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« There is power in a union | Main | Pub closures: response from the Department of Health »

Letter of the week!

I have been awarded the ultimate accolade - Letter of the Week in The Grocer.


As your Top Products Survey shows, price not packaging is the key factor in determining the brand of cigarette people buy ('Consumers choose price over branding', The Grocer, 18 December).

Smokers do not impulse buy, so banning product display or introducing plain packaging will have little or no impact on purchasing habits. We support all reasonable measures that discourage or prevent children from accessing tobacco. But banning display and introducing plain packaging is unreasonable because the idea is based on a desire to denormalise tobacco and stigmatise the consumer.

"Glitzy" packaging, allegedly designed to encourage young people to start smoking, is a figment of the tobacco control industry's fevered imagination. Young people take up smoking for a number of reasons, usually peer pressure. Plain packaging is unlikely to have any effect on youth smoking rates.

A ban on tobacco display and the introduction of plain packaging will eventually reduce choice because companies are less likely to develop new brands and products if their ability to communicate with their customers is severely compromised.

As long as tobacco remains a legal product consumers should have the right to differentiate between brands, and retailers must retain the right to display and sell it in a way that does not harm their business.

Simon Clark
Director, Forest

Reader Comments (8)

Nicely put, Sir!

January 14, 2011 at 0:50 | Unregistered CommenterJunican

I concur with Junican, a well composed letter that comes across as both intelligent and reasonable, two things the anti tobacco movement cannot aspire to. Here, in Norway, we have a display ban. Aside from the irritation value it appears to achieve absolutely nothing. I would like to share with you one of the ways in which local retailers have dealt with the ban. In a local supermarket you have to use a little machine near the checkouts, it looks a bit like a robot. You press some images on the screen (no pictures of actual packets of cigarettes) and you get a slip of paper with a barcode on it. Needless to say the children are fascinated by the friendly looking machines and can often be found playing with them. You now pay for your bar code and go to a big red machine that reads the barcode and dispenses your purchase, the children are also fascinated by this and will spend long periods watching people go through the performance or picking up discarded barcodes and trying to get something out of the big red machine. This strategy is obviously discouraging children from taking any interest in the purchase of tobacco, cigarettes, snus and related items.
I don't know who came up with this system, but it clearly has nothing to do with protecting children and everything to do with making life as inconvenient as possible for smokers.

January 14, 2011 at 7:50 | Unregistered CommenterHeretic

This is a web site produced by Phillip Morris on display bans and includes photos of the various fixtures and fittings, including Norway. The first thing you notice is that confirmation on how ASH, Cancer Research and the Department of Health misled parliament on the £120-£200 cost of installation. These look expensive and costly to implement as a solution.

Iceland and Norway has "tobacco" written all over it, Iceland has lighters on top leading one to think that tobacco is just below, Ireland appears to have a list of the products attached to the door with a big "not on sale to under 18s" sticker. This will no doubt attract the under 18s to have a closer look.

Also in Canada that most vulgar of products, chewing gum is not covered up too.

As heretic says "..but it clearly has nothing to do with protecting children and everything to do with making life as inconvenient as possible for smokers." Hear, hear.

January 14, 2011 at 9:26 | Unregistered CommenterDave Atherton

Indeed. If all this rubbish was about the protection of children from "harmful" products then there would be some moves to ban the display of very cheap alcohol in supermarkets which children pass daily with parents when shopping from birth to teens and can help themselves to from the fridge from the age of anything.

January 14, 2011 at 10:34 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

Thank you for your kind response. I have to add that when the system was first introduced the barcode dispenser had actual pictures of your purchase for you to chose from, these were removed at the begining of last year. The machines are also used for purchases of razor blades and non-prescription medicines ( this must be because packets of razor blades and aspirin have caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of children).
Speaking of alcohol, Norway has always had a rather finger wagging attitude to drink and this, of course, has always had precisely the opposite effect on alcohol consumption to that intended. It is only possible to buy wine and spirits from a "monopol", a sort of government owned off licence. It is always most entertaining to watch people wandering around the Pol looking for their weekend bottle of wine with the kids in tow and on one memorable occasion actually breast feeding the baby whilst discussing the best choice of red wine with one of the staff. Norwegians are in a bit of a cleft stick as far as this is concerned as despite the attitudes of church and state to alcohol consumption they are also unwilling to exclude children from any public venue.The result is that many, very young Norwegians are routinely "exposed" to glittering displays of bottles in a pleasant, child friendly environment. Not that Scandinavians need any encouragement to drink like fish, but you have to laugh.

Could one of the kind and erudite commenters please explain to me the rationale behind wanting both a display ban and plain packaging? It seems a bit self defeating to me to remove the identity from the package and then hide it, unless they are trying to protect the kiddies from seeing the smoking kills messages.

January 14, 2011 at 11:34 | Unregistered CommenterHeretic

Dave A.

The site you point to has some interesting facts re smuggling and the loss of tax revenues. 35% 'smuggled' in Canada, 25% in Ireland, revenue losses around £2 billion. Sounds like a lot of smuggling and revenue losses, but even so, I am tempted to say, "And the rest".

January 14, 2011 at 19:24 | Unregistered CommenterJunican

It will be a nightmare if this comes in. You ask for a brand and the shop assistant pulls the wrong pack down, you then say "not the blue pack, the white one" etc. They then search around a bit more. This can go on for some time. If the packs are covered up you can't tell them they are looking in the wrong place. All this will do is infuriate the seller and the buyer. It will not protect anyone its just nonsense.

Since when have the packs looked enticing to children? I try to avoid looking at those grisly pictures. Some are worse than others so I always ask for a pack with a less offensive picture on if I get given one of the ones I don't like. Most shop owners will give you the pack you ask for.

Infact it's about time the fag companies fought back and brought out some glitzy designs on the packets. Perhaps we could have health warnings in 3D?

January 18, 2011 at 23:05 | Unregistered Commenterhaphash

As the article says, there is a display ban anyway, so no-one can see the packets. How much money will this cost? All this will do is completely confuse smokers (amd shop assistants who will have to spend much longer distinguishing one brand from another).

This has got absolutely NOTHING to do with protecting non-smokers, and is quite overtly merely for the stigmatisation and demonisation of those who dare to practise this filthy habit. It is unnecessary. The vast majority of smokers always smoke the same brand anyway, so all they have to is ask for it. I think it will inconvenience shop assistants far more than it will the smokers. It hasn't been thought out very well, and is just a knee-jerk reaction by the "everyone has got to stop smoking, no matter what" brigade. If they really want to stop smoking, then criminalise it. They will never do that, of course, for they get paid 10 billion pounds a year from the habit they despise. They are a bunch of lousy hypocrites.

March 12, 2012 at 2:56 | Unregistered CommenterCathy

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