Thursday, 3 April 2008

Out of sight, out of mind?

A consultation is to soon begin on plans to force retailers to conceal displays of cigarettes in an attempt to cut under age sales of cigarettes. The idea was thrown around last year so this looks like they are going for it.

The idea though is pointless and will not deal with the problem. Legislation on this bans the purchase of alcohol for a third party who is underage. However with regard to cigarettes, such proxy sales are perfectly legal. If children want them all they have to do is ask an adult, maybe the parents, to get them and that’s it. The idea is banning public display of cigarettes to cut cigarette use is going to do nothing to deal with the real issue. Lord Darzi, Minister for Health has said that the Government will not be changing the law to clear this up as it would be “unenforceable”. Trading Standards surely could have an extended role to check proxy sales. Simply getting shops to have to find extra space for cigarettes to hide them would lead to extra burden, logistically and in cost as well. Small shops are under enough stress as it is with the Treasury pounding them again and again for more money (the Budget has a number of such instances) and the result of the policy will be that shops will cut down the number of brands they sell, leading to a cut in tax revenue for the Treasury. If access to cigarettes is such a problem, why not just ban the sale of tobacco products completely?

Furthermore, if cigarettes are a product so harmful that it should be removed from view, where does it stop? Logically speaking, alcohol should be removed from view, and so must all other age restricted goods, such as some computer games, DVDs and CDs with Parental Warnings attached to them. Top shelf magazines will have to be removed from view and so must anything else which could, in the long term, be harmful to children through obesity, such as sweets, crisps, cakes and soft drinks. Newspapers with adult content can damage children psychologically and encourage delinquent behaviour and therefore should be removed from view. Scratchcards and other National Lottery equipment will have to be removed from view as well.

Of course perhaps Im exaggerating and in reality theres no chance of the above happening. But if the Government are starting with cigarettes, what else is next and where does it end?

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