Health Secretary Andrew Lansley was interviewed by Andrew Marr on Sunday AM this morning. In comparison to this dull grey career politician, how refreshing it was to hear also from Ann Widdecombe, reviewing the newspapers.
Ann Widdecombe: You know, I could absolutely weep. We have a Conservative administration and all I'm reading in the papers today is about the intervention of the state. The state is going to set a minimum price for alcohol. The state is going to prescribe the colour of cigarettes. And now we've got the state actually saying to emplyers, in a time of recession, you must provide paid breaks, paid facilities, a spcial fridge for expressed milk and goodness knows what else, for women returning to work who decides, on their responsibility presumably, to have a child.
Compare that to the following dialogue between Lansley and Andrew Marr (and hats off to Marr for playing devil's advocate):
Andrew Marr: Is it true that you ant to remove the packaging from cigarette packets and make them all one one colour?
Andrew Lansley: One of the things we are going to oook at is whether there is a case for plain packaging of cigarettes because, remember, we\re taken steps in the past as a parliament as a government to try to reduce the level of smoking but it is very persistent. I mean, for example, we have a level of smoking that leads to around 80,000 deaths a year. We have to treat smoking as a major public health issue. We have to reduce the xtent to which young people start smoking, and one of the issues is the extent to which display of cigarettes and brands does draw young people into smoking in the first place.
AM: So how will this work in practice? Would you therefore not have any Benson & Hedges or Marlboro or Camel, or whatever it is, adverts at all at the point of sale? Would you have packets that all looked the same?
AL: This is an issue we're going to consult on. Essentially, yes, they would be packets that all looked the same. They would have the name of the brand on it but no other brand identification.
AM: Why is this your job? Why is it the job of government to decide whether people should or should not smoke?
AL: Because 80,000 lives a year are lost.
AM: But people know the risks, they can make judgements for themselves.
AL: Well, why did we ban smoking in public places, because actually we don't want people to have harm ...
AM: That's a secondary smoking issue ...
AL: Yes, secondary smoking is important too but also what we have to make sure is that young people don't start smoking and we have to treat tobacco as the serious public health issue it is and try to make sure, and this is a kind of behavioural philosophy, if young people are in a situation where brands and tobacco is being pushed to them in their local supermarkets and stores they are more likely to start smoking.
AM: But if one packet is gold and another red I don't see that is going to make people more likely to smoke.
AL: Well, actually, I think the evidence, we'll see see how the evidence emerges. Australia, for example, are [sic] going dow the path of plain packaging. We'll see what the evidence looks like.
PS. Headline courtesy of Ann Widdecombe on Strictly Come Dancing last night.