The time has come to talk of Puppies and Politicians: ASH whistle and they come, wide eyed and tails wagging, their only desire to please their masters. They are the politicians, those whom we elect to represent our interests: not the interests of business, not the interests of 20 or so bigoted "fake"-charity workers in London, but our interests, John and Jane Public.
Two events occurred recently that have wide ranging effects on the smoking community. Actually no, it's not just smokers: it also includes parents and drivers, a very large part of the adult population of the UK.
First on the agenda is plain packaging. Plain packaging has been in and out of the news for a long time, but to date only Australia has implemented this policy. There are many opponents of plain packaging, and very few who will benefit from plain packaging. From the outset this legislation has been contested. Simon Clark of FOREST has consistently opposed these measures on television, radio and in the press, Angela Harbutt at Hands Off Our Packs opposed the measures at the public consultations, and our own F2C Chairman Dave Atherton has spoken both with politicians and the media at length on the issue. Further opposition came from the retailers' association and packaging manufacturers. Even the Police are opposed to it. The grounds are many and varied: one politician has been removed from her position for abusing her position during the consultation yet, despite all the public opposition in the polls (excepting Yougov whose owner sits on the board of ASH - a clear conflict of interest), the bill not only passes but is deliberately brought forward for political expediency ahead of the General Election!
What effects will this legislation have? Australia, which has already implemented plain packaging, is currently being sued by several countries for the damage done to their economies, for trademark infringements to trademarks protected by the UN and other international treaties. The same is likely to happen to the UK and it may take years to settle, it may cost us the taxpayers £millions or even £trillions to defend, and £millions more if HM government is found guilty. They had better pray that Australia does not lose its case as legal precedent will have been set under international law.
It will only serve to increase black market traffic in tobacco as it has in Australia,and increasing taxation to pay for HMRC to intercept such traffic. Worse still it creates national security issues: the government is well aware that some of the illicit profits go directly to terrorist organisations (some years ago they even produced television advertisements warning the public) like Al Quaeda. This bill is a gift for them since plain packaging is easier and cheaper to reproduce than current packaging. Giving aid and comfort to enemies of the state is a crime, it is treason, and by "taking advice" from ASH they are putting our country at greater risk of terrorist acts.
Plain packaging will not reduce the numbers of smokers. If Australia is any guide, the numbers have actually increased, including the numbers of young people taking up smoking before they are old enough to weigh the possible implications of their decision. F2C said that Sir Cyril Chantler's “fact finding” tour from Down Under seems to have been a waste of taxpayer’s money. While far too early to draw any firm conclusions, certainly there seems to be no evidence of any reduction in smoking or sales.
Black market cigarettes are increasing in sales. A report by KPMG, paid for by cigarette manufacturer Philip Morris International (PMI) found a rise in contraband from 11.8% to 13.3%. PMI also have reported a rise in sales of 0.3% during 2013.
The other issue is smoking in private vehicles with children aboard. This is another slide down the slippery slope: the same slippery slope that ASH so emphatically denies exists. Freedom 2 choose has said that:
"Holden Pearmain on behalf of the Tobacco Manufacturers’ Association surveyed 1,000 smokers and drivers. They found that 76% did not smoke in the car with children and 11% would ask(2)."
Legislating against something that is no more than a lack of consideration is taking a very large hammer to crack a very small nut. Many parents will act inconsiderately on occasion but that is no excuse for the state to take over parental responsibilities. The state should only get involved if there is real demonstrable harm being done."
"Amendment 57BB introduces two worrying precedents:
The Government will be invading people’s personal domains for the first time. This could be the anti-smoking lobby’s first step towards banning smoking in private homes. Other pressure groups will use this in future as a precedent to enforce their lifestyle beliefs on the population backed by the force of Government.
The police would have to enforce a health directive for the first time. Surely the police have far more important things to do. In any case, even with police commitment, the law will be impossible to enforce. The enforcement angle will be used as a foot in the door to banning smoking in cars where no children are present which would be an entirely different matter and not one to be undertaken lightly.
Amendment 57B is an enabling clause:
It gives the present and any future health secretary carte blanche to introduce further laws on tobacco (which could be seen as a precedent for other policy areas) without recourse to Parliament. Democracy, anyone? Surely this in itself should be sufficient to reject it. "
We also said that Philip Davies summed up events pithily by saying:
“We are supposedly here to try to defend the freedoms of people in this country. This Government want to trample over every single one of those freedoms.”
Note that this is an enabling act so it is not law yet - but can and will be made law whenever a current or future health minister wishes.
So we have a system where one person can write legislation for 60,000,000 people without opposition, without debate among our elected members of parliament, accountable to no-one and worse, without the consent of the electorate who pay their wages: truly a dictators' charter. I remind each and every politician that they have no power to govern without the consent of the people and definitely not by the consent of the 20 or so people who work for ASH alone!
Every day sees further encroachments on the rights of ordinary parents to raise their children, and new definitions of who are considered to be fit parents. A glance at the work of social workers tells all: they maintain if you are obese, if you drink; even moderately, if you smoke you are not fit to be a parent, if that were not the case the obese, those who drink moderately and those who smoke would not be barred from adopting or fostering children. Worse still, while they are denormalising the obese, moderate drinkers and smokers, children are still suffering real abuse both by a small number of parents and state run children's homes where, if the press are to be believed, paedophiles are rife and all manner of abuses both physical and mental take place. The latest case to come to our attention is that of seven year old Blake Fowler who died after no less than 18 opportunities to help him were missed.
Then there are the drivers, some of whom are also parents and smokers or obese. They pay dearly for their right to own their car: they pay road fund tax that should maintain the roads they use yet grind to a halt due to poor maintenance or if a few snowflakes land on our roads. Like smokers, they pay excessive tax on petrol, treated like a cash cow, fined for slightest infraction when good advice is a better option. There are persistent offenders, of course, and they are the ones who should be fined for breaking the law, but they are a small percentage of the driving population.
As of October 1st smoking drivers will become a more lucrative cash cow, penalised by taxation for buying tobacco, penalised for smoking tobacco in their private vehicles, the same vehicles they are penalised for owning by excessive petrol taxation. It has been claimed that smoking in cars produces 11 times the amount of toxins produced in a bar before the health act 2007 prohibited smoking. All vehicles have some form of air conditioning, yet no one cares that it admits thousands of times greater pollution into their car than smoking a cigarette, and diesel fumes are claimed to be a greater source of cancer than smoking ever will be, but it is the smoking drivers who are penalised, not the oil companies.
This legislation is bad on so many levels, formulated at the behest of no more than 20 people when thousands said no, legislation that victimises the majority of the voting population, parents, drivers and smokers alike. It helps promote the senseless bullying of at least a fifth of the voting public and is worthy only of a dictatorship
These politicians have the audacity to introduce this legislation scant months before the General Election. Perhaps the time has come to reassert the fact that they govern by our consent alone by removing them from office at the ballot box
Perhaps now is the time to talk of Puppies and Politicians....