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« Election 2010: how should you vote? | Main | Another lie about smoking exposed »

Election 2010: read between the lines

The publication this morning of the Liberal Democrat manifesto is an opportunity to compare the parties' policies on tobacco control. Except that it's not because apart from UKIP, the various manifestos are remarkably free of specific policies.

Essentially the voter is being asked to give the next government carte blanche to do pretty much what it wants in the name of health, especially the health of our children (as if the state, rather than the parent, is directly responsible).

If we complain about bans on smoking in parks (and other public spaces) or cars (and other private spaces), they will no doubt point to some anodyne sentence in their manifesto and say: "Look, you voted for this." Indirectly.

As far as the smoking ban is concerned, only Labour makes the firm declaration that "The ban on smoking in public places will be maintained". Don't get too excited, though, because UKIP is the only party committed to amending the ban: "UKIP supports designated smoking rooms in pubs, clubs and public buildings". Fair play to UKIP (and indeed Labour), you can't be clearer than that.

Of the manifestos published to date, here's how the parties stand:

No mention of further tobacco controls, but that doesn't mean Labour won't introduce more regulations. In fact, you can depend on it. In the words of the manifesto:

We all have a responsibility to look after our own health, supported by our family and our employer. The ban on smoking in public places will be maintained. Wherever necessary, we will act to protect children's health from tobacco, alcohol and sunbeds.

Prevention of illness is a common mantra in this election. Reading between the lines, expect more regulation on tobacco and alcohol, if only to "nudge" us to change our habits:

Lifestyle-linked health problems like obesity and smoking, an ageing population, and the spread of infectious diseases are leading to soaring costs for the NHS. At the same time, the difference in male life expectancy between the richest and poorest areas in our country is now greater than during Victorian times.

We will turn the Department of Health into a Department for Public Health so that the promotion of good health and prevention of illness get the attention they need. We will provide separate public health funding to local communities, which will be accountable for - and paid according to - how successful they are in improving their residents' health.

Liberal Democrat
Again, nothing specific in terms of tobacco. Like the Tories, the Lib Dems want to offer financial rewards to those who "prevent" illness:

Give priority to preventing people getting ill by linking payments to health boards and GPs more directly to preventing measures.

Alert: only the Scottish Nationalists have a section dedicated to smoking and what it calls "Creating a smoke free Europe", but at least they're open and honest about it:

Preventing smoking in public places is an important step to creating a smoke free, healthier Scotland and the SNP is working in partnership with our European neighbours in the fight against tobacco. In addition to the Scottish Government’s smoking prevention action plan, a number of initiatives have been taken at a European-wide level and the SNP will continue to work with the EU to make sure that future initiatives are powerful tools in creating a smoke free Europe.

Plaid Cymru
Those lovely Welsh nationalists "demand" more power to regulate on issues such as tobacco vending machines. Give them an inch and they'll take a mile, for sure:

We demand devolved powers to legislate on other health-related matters such as sun beds, cigarette vending machines and the regulation of alcohol pricing.

Alone amongst the parties, UKIP is calling for an amendment to the smoking ban. Fair play to UKIP for sticking to its guns on this issue. What a pity that the best the party can hope for is a single seat in Westminster. According to its manifesto:

UKIP realises that the local pub is a unique part of British community life, but it is under serious threat from supermarket price undercutting, brewery company indifference and the smoking ban. UKIP supports designated smoking rooms in pubs, clubs and public buildings.

For completeness only, I include the BNP. Actually, I don't think the party has published its manifesto yet but on its website it declares - again without being specific - that:

More emphasis must be placed on healthy living with greater understanding of sickness prevention through physical exercise, a healthier environment and improved diets.

No mention of the smoking ban and, frankly, I hope it stays that way. Nothing, not even a commitment to amend or repeal the ban, would encourage me to vote BNP.

The Green party publishes its manifesto tomorrow. As a left-leaning party not dissimilar in outlook to the SNP, expect a similar response to lifestyle habits such as eating, drinking, smoking and, of course, driving a car.

Reader Comments (17)

What you might have overlooked Simon, is that in the Conservative manifesto, David Cameron has promised that any petition with at least 100,000 signatures would guarantee Commons debate under a Tory government. You can see it here

This means that we would undoubtedly have a commons debate on whether to be in or out of Europe, and also to amend the smoking ban. This is something that the Labour Party would never even consider. Every single petition that has been on the YouGov website has ended with the same old reply from Gordon, i.e. "the law is working fine and the general consensus is that the people are for it, etc etc etc"

With something like 15 million smokers in the UK, surely it wouldn't be beyond Forest's capabilities to organise such a petition?

April 14, 2010 at 14:07 | Unregistered CommenterPeter Thurgood

Peter -

The Tory promise to debate ANY petition - subject to the above requirements - is, of course, an interesting one, and to that extent, to be welcomed.

But I wonder how far we're entitled to assume an absence of unspoken exclusions.

Would Cameron, for example, permit a debate on (say) the compulsory re-patriation of all newly-arrived immigrants ? I doubt it.

Admittedly, that IS an extreme example.

What I fear, however, is that the idea that smoking-is-bad-for-you is now so deeply ingrained in the collective psyche of the Party, that even an amendment of this 'highly successful' legislation would be labelled as 'extreme', too.

And, of course, a 'debate' carries no guarantee of a vote in our favour - if the Tory Quislings continue to vote according to their 'conscience'.

Nonetheless, I agree with you totally about the pressing need for SOME sort of petition: in THAT respect, surely the time for discussion is over ?

The real question is HOW we should organise it.....

April 14, 2010 at 14:30 | Unregistered CommenterMartin V

I don't believe Martin, that the idea that smoking-is-bad-for-you is now so deeply ingrained in the collective psyche of the (Tory) Party. Remember that only approximately 25% of Conservatives voted for an all out smoking ban in enclosed places. The vast majority were in favour of a much more democratic level of any sort of ban, which would only include places serving food.

We also need to remember that the vast majority of MPs that are now in favour of an amendment to the ban, or in helping Forest's Save Our Pubs campaign, are also Conservatives.

Of course there cannot be a guarantee in any debate. That is what a debate is about. It is about thrashing out and discussing the pros and cons of a subject and then putting it to the vote, something which we have been denied in 13 years of Labour rule.

Regarding Cameron's apparent refusal to discuss the matter at the moment, I think we will be in for something of a shock when and if he does become Prime Minister, on what he will actually speak up about. I have said for quite some time that in this present politically correct climate that Labour have created, it is more than most politicians, especially leaders, dare do, than to even mention doing something about the smoking ban. When Brown and his cohorts are (hopefully) sent to the other side of the room, there will be plenty of room for debate on a whole raft of subject, the smoking ban being one of them. The "petition" idea would never have been floated if that was not the case.

You ask how we should organise it? Personally I would like to see a nation-wide petition, organised by Forest, advertised nationally and via the internet, as well as on voting forms in all pubs, clubs, bars and restaurants.

April 14, 2010 at 16:11 | Unregistered CommenterPeter Thurgood

There is, of course, always the possibility – and I think it’s not an altogether unlikely one – that the Tories are deliberately not mentioning the ban because, although they don’t intend formally amending it, with heavy public spending cuts on the cards after the Election, they could well be looking at drastically reducing the numbers of snooping, ban-enforcing EHO’s (or allotting them lots of other things to deal with so that their effectiveness in policing the ban would be thereby significantly diluted). That way, the ban would become, over time, self-repealing, without the Tories having to take any political risks whatsoever.

Just a theory, and don’t expect any public announcements about such a policy ………!

April 14, 2010 at 17:56 | Unregistered CommenterMisty

Peter -

I hope - I REALLY hope - that your analysis is correct.

I COULD ask - but won't - why a Conservative Leader should have ANY truck with the quasi-Marxist nonsense known as 'Political Correctness' (aka Thought Control) in the first place.

But, as you were kind enough to remind me, one in four 'Conservatives' voted WITH the Socialists to destroy one of MY most precious freedoms.

One in four.

The 'vast majority' of those FEW MPs in favour of amending the Ban may be Tories, but how many are they ?

Some of us will doubtless be 'surprised' at Cameron's performance as Prime Minister.

Many of us will not.

I have accused and suspected Cameron of many things in the recent past, I know.

But Cameron as Freedom's Trojan Horse - that's something that has NEVER occurred to me !


TIMEO DANAOS ET DONA FERENTES - as Enoch Powell might once have put it..............

April 14, 2010 at 19:02 | Unregistered CommenterMartin V

Martin, David is offering us the key. It is up to us to put that key in the right door and open up the possibilities behind it.

We have been kept out of that locked room for far too long. Use Cameron's key now and open up our future.

April 14, 2010 at 19:44 | Unregistered CommenterPeter Thurgood

Peter -

It would certainly be an act of unconscionable betrayal for 'David' to slam the door in our face, once he was safely on the inside - that's for sure.

But, there again, he's made us no promises regarding the Ban, has he ?

And that, of course, would be his defence.

We shall see for ourselves soon enough.........

April 15, 2010 at 0:19 | Unregistered CommenterMartin V

No one is saying he has made "us" any promises regarding the ban Martin. But he has promissed to have a debate on "ALL" and any petition with at least 100,000 signatures.

That is what could be the key Martin. No serious political party could offer to overturn or amend the ban at this point, but if a petition showed a great amount of people calling for such a policy change, then he is promissing to at least look at it. No other serious party is offering this.

Anyone who is serious about politics and serious about changing what you want, should grasp this chance with both hands. We have had 13 years of being bossed about by Labour and nearlly 3 years of sitting in our armchairs moaning about the ban.

The only way forward is to get up out of our armchairs are start doing something positive.

We should have the backing of one of the world's richest trade's behind us, so what is stopping us?

April 15, 2010 at 10:08 | Unregistered CommenterPeter Thurgood


I don't think they can.

This was what happened last time.

Tobacco Retailers Concerns 'Air-Brushed Out' By Government, UK

"of the Tobacco Retailers Alliance, a coalition of 25,000 independent retailers, have expressed outrage that their views were excluded from a Government report into retail displays of tobacco.

"Incidentally, of 96,515 submissions to the DoH consultation, 49,507 came from something called Smokefree North West and a further 8,128 from Smokefree North East"

Which translated as -

MPs fall foul of 'dirty' tricks by tobacco giants

"Companies directed an 'independent' campaign against proposals to limit displays of cigarettes
Britain's tobacco giants have been accused of 'dirty' tactics after it emerged they created a supposedly 'independent' campaign group for small retailers to lobby against government restrictions on the promotion of cigarettes in shops"

I think its something to do with the Framework Convention on Tobacco

Which seems to say that you aren't allowed to let tobacco companies or anyone else that might be even remotely related in some obscure way like a customer, to interfere or attempt to influence policy.

April 15, 2010 at 15:29 | Unregistered CommenterRose2

Thank you for your comments Rose2, and for taking the time to look this information up.

I do see what you are saying, but, and this is a big BUT, the Government we will hopefully be dealing with in a few weeks time, will not be the crooked bunch of serial offenders that we have been dealing with these last 3 years.

David Cameron has promised to hold a debate on "ALL" and any petition with at least 100,000 signatures.

This is clearly set out in the Conservative Manifesto, it is not just some superficial promise which can be reneged on in a month or two's time.

Regarding the smokers of Great Britain signing a petition calling for an amendment to the ban, even without the help of the tobacco giants, I still do not see this as a massive obstacle. After all, we all have computers, and presumably most of us have printers, so what is to stop us printing off the appropriate petitions when the big day comes and getting them delivered to our local pubs, clubs and restaurants? What is to stop us advertising the petition on the web, on various sites, where we can get it on for free? What is to stop us sticking up posters on bus stops and outside anywhere where smokers gather?

There are an estimated 15 million smokers in Britain. If we can't get 100,000 signatures, then we might as well pack up and go home now!

Obviously it isn't worth doing very much until after the election, but if the Tories are swept into power, which I firmly believe they will be, then we must act. In the meantime, we need people who can design good online petitions and good posters and paper petitions.
I know most of the commentors on here are very lax to get involved in anything like this, but you just watch them jump onboard once the thing is up and running.

Well, everyone out there, any takers?

April 15, 2010 at 17:25 | Unregistered CommenterPeter Thurgood


I am aware of the Conservative voting record on these matters,but I only found out today that the treaty had been ratified.

Britain ratifies anti-tobacco treaty

"The British Department of Health has issued a statement saying that the United Kingdom has become the latest country to ratify the World Health Organization's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control - the first global health treaty.

This commits the government to enact strict tobacco control measures.
The convention will become international law on February 28 2005.

The treaty binds the nations involved to enact comprehensive bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship, ban the use of misleading terms such as "light" and "mild" and to increase tobacco taxation.

Campaigners are already asking the Secretary of State for Health what planning mechanisms will be put in place to ensure the UK complies with the requirements.

The announcement was hidden away in a statement about a reduction in the number of smokers in the UK."

You have to look in some very odd places to find out what's going on in this country these days.

So being bound by the treaty I expect their silence,but still hope for the best.

April 15, 2010 at 18:20 | Unregistered CommenterRose2

Rose, before I sign off for the night, you said the following:

"This commits the government to enact strict tobacco control measures.
The convention will become international law on February 28 2005"

2005 What happened then?

April 15, 2010 at 19:45 | Unregistered CommenterPeter Thurgood


I only started looking at this aspect after reading your comment and having previously read a little about the obligations of the FCTC.

It seems it was more complex

30 January 1999
"The Partnership Project, which is open to both private, non-commercial and public sector partners, will support implementation of the key strategic goals of the World Health Organization's Tobacco Free Initiative.

It seems having promised to do something already, they were dragging their feet

"Last week saw an unprecedented attack by the medical establishment of the UK on government health policy.
In a letter to The Times on Nov 25, leaders of the 18 Royal Colleges of medicine and their faculties jointly condemn the failure of the UK government to introduce legislation to ban smoking in public places. Unlike parts of the USA (eg, California, Connecticut, Florida, and New York State), parts of Canada, Thailand, and south Australia, which have already introduced legislation, the UK government is sticking to its position that a voluntary code is sufficient.

In response to the call in The Times, the Health Minister, Melanie Johnson, backed by John Reid, the Health Secretary, and Tony Blair, the Prime Minister, said that more needed to be done to persuade the public of the merits of a ban before it could be imposed."

In a letter to Tony Blair, ASH urges the government to honour its commitment to ratify the global tobacco treaty without further delay.
In addition, ASH is seeking clarification on what planning mechanisms will be put in place to ensure that the UK complies with the FCTC's requirement of a comprehensive national tobacco control strategy."

The smoking ban appears to be an essential part of the denormalization strategy.

Smoking ban 'is based on bad science' - 2006
"The report said: “It may be that the unstated objective of policy is to encourage a reduction in active smoking by indirect means. This may well be a desirable policy objective, but if it is the objective it should have been clearly stated.”

"The embrace of a strategy of denormalization by public health officials and antitobacco activists has been fueled by suggestions that the stigmatization of smoking has in fact had an impact on smoking behavior.

One study noted in 2003, "Cigarette smoking is not simply an unhealthy behavior. Smoking is now considered a deviant behavior—smokers are stigmatized."

Such stigmatization, the authors conclude, "may have been partly responsible for the decrease in the smoking population"

Principle methods here

Prepare to be ostracised, all you smokers of England

Not exactly what you would expect to happen in Britain.

Tony Blair's 10 Years Of Tobacco Control 2007
"The Comment concludes: "Blair promised much for tobacco control but required considerable pressure before he delivered.

Let us hope that Gordon Brown, the new Labour Prime Minister, is able to act on the radical advice on long term planning and promotion of public health he commissioned in 2004, and responds to the nation's major public health problems with timely and powerful solutions."

"The Bloomberg initiative helps to translate the principles of the FCTC into action, with particular focus on the 15 countries where two-thirds of the world's smokers live (which include China, India, Indonesia, and Russia).
But as the sorry delays in the UK illustrate, signing up to the FCTC was the easy bit.
Implementation of all effective tobacco control policies requires sustained unwavering governmental commitment.

The short-term political costs may seem substantial, but the potential health gains are huge."

April 15, 2010 at 21:03 | Unregistered CommenterRose2

Peter -

"We should have the backing of one of the world's richest trades behind us, so what is stopping us?"

Or, indeed, THEM ?

MSA - or no bloody MSA...................

April 15, 2010 at 21:59 | Unregistered CommenterMartin V

Just seen a "green" spokesperson, they want to DOUBLE tax on smokes and drink.

Guess they're off my ballot paper and the Christmas card list.

April 16, 2010 at 2:50 | Unregistered CommenterJoseph K

I sometimes think that a large majority of posters on this site do not really want to see and to the ban at all.

I mean, what on earth would they all do if the ban was suddenly lifted or amended? Who would they have to moan about then?

I have noticed that every time the possibility of a solution is offered up, a deafening silence sets in.

I am not asking anyone to do anything physical, all I am asking for is ideas and back-up, surely that's not too much to ask is it?

April 16, 2010 at 11:52 | Unregistered CommenterPeter Thurgood

Peter: You would have plenty of back up, it's the ideas when you're up against the above that is the problem. Most of us are not actively political and we rely on those who are. When the companies and publicans seem to have rolled over to have their stomachs tickled, what are we expected to do?

Give us the ideas and you will find large support.

April 18, 2010 at 9:32 | Unregistered CommenterFrank

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