Wednesday, May 21, 2008

A Quick Question

Do you think that the government could announce an anti-smoking initiative so utterly cretinous that anyone would object?

If, say, a politician suggested that shopkeepers be legally required to deny the existence of tobacco three times before they can sell a pack of cigarettes, would the resultant bill face any opposition in Parliament? I wouldn't be surprised if any politician voting against it found themselves on the front of The Sun under the words Cancer MP Wants To Kill YOUR Children.

Any politician struggling for policy ideas is on a surefire winner with a crackdown on smokers. When the previous government all but promised the country that the ban on smoking in public places would cure death, the newspapers ate it up. Hell, every smoker I know believed it and repeated it with a straight face.

Thus it is with the Scottish Government, who have ensured their popularity throughout their first year by passing practically no legislation at all... But now the pundits have started to ask where the policies are, and as surely as the bus you've spent twenty minutes waiting for follows the click of the lighter, they've coughed up some shiny new anti-smoking proposals.

And boy, are we plumbing new depths of ineffectual wankery with this lot...

Shops will not be allowed to display cigarettes

Great news. Now, rather than pointing out the pack you're after to the clueless teenager behind the counter, you'll have to spend five minutes saying No, it's a white pack... Yes, like that but with gold bits...

Outlaw sales of cigarettes in packs of 10

I'm currently on 10-packs because the government has made cigarettes so extortionately expensive that I'm skint. Thanks, shitheads - you've made them so expensive that you now have to...

Crackdown on smuggled and counterfeit cigarettes

...Because who would've thought huge hikes in the price of an addictive substance would barely effect demand, and would in fact create a massive black market? Why, you'd have to be a genius to work that one out. And finally, it's time to...

Move to plain packaging for cigarettes

What? Really, is there an MSP who's actually going to vote for this? What is any of this going to achieve, exactly?

Look, this isn't really that hard. If I recall correctly, the figures for smoking show a steady decrease year on year, with a noticeable dip around the time they banned smoking in pubs. That's going to be the trend until smoking is the sole preserve of cranks and eccentrics, and it'll happen with or without this kind of political willy-waving.

Me, I'd really appreciate a bit of honesty here. Cut the pointless, grandstanding bullshit - if politicians are serious about stopping us smoking, then just go ahead and ban tobacco entirely and sacrifice the five-quid-a-day tax from every one of us. Anything else is just scribbling in the margins.

(Incidentally, it occurs to me that many commenters will feel compelled to remind me that cigarettes are bad for you, and that I should give up. Many people feel this is a reasonable argument - let me be the first to say, it's not. It's a tosser's argument.)

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