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« Nudge, nudge, wink, wink | Main | Tobacco: a litmus test for the media in a free society »

The good (Andrew Marr), the bad (Andrew Lansley) and the Widdy

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.

Reader Comments (32)

You know, if they really, really wanted to know whether or not branded packets increased tobacco consumption (or encouraged people to start), they'd make all of the brands except one package their cigarettes in plain packs, and then see if sales of the unchanged one went through the roof. Ideally, they'd allow the unchanged brand to be one which was normally not very popular to see if its sales rose to meet those of the popular brands. Bet they won't do it though - I wonder why not?

November 28, 2010 at 14:34 | Unregistered CommenterMisty

Ann Widdecombe was perhaps the best leader the Conservatives never had. She has always had an incisive intellect, and has always been capable of rugged, sensible discussion at any level. She would have never countenanced this claptrap over plain packaging.

As ever she has her finger on the pulse. I would have loved to have seen her as health Secretary rather than the spineless Lansley.

Andrew Marr made Lansley look weak and ineffectual which I found quite surprising from Marr. He rightly made the point to Lansley that the smoking ban in public places was about secondary smoke, which led me to believe that Marr knew more about the smoking issue than some people would have given him credit for.

Andrew Lansley was on shaky ground when asked about the display ban…he told Marr that Australia were thinking of going down that road…and that he wanted to see what would happen there.

Why? Display bans have already been trialled in both Ireland and Canada…and you all know what the result has been. Both these countries bans have been a total failure. Andrew Lansley would know this – but could never admit it of course.

November 28, 2010 at 15:03 | Unregistered CommenterBill

Glad I wasn't the only one to raise eyes heavenwards when I heard about those screens. How utterly depressing if this is now what passes for 'running the country'.

"We'll see what the evidence looks like" (Lansley) Isn't he aware of the existing evidence - or does he dislike that it suggests that plain packaging is ineffective?

November 28, 2010 at 15:26 | Unregistered CommenterJoyce

This coalition is simply 'Blue Labour'.

November 28, 2010 at 15:51 | Unregistered CommenterMark Butcher

Am just waiting for the introduction of CAT (calorie added tax) on anything more substantial than a wafer biscuit. Vote blue get red!

November 28, 2010 at 17:14 | Unregistered CommenterBeggars Belief

As a member of the Conservative Party can I apologise to you guys out there for Lansley. I really thought that we would be different, obviously not.

Let me try and find out what is going on.

November 28, 2010 at 17:38 | Unregistered CommenterDave Atherton

Dave A - Bless you, but you're not responsible for Dave's choice of Cabinet!

I have to say, though, that I feel vindicated in not having voted for them - more's the pity.

November 28, 2010 at 18:55 | Unregistered CommenterJoyce

Why the hell didn't Cameron and his pals STAY in China, where you have options more dynamic than simply IGNORING dissidents (like kill them, for example)? Hell, I'd even stump up for the chopsticks. Any more of this sort of machine-clunking idiocy, and even never-vote-for-anyone-else Tories will be getting nostalgic for the Tony Era. My God, is THAT the plan, perhaps?

November 28, 2010 at 22:14 | Unregistered CommenterMartin V

Sorry, Dave A, but you must be a bit naive if you thought Lansley was going to be any different.

Everything he has said as Shadow HS has indicated that he is from the same mould as Labour's nannies. He is one of the main reasons why I left the Conservative Party after the vote on the public place smoking ban.

I look back with immense sadness in memory of the great political party that I had voted for in every election (national and local) since I became old enough to vote.

Not any more, not since 2006 ... I don't vote for Socialists!

November 28, 2010 at 23:18 | Unregistered CommenterBrian Bond

When I saw Lansley's name in Health right after the election I groaned. The Health lobby are one of the most powerful groups in this country - ASH virtually run the DoH. We need someone with a backbone in that role. When I see what Gove is doing over at Education, taking on the teaching Unions and fighting decades of lefty indoctrination I just wish we had someone of a similar calibre in charge of Health. First things first - expunge all ASHites from Government departments. Number 2: cut all State funding to ASH and their ilk. If people really want such "charities" working on their behalf they'll donate to them.

November 28, 2010 at 23:31 | Unregistered CommenterMr A

Lansley is sure to accept the infallibility of his experts.
I remember a disgraceful 'expert' assurance from Dr Ashcroft, Reader in Biomedical Ethics at Imperial College, London, whilst giving evidence to the Health Committee to support the smoking ban.
Q96 Dr Taylor: I am concerned about the little old ladies who live alone, who only get out once a week and they go to a bingo hall. They still smoke. They smoke in their own home, there is nobody else there and they are not causing any harm to them. The fact that smoking is banned in their bingo hall means they cannot go to bingo. How can we counter that?
Dr Ashcroft: I am not sure it does mean they cannot go to bingo; it means they can go to bingo and nip out every so often for a cigarette.
Q97 Dr Taylor: It does not mean that they cannot, but it means they would lose their sense of enjoyment, which is to have a fag while they are playing bingo.
Dr Ashcroft: The experience suggests that those who are really committed to the enjoyment of cigarette smoking, or tobacco smoking in any form, find other ways of sociability around their smoking. Smoking with their friends outside is no less a form of social interaction than smoking inside.
I doubt Dr Ashcroft has much experience of trying to avoid the pouring rain while huddling in a Manchester doorway but I could be wrong!
Unfortunately his assertion can never be disproved since there is unlikely to be a Bingo Hall to stand outside now(we can be assured that its demise was due to anything and everything other than the ban) and I fear the little old ladies who live alone are unreliable witnesses due to them suffering from severe depression.

November 29, 2010 at 0:17 | Unregistered CommenterChrisB

Lansley goes on TV/Radio and says that 80,000 people die per an as a result of smoking. As has been the case for years and years, no one ever asks how much longer any one of the 80,000 would have lived if he/she had not smoked.

Think about this, and ask yourself whether or not these MPs are capable of deciding whether or not we should have aircraft carriers - or, indeed, whether or not we should have any defence forces at all.

That is as may be,but the enjoyment of tobacco is a personal thing. I can enjoy it if I wish to. That, I think, is understood, even by the silly MPs. The critical thing is about children. And that is where silly MPs go wrong. Silly MPs claim for themselves the right to dictate how parents should decide the priorities of their children.

If the State (ie,specific MPs) decides to take control of the upbringing of children, it must do so in the full knowledge of the parents and the people. Also, those parents who do not want their children to comply with the State's decrees ought to be able to 'opt out' - AND this' opting out' should be the rule rather than the exceptiion! But we see that there is a 'strategy' in primary schools to promote 'health' (see the so called 'citizenship' classes). But is it not true that while schools are promoting ';health' , they are not promoting the three Rs? Or ia it that schools no longer teach the three Rs but rely upon parents to do so while they teach compliance?

There is something seriously, seriously wrong with our educational establishment. They do not want to teach children the three Rs; they want to teach them to be healthy.One may think that that is 'a goodi idea', but the probability is that children willl be forced to be opposeed to their parents,

Was this not precisely the the methodology of the Nazis?

November 29, 2010 at 6:32 | Unregistered CommenterJunican

Just as with the SHS issue, the plain packaging issue. Lansley et al are waiting for one sign of 'success' which they will then flag up as the holy Grail. The fact that Canada and Ireland have shown no success is irrelevant. Just one will do, however insignificant.

This monster, the DoH/ASH axis with it's lapdogs in the all Party Committee are, seemingly, a law to themselves.

November 29, 2010 at 9:15 | Unregistered CommenterFrank

Who do the government think they are kidding? Why, in heavens name, do they want us to live longer? After all, they don't have the funds to pay the pensions in the first place, so it would do them a favour and be cheaper if smokers, as they say but I doubt, cost the NHS a little more, it cannot be as much as a pension for an additional 5, 10 or more years!

It still amazes me too that the people who were young adults during the years of highest tobacco consumption are the ones generally living so much longer than any previous generation. Wonder how the government would respond to that? Of course, they won't they just choose to ignore that fact, the same as they ignore the fact that since smoking has decreased quite significantly numbers of people with cancer and dying from it have soared!

Where is the simple logic in any of their (the government's) thinking?

November 29, 2010 at 9:49 | Unregistered CommenterLyn

The Sun has a good comment.

ANN Widdecombe took time off from making fools of the Strictly Come Dancing judges yesterday - and stomped all over Health Secretary Andrew Lansley.

Mr Lansley is faced with a horrific report on 19 NHS hospital trusts with "alarmingly high" death rates, 30,500 patients with "avoidable blood clots" as well as other failings - like 150 "foreign objects" left in patients after operations.

Yet what is he concentrating on? Micro-managing our lives this week with plans to cover fag packets in plain paper, banning low cost supermarket booze and urging hard-pressed firms to provide facilities for mums to store their breast milk.

They are the sort of measures you would expect from big-government Old Labour.

As former Tory Minister Ann says: "I could absolutely weep."

Read more:

November 29, 2010 at 10:29 | Unregistered CommenterDave Atherton

Wonder what the chances might be of the mighty Ann coming out of retirement? She just might manage to make some of these pups see some sense, or is that really beyond the realms of possibility?

Unfortunately cannot see any signs of any of the current encumbents having the commons sense or the balls to stand up and read the riot act, not as Ann would, anyway.

I was speaking to an ex smoker on Friday and he felt that things had gone too far and there should be choice, however we did have choice now, so perhaps we should just be glad of that!

It was impossible to reason with him, so as trying was making me late for a delivery as he was supposed to be loading my lorry I had to give up! There are just too many like him around, sadly; either too deaf and blind and see the con that the powers that be have pulled on us or just too sad to care. One day something they cherish will become a victim of these styles of government who want to micro manage every aspect of our lives, then, maybe, the likes of him will wake up!

I remember, as a teenager, many years ago, in discussion with friends we used to say 'they will soon be taxing the air that we breath and anything else that us currently free', Little did I know then just how far it would go.

November 29, 2010 at 11:05 | Unregistered CommenterLyn

Note the repetitive use of 80,000 lives lost. He has been indoctrinated by the anti-tobacco zealots. Perhaps the member of the Conservative party writing in could ask this idiot how he comes to that number and how many of these 80,000 he will save through smoking bans and plain packaging. Lansley seems to have adopted the idea that 80,000 deaths will be completely avoided if he nannies the public which is of course complete and utter nonsense. Emotive and manipulative nonsense. I wish Andrew Marr had asked him the other obvious question pertaining to the number of lives saved.

November 29, 2010 at 13:05 | Unregistered CommenterDokely

Thing is if asked he'd fail completely to provide any evidence. To whoever said their capability on aircraft carriers- well the Nazis at least could sort that out unlike this Blue Labour bunch.

November 29, 2010 at 13:45 | Unregistered CommenterCarlos

And Ann Milton- she looks more like the Blue version of Patty Hewitt to me....

November 29, 2010 at 13:46 | Unregistered CommenterCarlos

He sort of admitted that the purpose of the ban was to stop active smoking, not to protect non-smokers.

November 29, 2010 at 14:22 | Unregistered Commenterjon

Exactly Jon.

November 29, 2010 at 15:49 | Unregistered CommenterCarlos

Someone called Prudhoe from the tobacco industry and a Prof Moodie were interviewed on R4 today. Prof Moodie's only evidence for plain packaging was a survey conducted among 10-17 year olds in which a minority (31%) said they were attracted by the pack. He wasn't asked nor did he clarify whether this really meant that there was a preference between packs rather than take up of smoking because a pack was seductive. It was left to the tobacco spokesman to stress that packaging was important but only in order to compete for market share.

November 29, 2010 at 16:07 | Unregistered CommenterJoyce

It is all very well for Anne Widdecombe coming on Marr's show and spouting off about state interference. Very different from the line she took on MP's expenses when she was an MP and voted to exempt MP's from the FOI laws. Actions not words. She is as bad as the rest of them, she even made it onto the Mail's "Roll Of Dishonour" for her behaviour. Just because she has taken to prancing about in a stupid costume (no doubt at our expense) it does not make her any better or wiser. She ought to get a proper job and stop her lifetime habit of leaching off the taxpayer.

November 29, 2010 at 17:52 | Unregistered CommenterJames Trent

Be that as it may, James, but for the moment my enemies enemy is my friend. We damn well need them to challenge the anti Mafia that exists in the DoH and All Party Committee.

November 29, 2010 at 17:59 | Unregistered CommenterFrank

In September, I wrote to Lansley to complain about the junk science in the 'Take 7 Steps Out advert. I received a reply from his representative which claimed in writing that 100,000 (not 80,000) lives are lost each year. If this rate of decline continues, there should be zero smoking related deaths by July 2011!

But, seriously, the difference between the two figures is not a small one. To me, it shows just how 'made up' all these figures are.

November 29, 2010 at 20:11 | Unregistered CommenterJunican

Is there any chance that someone could get through to Lansley that throwing sick patients outside into the elements slows and hinders the recovery of the said patients, and is certainly against doctors' orders.

In-patients who are sick, or recovering from an operation, are advised by their doctors to remain in a warm and stable environment. How on earth are smokers able to do that with the current ban in place?

As Lansley has so obviously confirmed, this has nothing to do with health; if it was, smokers would still be catered for in hospitals .....inside, in a warm and stable environment that their doctors insist upon for their recovery.

We all know people who have suffered in health as a result of the anti-smoking crusade. Unfortunately, many of us know those who have died as a result of this crusade.

I am livid with Lansley and the Tories for following the anti-smoking agenda. They obviously only care about the health of certain individuals (and lining their own pockets with the backing from BP) and not the population as a whole.

I may seem harsh, but Lansley will hold the same blood on his hands that his predecessors in the labour government held if he decides to bow to the anti-smoking fanatics.

On a lighter note - bring back Ann and the real Tories anyday. I would vote for you again. I can't, and couldn't vote for you whilst Blue-Labourman Dave was at the healm.

November 30, 2010 at 0:16 | Unregistered CommenterHelen

Junican - Did you write a letter to Andrew Lansley or did you e-mail his office?


November 30, 2010 at 18:29 | Unregistered CommenterBill

I'm curious--what if the old-fashioned cigarette case makes a comeback (talk about glamorizing smoking!) and what if tobacco companies got the bright idea of engraving their logos on them? Would government leap into action to stop it?

November 30, 2010 at 23:10 | Unregistered Commenterchris

Am I missing the point? Isn't there a whopping great Elephant in the living room? As far as I am aware Cannabis isn't advsertised or packaged but I know many people, youmg & old, that obtain and smoke a product that isn't even legal - so where's the precedent for plain packaging?

Why don't our lords and masters just come clean & make the statement: "We believe that the Tobbaco industry, and the smoking of tobbaco, to be corrupt and immoral, therefore, we will take any action, and make any statement, no matter how ludicrous or false, do whatever we have to, to smash the tobbaco industry!"

Politicians, whatever the colour of their tie, really believe we are all a bunch of mugs!

December 1, 2010 at 11:10 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Heather

"Politicians, whatever the colour of their tie, really believe we are all a bunch of mugs!"

In most cases, they have a point, Paul! And I suspect that many in the Media take exactly the same view. Hardly surprising in an era when even many a school 'teacher' is unable to construct a grammatical paragraph, or frame a well-reasoned counter-argument.

December 1, 2010 at 23:05 | Unregistered CommenterMartin V

May be there is another agenda here, Plain packaging will surely cost the Tobacco companies less, in printing costs, therefore more profit, which will make shares more profitable.
As we know that Government and local Government hold stacks of tobacco shares as part of their portfolios, they are going to gain financially.

December 3, 2010 at 12:05 | Unregistered CommenterTony

When will Andrew Lansey accept that bland packaging only makes life much more easier for the Black Market to copy. The only time any government will act is when less revenue goes to the Chancellor. Likes many of my colleagues around the UK seeking an amendment to the SB I am waiting for a reply from the DoH as to when the public funding of ASH will cease. Then and only then will we see a major step forward in reaching our objective.

December 21, 2010 at 11:20 | Unregistered CommenterSean Spillane

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