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« Thatcherism lives! | Main | Victoria Coren: attitude towards smoking has become hysterical »

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss

The Observer today reported that "The government is considering forcing tobacco companies to package their cigarettes in plain brown wrappers in a bid to de-glamorise smoking and stop young people taking up the habit". Other papers are now running the story online.

The health secretary, Andrew Lansley, is investigating the viability of introducing what would be one of the most radical public health measures ever implemented in the UK ...

His readiness to countenance such draconian action against cigarette manufacturers drew praise and delight from leading medical organisations. "We are very pleased that the health secretary supports the plain packaging of cigarettes. There is clear evidence that young people find packaging appealing," said a spokesman for the British Medical Association. "And we know that the tobacco industry spends huge amounts on this clever marketing to enhance their brands and increase sales."

In the words of The Who's 'Won't Get Fooled Again', "Meet the new boss/Same as the old boss".

PS. The BBC contacted me for Forest's response while I was watching my son play rugby near Leighton Buzzard. I was so cold standing in the middle of a field in Bedfordshire that I'm not sure I made much sense. Click HERE.

The Daily Mail has a very short quote from me HERE.

Update ... Email received this evening:

Just read an article on proposed plain packaging. Are ministers completely mad. This will encourage counterfeit products which will be sold cheaper, with no tax revenue, and cause a major health risk as there would be no control on quality. Tar nic values would be random. This policy would actually cause a bigger risk to public health. Someone should make this clear to the idiots in Westminster.

Dick Puddlecote is suitably outraged. And Liberal Vision isn't happy either.

See also Velvet Glove Iron Fist (sorry, Chris, just noticed that you quoted The Who too!) and Man Widdicombe.

Let's hope Conservative MPs get the message. We're not happy.

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Reader Comments (39)

As I posted on my Facebook page today:

"Andrew Lansley is proving to be a total disappointment as Minister for Health. Aping the worst nannying and bullying that we had 13 years with Labour, what an ar5e."

November 21, 2010 at 21:49 | Unregistered CommenterDave Atherton

*head in hands* I hoped for better but expected the NuCons to be the same as the NuLabs.

Looks like Nanny's here to stay

November 21, 2010 at 22:25 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

To be honest Pat I thought the Tories would be different. My analysis is that the press release was not issued my Lansley but put out, to put him under pressure, but that is unlikely. If it is true it maybe a sop to the health lobby, assuming there will be amendments to the tobacco display ban.

My research suggests that ASH run the All Parliamentary Group on Smoking and Health and hence run just about everything.

May I apologise to everyone as I though the Tory Party would be better.

November 21, 2010 at 22:41 | Unregistered CommenterDave Atherton

Is Peter Thurgood around? ;)

November 21, 2010 at 22:56 | Unregistered CommenterDick Puddlecote

Let's see.
Cannabis = plastic bags, tin foil.
Heroin = paper packets, plastic bags, tin foil.
Cocaine = plastic bags, paper packets, tinfoil.
Speed = paper bags, plastic bags, tin foil.

Puts them off does it not.

OK, let's see the WHO recomendation sent to our puppet government. Blindly followed of course.

November 21, 2010 at 23:03 | Unregistered CommenterCW

I wonder how many freedom-loving Conservatives, sick to their stomachs after 13 years of the most mendacious, corrupt, bullying, destructive, spiteful, incompetent and freedom-denying government in living memory, are now feeling even sicker at having merely exchanged the Old Jailer for the New (his 'heir', you might say) ?

Well, some of us DID point to the writing on the wall - but many chose (for reasons quite beyond my comprehension) not to see it, and instead rebuke those among us who have learned how to read. Sweet Jesu, when WILL the penny drop ?

“When we are born, we cry that we are come
To this great stage of fools ...”

November 21, 2010 at 23:15 | Unregistered CommenterMartin V

Dave A -

No need for YOU (of all people) to apologise, Mate. It takes a certain amount of courage (which most, in my experience, lack) to admit that you've been fooled.

But it DOES seem rather a shame that the best Tea Parties these days tend to be found in a nation of coffee-drinkers. Now, there's a thought...........................

November 21, 2010 at 23:22 | Unregistered CommenterMartin V

Ok so obviously the nanny side of things is annoying, but I'd much rather have plain brown paper than health porn (photos) and huge warnings ...

November 21, 2010 at 23:39 | Unregistered CommenterRose W

Imaginary conversation.

Health Sec Lansley: So what have we got today, Mr Secretary?

Secretary: Well.... the plain packaging of cigarettes has come up.

HSL: Damnation! Why? I thought that we had seen that stuff off?

Sec: Erm.... No....... Everybody in the dept wants it to go ahead. It was already agreed, more or less, with the previous administration. All the legal work has been done. The judges have said that it is not against the Human Rights Act, so there is no reason not to go ahead.

HSL: But this thing is not a matter for our department! We did the smoking ban because of the health of bar workers etc. How does packaging affect the health of people? It is not our problem.

Sec: Well....I think your right, but there is a lot of pressure. Some people are already threatening to resign.....professors and such.

HSL: Well, let them resign. So what?

Sec: Erm....There are some very odd skeletons around.............You, problems for which you are responsible.

HSL: Oh......

Sec: Look, Minister. It is easy. Just make a statement! 90% of Mums agree. That is an awful lot of voters. Say that there is a white paper to come - that lets you off the hook for the time being. Just appeal to Mums about ‘the children’. I have written a nice statement for you..............................

""Health Secretary Andrew Lansley, said it was time to try a new approach. "The evidence is clear that packaging helps to recruit smokers, so it makes sense to consider having less attractive packaging. It's wrong that children are being attracted to smoke by glitzy designs on packets.""


I do not believe that Lansley wrote that. It smacks of propaganda.

But, maybe he is under pressure and the statement gives him time.

November 22, 2010 at 1:20 | Unregistered CommenterJunican

I hope Simon you're taking part in the BBC breakfast debate about plain packaging. Did they contact you?

November 22, 2010 at 7:53 | Unregistered CommenterBill

When it comes to alcohol, Lansley says that prohibition and restrictions do not work, so why does he think that prohibiton and restrictions on tobacco will work?

November 22, 2010 at 8:55 | Unregistered Commenterchas

Dave - we'd never have achieved so much without your expert knowledge. Perhaps it's time to change your party. The Tories just conned everyone. I knew it was coming because they tried so very hard to avoid any mention of what they would do about the smoking issue before the election.

Lansley also made his hatred of smoking very clear when he was appointed shadow health persecutor.

I think the best thing to do is emigrate. If you're rich, you can use the money the Tories are stealing from the poor. If you're poor, frankly suicide is a better option than living in NuBritain. The Tories want to make them homeless, jobless, and benefitless.

I think our best bet is to campaign for another election ASAP. This lot have no moral authority to rule.

November 22, 2010 at 9:07 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

I have just had a thought. If packets are plain there is no need for a display ban then.

November 22, 2010 at 9:14 | Unregistered CommenterDave Atherton

My guess Rose is the the warnings will stay placed on top of the brown paper. After all, they campaigned long and hard for it saying it was necessary so they ain't going to give up their artwork just yet - after all the Cheelrdren might just see what's inside mummy or daddy's plain package - if they haven't been dragged away and put into care by the bigots or the Tories who are stealing from the poor to supply the rich.

They plan to take the poor's homes and income and so I'll bet their kids are next to be placed with Tory voting/ non-smoking rich couples.

NuBritain terrifies me.

November 22, 2010 at 9:24 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

It's a stupid idea but, as Rose W, I'm not too bothered at the moment. My contention is the ban. The Health Act 2006 was the Granddaddy of of all this crap by accepting SHS as a possible killer. Without this, it all falls over. Identify and maintain the aim.

I'm not going to knee jerk on this issue as I still feel it's too early to tell. I can't clearly see if these moves by the likes of ASH et al are a sign of confidence or desperation.

November 22, 2010 at 9:32 | Unregistered CommenterFrank

Rose W -

Could we perhaps compromise, then ? How about replacing the 'porn' with photographs of Nigella Lawson on one side, and a tasty recipe on the other (to encourage 'healthy eating') ?

I'll get onto Andrew's secretary straight away.........................

November 22, 2010 at 9:36 | Unregistered CommenterMartin V

Plain packaging...what plain packaging?

Does anybody remember years ago cigarette cases a little larger than a 20 cigarette packet being sold. How long would it be before some entrepreneur made cigarette cases that looked like famous brands? You simply put the plain packet in the case, or transfer the cigarettes to the case.

I can see Lansley chasing his tail on this one. What's to stop the retailer selling these cases?

Money spinning idea I would say…wouldn’t you?

November 22, 2010 at 11:16 | Unregistered CommenterBill

Bill is right. Cigarette box covers have always existed. Once somebody points this out to Lansley, he'll forget the idea.

November 22, 2010 at 12:28 | Unregistered Commenterjon

Except that you forget the war on smokers is not about health - it's about hate. Lansley hates smokers. He will continue to persecute us even if what he does makes no sense. This is not about children not smoking, it's about stopping adults from being able to buy tobacco products easily. Worse is yet to come. This is just the start. We've accepted too many of the antis restrictions in the past with the view that's it's nonsense and only the stupid will take their ideas on board.
Lansley has shown that Tory bigotry is backing the antis. This wil get worse. We are already on the road to criminalisation.
If you haven't learned by now, then wake up before it's too late. It almost is.

November 22, 2010 at 12:41 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

Cigarette cases with brand names can defeat Lansley

Nevertheless Pat - plain packaging is one battle we CAN win.

Don't knock it.

November 22, 2010 at 12:56 | Unregistered CommenterBill

How? If they can legally take private property from people such as pub landlords and restuarant and cafe owners, they can and will force private companies to package their product as the state tells them to.

Lansley is an anti and with this issue you are either on one side or the other - rarely in the middle. If Lansley's announced this, I can't see him suddenly changing his mind.

The Tories have obviously dismissed smokers as well as every other party except one. I don't knock the hard work everyone in this movement does but I fear you are not taking on board the threat of things to come. This is not good news, it's the next stage. Prepare for the next after this. They will either go for the car ban and home bans first or they they will move straight to making tobacco possesssion and use illegal. It is coming.

I warned 10 years ago about the public smoking ban and no one believed me because of the private property issue. A good few years before we got it I said lightheartedly that they'd be taking kids off smokers next --- errrr - -- any caring smoker foster parent knows that is already happening. What's next?

There is absolutely no room for complacency on this issue at all.

November 22, 2010 at 14:37 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

If this idea came from the usual suspects, i would not be surprised. But I had hope for the conservatives, and this has killed it. How can they justify this is supposed to protect children, when children cant buy them anyway.

Strangely today i also heard a report that Cameron is into behavioural economics, the stuff popularized by "Nudge" written by Richard Thaler. See:

I have a possible solution. If a cigarette company released a brand of cigarettes called "Plain" or something similar, that was just a plain box with the name on the packet then, they could register it as a trademark. Making any future government designs in violation of their trademark:) It would be important to have enough scope to cover various fonts and possibly placement of the name, and colour. Not to forget background colour variations. Oh and while you at it someone needs to tradmark/copyright writing "Smoking Kills" actually on the cigarette, I'm sure that will be the next thing.

November 22, 2010 at 18:13 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew P

"a report that Cameron is into behavioural economics.................."

Now, THAT's a concept I must research ! I take it that it means something like £20 Mars Bars ? And to think I used to accuse Cameron of dictatorialism - when all the poor chap wants to do is PUSH (er, nudge) us in the The Right Direction. Good. I've a sneaking suspicion that more and more people are beginning to find out where that is............................

November 22, 2010 at 18:42 | Unregistered CommenterMartin V

Yes Marin V - voting anything BUT Tory next time :)

November 22, 2010 at 19:21 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

What are Mickey and Mouse supposed to represent ? It sure is not freedom of choice is it ? The new socialism under a different colour i think.

November 23, 2010 at 8:31 | Unregistered CommenterPeter James

Why is everybody responding to this agenda? put them in 'plain' packaging if they want, who really cares? The root of it all is the 2006 health act, instituting the ban and thereby accepting that SHS exists as a danger.

This is the weak point in all of this. Masses of evidence exist to show that it was blatantly ignored at the time. Continue to insist on this issue and all else falls. Support the likes of Brian Binley and David Nuttall, feeding them as much info as possible as they're the ones in a position to tackle this montrous 'All Party Committee'

They are running from the fight, atm, and are being allowed to run from it. Forget the plain packaging crap. Concentrate on the main issue.

November 23, 2010 at 9:04 | Unregistered CommenterFrank

It is so pathetic that anyone, let alone those supposedly responsible for running the country (God help us all) could possibly imagine that kids would spend £6 or more on a pretty packet! If they want to smoke then they will smoke and usually they will buy what is cheapest. so bring on your plain packaging and see just how much difference it really does make!

My guess would be none or even more youngsters smoking as it will suddenly become even more attractive once packaged 'subversively'!

November 23, 2010 at 10:14 | Unregistered CommenterLyn

What constitutes 'plain', anyway? B&H have used a plain gold packet for years and the brand I smoke has a plain silver packet. The only piece of branding is the name. Are they intending to insist on uniformity of colour pack and brand name and its positioning (for which there's hardly room, anyway, between the 'health' warnings).

Although I think we shouldn't, in principle, let them away with anything, I'm with Frank on this: we should always be concentrating on the SHS scam because the more that it's exposed, the more that TC and all its subsequent pronouncements/evidence are discredited. The piece on last night's C4 news amounted to no more than a nostalgic look at tobacco advertising through the ages. No questioning whatsoever of the effectiveness of plain packaging or the implications of government interference in the marketing of products. Would we be here if TC had been exposed? People were incensed on the comments threads wrt pregnant smokers producing criminals, yet the SHS studies are just as disreputable.

November 23, 2010 at 11:36 | Unregistered CommenterJoyce

This is almost the stupidest thing I have ever heard (bar the 'smoking mothers makes kids into criminals' rubbish). It's bad enough buying cigs now when you have to point out where your brand is to the person behind the counter. How are you going to find your brand if they all look the same? More to the point how will you then know that you are getting what you actually paid for? Obviously this has nothing to do with improving our health. Unscrupulous sellers will be getting up to all sorts behind the scenes.

November 23, 2010 at 12:29 | Unregistered Commenterhaphash

It's not that the studies are disreputable, Joyce, but that, first, the Govt. and then the 'All Party Committee' could only have used the 13% of 'surveys' that show the slightest minimal increase in risk. These, they then flag as concrete and absolute proof of the status of SHS! This 13% themselves were weak and waffly showing a RR of @1.2! Even without going into the studies themselves, it was ridiculous. Were they shown the remaining 87% showing no or negative effect or were they binned by ASH as 'bad science' before they could see them? Was there a balance on these committees or were they selected as vehement anti smokers? We don't know and we damned well should. I've only to look at Barron as the chair of the 'All Party Committee' to have a damn good idea.

This is where the artillery should be aimed.

November 23, 2010 at 13:00 | Unregistered CommenterFrank

Frank and Joyce are right: the SHS Myth is THE monster we have to destroy (especially when it's SO vulnerable). As the premise which justifies ALL intervention in private behaviour, it's absolutely central to the Antis' campaign of legalised harassment, and they will fight to their last breath to defend it.

Know something ? I wouldn't mind betting that all the other assinine proposals that we've seen, and may yet see - whilst taken quite seriously by the Gullible Tendency - are in the main designed as nothing more than a plausible distraction, intended to draw our fire away from The Big One. As a Psy Ops tactic (and this is ALL Psychology) it has much merit, one has to admit. Sometimes, spouting nonsense makes PERFECT sense............................

November 23, 2010 at 14:05 | Unregistered CommenterMartin V

@Frank - I'm certainly no expert on the SHS studies but I'd call them disreputable if the data are dodgy (eg non-representative or too small a sample), accepted standards in methodology such as confidence intervals have been meddled with without justification or explanation and conclusions drawn inappropriately from findings. Be that as it may, the researchers are certainly guilty of dsreputable behaviour if, in presentation of findings, they have failed to include those studies which fail to support their case or presented weak findings as alarming. Like you, I think we have a right to know. Presumably, that kind of info isn't covered by FOI otherwise I'm sure that Dave A would have asked.

November 23, 2010 at 15:49 | Unregistered CommenterJoyce

@Martin V "£20 Mars Bars" this is the tip of the iceberg, from what i understand its social engernering on steroids. It will make you happy on the outside while your crying on the inside.

I agree that SHS is what we really need to be fighting on. But I still think we need to fight everything they try. And in addition for the most part we are still on the defense while ASH etc is on the attack. We need to flip this around. I don't know how, but David Nuttall's 10-minute-rule is an example.

It's much harder to get a law changed than it is to maintain the status quo. If this happened its another thing that needs to be put right. If done, there would probably be a "change in research methodology" at the same time, to make it appear that it has worked.

They screwed with the blend back in 2002-3. Max "tar" 12mg max nicotine 1mg. This ruined the taste of some stronger cigs. Then they screwed with the packaging, big stupid warnings, then again in 2008, sick graphics, and now they want plain packaging. In my opinion all this needs to be undone, and packets should be returned to 1989 standards - a simple warning on the side. Each little thing is a nudge towards prohibition.

November 23, 2010 at 17:17 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew P

I agree, Joyce, but I don't think we even have to go that far. The number that were obviously 'excluded' is vastly in excess of the 'positive'(Ha!) surveys. This is the point I'm trying to make.

I'm, also, sure they're not covered by FOI. This is what stinks to high heaven and needs a thorough examination. The pro ban arguments leak like a sieve and the ban could only have been obtained by application of the 'knowledge filter'.

November 23, 2010 at 17:24 | Unregistered CommenterFrank


Speak of the devil and I'll post. The All Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking and Health, I am in 'contact' with at the moment. Much more to come from me. In the meantime here is a list of 80 studies into SHS from Oxford educated staistician Peter Lee, with barely 15% reaching statistical significance, i.e. 85% say SHS does not cause lung cancer. It also omits the latest 2 papers the 2006 Neuberger paper which found those exposed to SHS had a 27% reduction in LC and statistically significantly too.

It also does not have the latest Canadian paper that found an RR of 1.0.

"Among never smokers in our population, we observed no association between either exposure to ETS at home or at the workplace and lung cancer risk."

"Adulthood RR 1.0 (0.6-1.7)

November 23, 2010 at 21:18 | Unregistered CommenterDave Atherton

Dave - Can this All Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking and Health have any influence on the smoking ban?

November 23, 2010 at 22:08 | Unregistered CommenterBill


Is the Pope a Catholic? I believe it is where we get all the junk science from and the Parliamentary stimulus for bans. This is part of their web page/


Mr Stephen Williams MP, House of Commons, London SW1A OAA. Tel: 020 7219 8416

Action on Smoking and Health provides administrative support to the group, including sharing of information with members of the group, the occasional provision of briefing material at meetings, and occasional funding of receptions.

November 23, 2010 at 22:17 | Unregistered CommenterDave Atherton

"When it comes to alcohol, Lansley says that prohibition and restrictions do not work, so why does he think that prohibiton and restrictions on tobacco will work?"

Oddly enough, I DO know the answers to this one:

a) Because he likes the occasional drink himself, and

b) Because he's a prat.

November 24, 2010 at 10:45 | Unregistered CommenterMartin V

Action on Smoking and Health provides administrative support to the group, including sharing of information with members of the group, the occasional provision of briefing material at meetings, and occasional funding of receptions."

And what, pray, would the antis say if forest was in this position? I wonder.

November 24, 2010 at 14:47 | Unregistered CommenterFrank

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