? They had to do research to find that out.

Government has its uses. Some things should be illegal, while other things should have age restrictions. However, if a product is legal, everybody should be able to purchase and enjoy it without harassment, with the caveat that there will be some restrictions (such as no smoking in schools or hospitals). If people wish to smoke in privately-owned premises (e.g. a pub), they should be able to. It is up to the owner of the property to set the rules. If people wish to purchase cigarettes they should be able to do so, without being constantly bombarded by anti-smoking messages. Lung cancer is horrible, but at the end of the day if people want to increase the risk of lung cancer by smoking then that is their choice.

As a society we have two choices. We can either ban things we disagree with even if the banned thing does no harm to others, or not. The government thinks it knows what’s best for people in every area of their lives, and legislates accordingly. Why aren’t more people annoyed by this attitude?


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  1. Sunny — on 24th March, 2008 at 5:23 pm  

    However, if a product is legal, everybody should be able to purchase and enjoy it without harassment, with the caveat that there will be some restrictions (such as no smoking in schools or hospitals)

    They should be able to purchase it, as they still are. The point here is about being able to advertise and promote those products. I think its perfectly right that self-destructive products like alcohol and cigarettes are legal but not able to promote themself (I think there shold be further restrictions on alcohol ads).

    This isn’t really about choice because as as far as I can see – its still there. Isn’t it more about acknowledging the fact that advertising can have encourage people to do harmful things and then tackling that advertising.
    Otherwise, would you stop someone from going ahead with racist/misogynist advertising?

  2. mark — on 24th March, 2008 at 6:15 pm  

    It seems like its open season on smokers at the moment but there has been moves to restrict drink and fatty foods because “nanny knows best.”
    I was brought up with a simple family mantra and that is “moderation in all things.”
    Not fashionable perhaps and no need for public funded departments or cash from pharmaceutical companies but effective.

  3. shariq — on 24th March, 2008 at 6:21 pm  

    Rumbold, agreed with most of what you’ve said. It might sound trivial but I agree with the notion that if you really want kids to stop smoking/taking drugs, the best way would be to get gordon brown and david cameron to light up during prime ministers questions.

    Sunny, I think there’s a difference between preventing companies from televising on television and placing more restrictions and costs on small businesses.

    Having said that I did support the smoking ban, which a lot of smokers also seem to be in favour of.

    Generally, I think that liberals have to be more careful with the reform and regulation they wish to endorse. Otherwise the never-ending changes for seemingly harmless things like tobacco promotion in a cornershop will just hack more people off.

    The same thing also applies to health and education where I’m sure a bit of stability would be better than new reforms every single year.

  4. Boyo — on 24th March, 2008 at 6:49 pm  

    Few smokers wish to continue smoking, save the young, who believe themselves immortal, and the curmudgeonly, who form a minority. Most smokers wish they could quit, and most find it extremely hard to do: nicotine is as addictive as heroin, more available and more affordable.

    Personally I wish the goverment was brave enough to ban cigarettes, which have absolutely no redeeming qualities (smoking does not relax the smokers, but relieves the withdrawl pangs) unlike alcohol which, taken in moderation, provides pleasure and presents only a low risk of harm.

    Obviously if the state knew what it does now about cigarettes, it would never have legalised them. The fact that they are legal is a result of political expediency. It’s actually quite cowardly, if you consider that the primary duty of the state is to protect its citizens and this drug claims one thousand times more victims each year than a decade of terrorism.

    And yes, I have stopped smoking. I stopped about 11 years ago, but to this day I don’t say I’m an ex-smoker, because once a smoker, you stay chained to the weed for the rest of your life.

  5. Boyo — on 24th March, 2008 at 6:51 pm  

    So good for you Dawn, having the guts to brave the brickbats!

  6. Refresh — on 24th March, 2008 at 7:11 pm  

    They should all be sold in plain brown packaging.

  7. Bartholomew — on 24th March, 2008 at 8:10 pm  

    The freed-up display space could be used for condoms.

  8. Dave Cole — on 24th March, 2008 at 9:32 pm  

    Rumbold,

    The simplicity of your argument is appealing – either the possession and use of a thing is legal, or it is not. People have already pointed out various particular examples where ownership, use and advertising is restricted.

    “We can either ban things we disagree with even if the banned thing does no harm to others, or not. The government thinks it knows what’s best for people in every area of their lives, and legislates accordingly.”

    Doesn’t that argument apply to health and safety legislation as well?

    “Why aren’t more people annoyed by this attitude?”

    In some cases, because the government does know best. In other cases, because you have to have a common standard – weights and measures, for instance – that must be set up and adhered to; it doesn’t matter what they are so long as they do exist. Often, it is because no-one is prevented from doing what they want, but they have to make a positive choice to do something risky.

    There is a particular issue, however, with tobacco; it is addictive. Once you are addicted to it, it is very hard to put yourself in a position where you can make a meaningful choice. Giving up is really hard, so where (unless they’ve started putting crack in conditioner) I can try a new toiletry and then stop using it on the basis of a free choice without chemical inducements either way. Given that, the debate becomes about how one manages tobacco rather than the principle. You can argue about this policy’s effectiveness, but not whether the policy is legitimate.

    Mark,

    “I was brought up with a simple family mantra and that is “moderation in all things.”
    Not fashionable perhaps and no need for public funded departments or cash from pharmaceutical companies but effective.”

    You would do well to read Terence’s Andria, from where the quote ‘moderation in all things’ comes. The moderate person, Pamphilus, turns out to conceal a whole host of things immoderate under a cloak of moderation, all the while saying that because he does not excessively indulge in any one that there is no problem.

    Congratulations, though, on being brought up with that similar family mantra. I was not brought up with the mantra. Can you advise me on how I could have it beaten into me?

  9. bikhair — on 24th March, 2008 at 9:50 pm  

    Well guys. Isnt the NHS a form of state control? Ofcourse it is. Youve given your goverment an inch (NHS) so it will take a mile. If it wants to keep its cost down by discouraging unhealthy behavior, what do you expect it to do? Next they will raise the price of these vices.

  10. a very public sociologist — on 24th March, 2008 at 9:52 pm  

    It looks to me as if the government are trying to make smoking and, to a lesser extent, drinking as inconvenient as possible. Though pubs are reportedly closing at the rate of four a day (I have no clue how accurate that figure is) the government have been trumpeting how many people have given up smoking. In fact, if you look at Wendy Alexander’s “grand vision” for Scottish Labour, the smoking ban is held up as SL’s chief NHS advance in eight years of government.

    I’m convinced this crusade against smoking isn’t about puritanism. It’s about respiratory illness/cancer/heart disease prevention. Don’t be too surprised if NHS services in this regard are targeted for more cuts in tears to come.

  11. Kesara — on 24th March, 2008 at 10:36 pm  

    Ahhh I picked a good year to take up smoking!

    In fact I’m gonna light up right now and look cool. Heck I might drink some sweet crude oil just to add to the look.

  12. Dave Cole — on 24th March, 2008 at 11:48 pm  

    Bikhair,
    VPS,

    Smoking is a net earner for the government – more is raised in tax (or at least was pre-indoor smoking ban) than is spent treating smokers.

    xD.

  13. Letters From A Tory — on 25th March, 2008 at 10:14 am  

    It’s the fact that cigarettes are being targetted while so many other damaging substances are being left out (e.g. alcohol) that is annoying me. At least they could be consistent.

    http://lettersfromatory.wordpress.com

  14. ZinZin — on 25th March, 2008 at 1:05 pm  

    Rumbold, I should chide you for your hyperbole but this is nothing more than window or should that be kiosk dressing.

  15. Leon — on 25th March, 2008 at 2:13 pm  

    *yawn* more Tory faux outrage…

  16. Rumbold — on 25th March, 2008 at 2:20 pm  

    Sunny:

    “They should be able to purchase it, as they still are. The point here is about being able to advertise and promote those products. I think its perfectly right that self-destructive products like alcohol and cigarettes are legal but not able to promote themself (I think there shold be further restrictions on alcohol ads).”

    Do cornershops advertise cigarettes now? The only reason that they are kept behind the counter is because they are easy to steal and worth a bit of money.

    “Isn’t it more about acknowledging the fact that advertising can have encourage people to do harmful things and then tackling that advertising.
    Otherwise, would you stop someone from going ahead with racist/misogynist advertising?”

    I think that gives too much credit to the power of advertising. Racist/misogynist advertising is a bit different anyway, as smoking only harms the person smoking.

    Shariq:

    “Generally, I think that liberals have to be more careful with the reform and regulation they wish to endorse. Otherwise the never-ending changes for seemingly harmless things like tobacco promotion in a cornershop will just hack more people off.

    I think that you have hit the nail on the head there.

    Boyo:

    “It’s actually quite cowardly, if you consider that the primary duty of the state is to protect its citizens and this drug claims one thousand times more victims each year than a decade of terrorism.”

    So do fatty foods and cars. Why not ban them as well?

    Dave Cole:

    “Doesn’t that argument apply to health and safety legislation as well?”

    I would say that most health and safety legislation is a waste of time. It either replicates voluntary practices, or imposes uneccesary rules.

    “In some cases, because the government does know best. In other cases, because you have to have a common standard – weights and measures, for instance – that must be set up and adhered to; it doesn’t matter what they are so long as they do exist.”

    Why does there have to be legally-enforced weights and measures? Most people would follow the same system without the need for legislation, and if people want to sell their produce in groats and hobbits, let them.

    “There is a particular issue, however, with tobacco; it is addictive. Once you are addicted to it, it is very hard to put yourself in a position where you can make a meaningful choice.”

    So is food for some people. What does one do about that?

    ZinZin:

    “Rumbold, I should chide you for your hyperbole but this is nothing more than window or should that be kiosk dressing.”

    Heh.

  17. Rumbold — on 25th March, 2008 at 2:22 pm  

    Leon:

    “*yawn* more Tory faux outrage…”

    In fairness, I did say this:

    “Keen to support any measure which increases the power of the state, David Cameron gave it his backing.”

  18. Don — on 25th March, 2008 at 5:06 pm  

    Gosh, Rumbold, I envy you. Living in a world where twinkly, benevolent, Pickwickian employers volunatarily employ stringent health and safety standards without any need for government enforcement and where weights and measures legislation is redundant because giving short measure or adulterating goods is an unheard of notion.

    Strict weights and measures are among the oldest and most rigourously applied legislations in every part of the world – without them there can be no confidence in the market. Because one cannot trust an entrepeneur to put anything but his own profit first. Nature of the beast.

    You may as well ask why a truck driver cannot be trusted to decide how long he can go without sleep, or indeed how much alcohol he can drink before getting behind the wheel. I’m old enough to remember the cries of ‘nanny state’ when the breathalyser was introduced.

    As for baccy, it’s unique because it has no other function than to cause addiction, illness and death. And I speak as one who quit a 20-a-day habit five or so years ago but who still needs two or three rollies a day.

  19. MaidMarian — on 25th March, 2008 at 6:48 pm  

    I am glad that someone had brought this topic up. The smoking ban is just one of the biggest loads of cobblers I have ever come across in my life.

    If tobacco is really so bad, why muck around and just ban its import. At the moment all I can see is people outside pubs smoking, making smoking high profile and cool on the High Streets. It is all the free advertising the companies could want. I struggle to believe that there has been any real decrease in smoking.

    I should perhaps declare a vested interest in that I live next door to a pub, but the increase in noise and litter post ban has been marked.

    As others have pointed out, there is a real sense of victimisation of smokers. Smokers as victims? A level of revisionism on a par with Serbia but here we are.

    I have no problem per se with a nanny state – I just have a problem with half-arsed nannying that does bugger all. At the moment the whole spirit of the smking ban is dead in the water.

    Government has business in warning people about the peer reviewed research that shows dangers involved in taking up smoking, beyond that it is all window dressing short of an outright ban.

    Sorry.

  20. zohra — on 25th March, 2008 at 11:55 pm  

    I’m confused by this:

    “Keen to support any measure which increases the power of the state, David Cameron gave it his backing.” Is it meant to be ironic?

    I’m also confused about what the fuss is about.

    Like this point: “However, if a product is legal, everybody should be able to purchase and enjoy it without harassment, with the caveat that there will be some restrictions (such as no smoking in schools or hospitals).”

    Porn is legal, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to place it on the top shelf (out of children’s sight lines), or not have it be so readily visible to all that pass by (like myself). Just ’cause it’s legal doesn’t mean I should have to see it while I’m queuing for bananas. I don’t think placing it somewhere more discreet is harassment at all; in fact, I think making me subject to it while I’m queuing is harassing.

    Likewise, placing smokes under the counter isn’t harassment. A smoker would still be able to buy them just fine if they wanted to. Having them be less ubiquitous in a shop would just help them seem less ‘popular’ – just like putting porn in its place would make it seem less mainstream. What exactly is the problem with that?

  21. Rumbold — on 26th March, 2008 at 10:59 am  

    Don:

    “Gosh, Rumbold, I envy you. Living in a world where twinkly, benevolent, Pickwickian employers volunatarily employ stringent health and safety standards without any need for government enforcement and where weights and measures legislation is redundant because giving short measure or adulterating goods is an unheard of notion.”

    Not all health n’ sfaety legislation is bad. But 80% of it could easily be cut out, and people would be better off.

    “Strict weights and measures are among the oldest and most rigourously applied legislations in every part of the world – without them there can be no confidence in the market. Because one cannot trust an entrepeneur to put anything but his own profit first. Nature of the beast.”

    Companies would use standard weights and measures anyway, because people would go elsewhere if they did not understand what they were buying. A supermarket like Tescos would not try and defraud its customers, not for any moral reason, but because it would lose business.

    Zohra:

    ” Is it meant to be ironic?”

    Depressingly, no. Cameron seems to have embraced socialist thinking whole-heartedly.

    “Porn is legal, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to place it on the top shelf (out of children’s sight lines), or not have it be so readily visible to all that pass by (like myself). Just ’cause it’s legal doesn’t mean I should have to see it while I’m queuing for bananas. I don’t think placing it somewhere more discreet is harassment at all; in fact, I think making me subject to it while I’m queuing is harassing.”

    Exactly. How many people want to see that sort of thing not on the top self? So it is placed on the top self. I don’t understand the need for legislation to deal with everything that people do not like. You don’t let your neighbours regulate your daily life, so why let the government do it?

    “Likewise, placing smokes under the counter isn’t harassment. A smoker would still be able to buy them just fine if they wanted to. Having them be less ubiquitous in a shop would just help them seem less ‘popular’ – just like putting porn in its place would make it seem less mainstream. What exactly is the problem with that?”

    But why the need for legislation? Is this what we have government for? Is this why we pay large sums of money to them? Is this one of the great issues of the day?

  22. bananabrain — on 26th March, 2008 at 2:19 pm  

    “Outlining the proposals, Public Health Minister Dawn Primarolo said it was “vital” to teach children that “smoking is bad”.

    doesn’t she mean “smoking is bad, m’kay?” what a load of sweaty old arse.

    Smoking is a net earner for the government – more is raised in tax (or at least was pre-indoor smoking ban) than is spent treating smokers.

    as a lifelong non-smoker and someone who’s never had so much as a toke, albeit partial to the brown juice from north of the border, this is precisely why it should stay legal and, moreover, precisely why we should legalise everything else, in order to finance drug counselling, extra police and healthcare. chemicals are morally neutral and it is ridiculous that we are preventing, say, afghanistan and colombia from becoming major sources of legal GDP and thus participants in the legal global economy. quite apart from having someone to sue in the case of an overdose, we are depriving ourselves of income and corporation tax receipts. as in the case of prohibition, the only thing we are doing is producing a group of super-rich, non-taxpaying criminals. far better to make them go the route of the bootleggers and have them become (relatively speaking) useful members of society like, well, the kennedys…. oh, wait a minute, what am i saying…?

    b’shalom

    bananabrain

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