As a vaper who hasn’t smoked a tobacco cigarette for well over 4 years, the decision this afternoon in the House of Commons to introduce “plain packaging” for cigarettes in the UK from 2016 doesn’t really affect me directly. So why does it irritate me so?
Well, I’ll explain.
Today on Twitter, Action on Smoking & Health London (@ASH_LDN) have spammed us all day with propaganda about #plainpacks, explaining how they will prevent youngsters taking up the smoking habit, telling us that its what people want and all the usual (pretty much unsubstantiated) guff. Within hours of the “historic vote” as it was called by Cancer Research UK, again via Twitter, British American Tobacco announced their intention to challenge it – because basically it can’t really be legal!
And it probably isn’t going to make a jot of difference to tobacco sales anyway!
I first tried smoking when I was about 12 years old, and became a regular smoker at 14 (when I got a paper round and could afford to buy cigarettes for the first time). I was fully aware of the risks of smoking due to TV campaigns and warnings, and it didn’t deter me at all. In fact, the more that adults banged on about it, the more determined I was to smoke and demonstrate my ability to make my own choices.
Maybe if smoking hadn’t been so heavily stigmatised, it wouldn’t have been so attractive to me and I wouldn’t have bothered, I’m not sure. What I can say is that putting them behind a door behind the shop counter or having these ridiculous plain packs wouldn’t have made a jot of difference.
And this leads to my entire problem with this. Whilst the “powers that be” invest huge time and resources in this white elephant, the whole concept of tobacco harm reduction is being largely sidelined or even ignored.
The most effective device to encourage people to cease smoking tobacco cigarettes is NOT plain packs, or licensed Nicotine Replacement Therapies, it is the electronic cigarette. Already we are seeing evidence of reduced tobacco sales credited to the e-cig, and despite lack of backing from the institutions and we have reached a stage where e-cigs are becoming a tangible threat to tobacco sales.
It’s way past time that public health bodies and state sponsored charities started directing their resources to questioning the forthcoming, draconian regulation of electronic cigarettes rather than wasting time and effort on flagship projects that effectively seek an “acceptable” way to keep cigarettes on the market.
These bodies need to get their priorities straightened out and rethink their obsessive, tobacco company hating policies, which are pursued at the expense of the public they are supposed to be helping.