Health Minister Andrew Lansley says he hopes the time will come when tobacco companies have no business in the UK. This is an extraordinary statement from a government minister. I understand his health concerns, but to put it in context, can you imagine if he had said that alcoholic beverage companies should have no business in the UK, because of health issues, or that automotive companies should have no business because of traffic accidents and pollution?
We’re talking about a major industry employing some 5000 people directly in the UK. It’s estimated that altogether a total of 80,000 jobs depend on the industry (it would be more but for the punitive taxation that promotes a thriving black market). On of the major tobacco companies, Imperial, is on my patch at Nottingham.
I remember a meeting with trade union representatives at Imperial while we were debating the EU’s Tobacco Directive in Strasbourg. The directive sought to ban higher-strength cigarettes. Not just sales and consumption in the EU, but production for export as well. Clearly the production of those cigarettes would simply move to Bangladesh and Bangkok and Buenos Aires — yet another EU decision exporting jobs and investment and industry out of the EU altogether.
I remember po-faced Labour MEPs at the meeting insisting that if we believed these cigarettes to be dangerous we had a moral duty to ban exports of them. (Bizarrely, I found myself being cheered by trade unionists while Labour MEPs were booed!) More empty moral gestures. There’s a parallel here with our climate policies today. We seek to give moral leadership, oblivious of the fact that no one is following, so we’re damaging European economies while achieving nothing for the environment. And we’re driving jobs and investment out of the EU altogether. Plus ça change, as they say.
This story underlines the deeply illiberal nature of this Coalition government. It is simply not the business of government to seek to close businesses down, nor to stop people doing dangerous things if they choose to do so. Some 25% of my constituents choose to smoke, despite knowing the risks. I wish they wouldn’t. I hate smoking, and I wish no one did it. But I recognise their right to do so, and I don’t recognise any right of government to stop them. Advise, inform, yes. Even hector and preach, if you must. But the persecution of smokers has gone too far for a free country.
We have the display ban in shops. Now we have the debate on plain packaging, and we know where that will lead. I object on practical grounds — plain packs will be a field day for counterfeiters. But I object far more strongly on grounds of liberty. In the US, branding on packaging would be protected by the First Amendment. The proposed measure is simply a denial of free speech.
Maybe Lansley should spend a little less time on health fascism, and a little more time thinking about how to sell his health-care reforms to a sceptical public.
Religion, sexual orientation, race etc are all protected by laws that prevent persecution. Why are smokers allowed to be persecuted by government? Why am I allowed to be hectored by my doctor, dentist, pharmacist and any jobsworth in local government because I smoke? I mean, last week I was having a coffee and a smoke outside a coffeeshop and this guy squeeled to a halt on his bike and spent 15 minutes harrassing me because I smoke. I’m a writer, I have to smoke too much and drink too much wine, it’s part of the job! Can you imagine Hunter S Thompson or Hemmingway going to the gym?
Personally, I think Lansley should have been sacked on the spot. It was an outrageous statement that would effectively condemn 80,000 people to the already growing UK employment figures.
Hiding tobacco products behind screens is already causing problems with service in the supermarketS and the idiots want to introduce plain packaging. Sack Lansley NOW!
I only have to hear that man’s name and steam comes from my ears , my daughter is a specialist nurse in Peadiatric ITU, day before yesterday she started her day at 8 am, [she is also a blue lamp nurse] in other words a baby in any part of this country my need to be brought into a specialist unit in the centre of London she did a 17and half hours day saving that babies life , she is not on her own their are many like her, and what is their reward from this government to work untill they are 68 at a reduced pension but to pay in more!!!, and this stupid stupid dolt worries about making the country a smoke free zone putting more people on the dole and agreeing with this government ,to allow this to happen, she is 45 yrs old can you imagine another 23 yrs apart from the nursing the learning involved of new drugs technical machines etc etc . This prompted me to write to him and my MP and ask why as public servants they were not being included in all the cuts, he did not answer and my MP said they were being reviewed by a committee. so why are they different sorry Roger this has gone further that the fact that the swivel eyed fruitloop wants to ban people smoking, I as I said am so angry I should add my MP no longer answers my mail either. Infantile or what?, or as my father would have said sewr rats who think they are directors.
Lansley must have caught the Lib-Dem disease from Cameron and Osborne. None of these people behave or sound like Conservatives any more, they sound and behave more like Lib-Dems as each day passes.
This so-called Government staggers from one debacle to another, each time alienating more of its core of Conservative supporters. How many of these will turn out to leaflet and door knock in order to get people like Cameron, Osborne, and Lansley re-elected when the time comes, I wonder.
Cameron must be finding that being UKIP’s chief recruiting sergeant is taking up too much time and so needs Lansley to be his deputy.
I can’t believe that Lansley had the gall to say this right now, when the Tories are desperately trying to re-affirm their pro-business credentials. At a time when the EU is busy tying their hands with anti-business regulations and preventing them from implementing any pro-business ones, the last thing they need it one of their own slapping down open challenges to a major field of industry (which it is, whether one approves of it or not) to leave the country!!
This comment is a sign of a man who has lost sight of the aims of his Party because of his fanatical zeal to a single issue, and as such it is worrying that a person who has allowed his vision to become so narrowed by a single cause, just because it happens to be close to his own heart, is permitted to stay in such a powerful and important position.
It’s far from certain whether Cameron has any real political feeling for the way he and his colleagues are currently viewed by the voting public, and nor is it certain whether or not he cares, but if he does – on either count – he’ll make sure that he has a “private word” with Lansley about this and, if Lansley can’t control himself and be more reasonable and moderate in the future, then Cameron should consider appointing an alternative to the post.
Her’s a good piece from the Mail by David Hockney http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2129954/David-Hockneys-smoking-hot-memo-Andrew-Lansley-Keep-mean-dreary-views-life.html
Here’s a blog piece on this (mine) http://f2cscotland.blogspot.co.uk/2012/04/plain-packaging-moves-across-world.html. The bit that’s relevant to Lansley is his undertaking to produce an independent academic study reviewing the evidence around plain packaging. The study was written by a team of ten people including academics from universities affiliated to the Uk Centre for Tobacco Control Studies (Stirling and Nottingham) and Cancer Research Centre for Tobacco Control Studies. You can decide the meaning of ‘independent’ for yourself. Links all in the post.