Guest post: Smoking and the nanny state

Shop122 Over the past six months the coalition government has often spoken about putting "freedom" at the heart of decision-making.  A ‘nanny state’ approach to influencing consumer choices on issues like smoking is not, however, a way of achieving this. 

As a result of the point of sale display restrictions imposed under the Health Act 2009, the right of an adult to walk into a shop such as mine and choose the type of tobacco they wish to purchase is now under threat.

Here are some reasons why this piece of legislation (introduced by the previous government) should not be included in the coalition's upcoming White Paper on health:

  • It would bring about a growth in the illicit cigarette market. If people cannot see these products when they come in shops, they will seek cheaper alternative routes to buy cigarettes.
  • There will be a migration from small shops to larger supermarkets that are able stock more products.
  • It is widely accepted that approximately 33% of other sales in retailer shops are a result of sales of tobacco.  Small shops stand to massively lose out if people do not go to them to buy cigarettes.
  • Many shops will go the wall simply because the excessive cost of changing the shop gantries.
  • And, most importantly, what about one’s own freedom to choose? After all, tobacco is a perfectly legal product!

Mahendra Jadeja is a successful independent retailer and a former president of the National Federation of Retailers and Newsagents (NFRN).

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Posted by on Nov 12, 2010 in Home | 9 Comments


  1. Ken Patel
    12th November 2010

    Mahendra is spot-on. Seeing tobacco in shops doesn’t cause people to start smoking, so how will banning its display prevent take-up? There are better ways to reduce youth smoking and the government needs to explore these more thoroughly.

  2. Dave Atherton
    12th November 2010

    Mahendra makes some important points which deserve a broader audience.
    Firstly on smuggling in the UK because of taxation, about £5 is tax as against £1.50 cost and marketing of a packet, 24% of cigarettes and 63% of hand rolling tobacco is legally imported on ‘booze cruises’ or illegally from white van man. The experience in Ireland is that the display ban gave a further shove to buy illegally.
    “ILLEGAL cigarette dealers are now selling their smuggled goods door-to-door in housing estates.
    In some areas the sellers are delivering flyers in housing estates with “price lists” for the illegally branded cigarettes and a mobile telephone number to contact to make a purchase, according to a lobby group set up to fight the black market for tobacco.”
    On shop closures in some provinces in Canada where there was a tobacco display ban, 15% of stores closed in the first year alone. The URL is Dr. Patrick Basham’s paper published by the Institute Of Economic Affairs entitled “Canada’s ruinous tobacco display ban: economic and public health lessons”.
    Also Parliament was grievously misled by Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) and the Department Of Health (DoH) on the costs. They quoted the figure of £120-200 even when after being corrected by the manufacturers the real costs of £2,000-£2,800.
    “Crucial information was denied MPs at the time of the vote. The draft regulations were not available in the House of Commons library and were not sent by e-mail prior to the debate, contrary to claims made by the minister during the debate.”

  3. db
    12th November 2010

    It’s all part of the grand scheme to get rid of ‘inconvenience’ stores. They’ll be targeting booze displays next.

  4. Charles
    12th November 2010

    Andrew Lansley the Health Minister says that prohibition and restrictions do not work when talking about the pub trade, but he appears to beblieve that it would work with smoking.
    Prohibiton and restrictions have never worked and never will.

  5. Dave Atherton
    12th November 2010

    This is an article from October 2009 after 5 years of the smoking ban and 6 months after the tobacco display ban.
    “Smoking rate soars up to one third despite ban.”
    “A survey of 4,082 people this summer revealed that 33pc of the Irish population had taken up or continued to smoke.
    It is the highest smoking rate recorded here in the past 11 years, according to the EU’s ‘HELP — For A Life Without Tobacco’ campaign.
    Despite hikes in tobacco tax, the smoking ban and a new law against the public display of cigarettes for sale, the number of smokers has steadily risen since 2007 when 29pc of the population smoked.
    The survey, which was conducted between March and September, revealed the largest group of smokers — 45pc — is aged between 16 and 30.”

  6. Dave Atherton
    12th November 2010

    PS I am referring to Ireland in the above link.

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