Stephen Williams writes: Stand up to Big Tobacco and help us win a vote in Parliament

1920s woman in silk kimono smoking using a cigarette holderCalling all Voting Reps – Vote for Emergency Motion 7 on Tobacco Plain Packaging

At this year’s autumn conference in Glasgow Lib Dem voting reps have the chance to change history, to go up against Big Tobacco and their secretive lobbyists, some of them at the heart of the Tory Party, and to help us win a vote in Parliament to protect young people from tobacco advertising. Nearly two thirds of smokers started before they were 18.

Currently tobacco companies can market cigarette packs in the shape of ipods and lipstick tubes to young people. If you start smoking between the ages of 11 and 15 you are three times more likely to die prematurely than someone who takes up smoking at the age of 20. The majority of Lib Dem voters support ‘plain’ standardised packs (YouGov).

Standardised packaging would stop this form of advertising to young people. It would mean that cigarette and other tobacco products’ packaging would be identical, without any branding beyond the name. The same anti-counterfeit markings would remain though – so there would be no increased chance of smuggling, as the tobacco industry and its front groups continually claim.

The Government consulted on this policy a year ago and announced recently that it was going to delay its decision on whether or not to go ahead and protect young people from this type of advertising. Some have speculated that this was because David Cameron had just hired Lynton Crosby. Lynton and his company worked hard to stop standardised packaging being introduced in his native Australia. They were unsuccessful there and early evidence from Australia shows that more than 70% of smokers were less satisfied with cigarettes as a result of standardised packaging. Users of standardised packs also thought about quitting more than users of branded packaging.

Lib Dem voting reps can overturn this delay and push the Government to introduce standardised packs.

I have tabled an emergency motion which calls on our parliamentarians to vote for standardised packaging in Parliament. The vote in Parliament will be soon after we leave Glasgow and it is imperative that our Parliamentarians vote yes to guarantee its success. We will only get one chance at this, so it’s not something I can carry over to next conference.

I know there are other important emergency motions on the ballot – issues which I care about also. But this is a chance not to be missed – to protect generations of young people from underhand tobacco advertising which hopes to ensnare them into a lifetime of smoking which causes ill health and early death. It will only happen at this month’s conference and so I ask you to prioritise it over issues which are important in the long run.

Please vote for emergency motion 7 – Tobacco Plain Packaging – in Glasgow on Sunday between 9am and 1pm. Voting Representatives will have a ballot paper printed in the Conference daily for Sunday and there will be a ballot box in the main hall.

A recent YouGov poll for Cancer Research found that 85% of all mothers and grandmothers with children under 18 believe that they should not be exposed to any tobacco marketing. I want Lib Dems to stand with them.

* Stephen Williams was the Liberal Democrat MP for Bristol West 2005-2015 and was Minister for Communities in the Coalition Government.

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  • Yes, let’s vote to “bash Big Tobacco” and not to actually improve people’s lives. You’ve totally failed to provide any evidence in this piece that this will help in any way. Where’s the evidence that under-18s are less likely to smoke cigarettes from plain cases?

  • Graham Martin-Royle 10th Sep '13 - 3:15pm

    And why not have everything else standard as well while we’re at it, every car to be the same shape and colour, all newspapers to have a standard front/back page, all tv shows to be the same, standard cloting for everyone regardless of age or sex. Won’t life be exciting in this wonderful new plain world of ours.

  • Dick Puddlecote 10th Sep '13 - 3:16pm

    Hey, Stephen, you forgot to mention that 64% of responses to the government’s consultation were *opposed* to this silly idea. You also omitted to point out that Cancer Research UK’s study found that kids “barely notice” cigarette packaging and that it appeared they were “seeing the packets for the first time”. There really isn’t any compelling evidence at all, and you know it.

  • Alisdair McGregor 10th Sep '13 - 3:19pm

    I hope this gets selected so I can speak against it.

    Plain Packaging is a “something must be done” measure without any actual purpose behind it. Not least because from next year all packaging, plain or otherwise, will have to be concealed by law from view in shops.

    What exactly do you hope to achieve by enforcing plain packaging beyond looking like you are doing something?

  • Adam Corlett 10th Sep '13 - 3:20pm

    It’s a great shame there’s nothing about e-cigarettes in there, especially given the great work our MEPs are doing on the subject and the upcoming EU vote in early October.

    Whatever the merits or demerits of plain packaging, you’d have to be very short-sighted to think it can have as positive and transformative an impact as e-cigarettes.

  • nuclear cockroach 10th Sep '13 - 3:27pm

    I wonder if any of the desperate puffers would like to present evidence – not funded by the puffer industry and their paid media whores – that plain packaging would encourage more young people to smoke? They seem to believe, after all, that it would not encourage fewer young people to smoke.

  • Sorry Stephen, I’m not convinced this policy is worth fighting for, especially compared to some of the lacklustre attempts to stand up for defined Lib Dem policy (viz. tuition fees, secret courts, immigration)

    What evidence do we have that plain packs make that much difference? As I recall, a manufacturer came up with a ‘death’ branding, with a skull and crossbones on every pack. Apparently it sold great, as smokers are well aware of the risks and appreciated not being patronised. So I don’t oppose the motion, just feel it’s a bit pointless.

    If you want to do something useful in this area, why not look at the amount of smoking on TV / films and how it’s glamourised. I feel you’d be better investing your energies there.

  • I really, really hope this isn’t selected – or that it is and gets defeated. Shame on you Stephen.

  • Here’s what I wrote on this 13 months ago. My two concerns around plain packaging are as follows:

    – There’s not enough evidence. Yes, there is research that suggests people (particularly the young) are attracted to tobacco via its branding, so removing branding signals through packaging design seems likely to cause the loss of some of tobacco’s appeal. However, we haven’t yet seen what happens when it is rolled out as public policy. Fair enough, there always needs to be a government who acts first. Australia is going to be that government. It would make sense to me for other jurisdictions to hold off and see what Australia’s experience is. There could be unforeseen consequences. It’s all well and good to assume that fears about counterfeiters is industry scaremongering (which is ad hominem), but on its own merits it’s a logical concern that may or may not be justified by the evidence when it’s in from Australia.

    – At what point do we cross the line? I could equally propose regulations that forces tobacco to be packaged in a foul smelling gas that would inevitably be released every time a user reaches for a cigarette. I expect that evidence could be found to show that this would reduce tobacco’s appeal. I won’t second guess whether or not Transform would support such a move, but if it is OK to make cigarettes less visually appealing, why not reduce the appeal to others senses as well? However, at some point we surely must decide that we’re treading on users’ toes too much and their personal liberty should be respected. Where we draw that line will come down to our own personal values. For me, plain packaging is just beginning to encroach upon what I consider acceptable. If the benefits of plain packaging could be shown to be substantial then that would provide comfort, but from what I’ve read I doubt the effect would be particularly large.

    On a positive note – this is exactly where I the debate around drugs policy ought to be. It’s annoying that we’re still stuck debating whether drugs should be legally regulated, and not debating *how* drugs should be regulated.

  • Eddie Sammon 10th Sep '13 - 3:56pm

    My problem with plain packaging of cigarettes is that I don’t see why at the same time we shouldn’t introduce plain packaging of alcohol.

    I lean towards neither, but I don’t think we should be sending a message that it’s wrong to take up smoking but it’s fine to take up drinking. You don’t get people causing fights, crashing cars or beating up their partners because they’ve had too much to smoke.

    People complain about the lack of evidence, but there’s nothing wrong with giving something a try. Drugs is a hard problem for Lib Dems, most of us want to be liberal, but how far do we take it?

  • Peter Watson 10th Sep '13 - 5:15pm

    If plain packaging will not discourage smokers then surely it’s an idea the tobacco industry should support.

    The cigarette manufacturers will be even more profitable if they don’t have to invest time and money in producing distinct branded packaging, or market researching which colours and patterns attract more smokers, since apparently they’ve been wasting their time doing this for the last few decades.

  • People put ‘big’ before the name of an industry when they want to attack it, but really haven’t got an argument. If this is all Stephen Williams can think of to get worked up about, he should really think about why he went into politics.

  • Jenny Newman 10th Sep '13 - 5:29pm

    All the more reason to vote UKIP in the next election.

  • Angela Harbutt 10th Sep '13 - 5:29pm

    Stephen – You are in danger of becoming obsessive on this.

    The Coalition ran a public consultation on this proposed policy and, as stated above, 64% of those 600,000+ people responding, opposed this level of nannying. Why run a public consultation if you are then not going to listen to the views of the public when they actually engage with government?

    I have been through the “independent review” of the evidence on plain packaging, conducted on behalf of the government. The review body was largely populated by people who are declared plain packaging advocates. Several of those conducting the review were also authors or co-authors of the very papers they then “independently” reviewed. Even these folks listed nearly 2 sides of A4 with the many flaws of the ‘research’ thus far conducted. The government has also concluded that there is insufficient evidence on this to proceed (as did the Labour government when it considered the policy) and will to wait to see what evidence emerges from Australia (who are trialling the policy) on this. Evidence-based policy is surely what the Lib Dems support (whether on tobacco, drugs or alcohol)?

    The Australian ‘survey’ you mention, as with so many surveys delivered by campaigning academics these days, seems to have been designed with the sole intention of delivering the required results, rather than actually getting to the facts of the matter. I hope that any UK review of the evidence is truly independent and unbiased – and measures the ACTIONS of smokers, not initial reactions in the first few weeks.

    I would have thought there were much more important issues for the party to consider -rather than retreading old ground. Lets wait for the real evidence please.

  • Same old same old…when are the government going to stop. They want to control everything and everybody. They do not seem to learn that putting images,warnings,hiding cigarettes and tobacco products etc. do not stop young people from smoking. I very much doubt plain packaging will stop it either. Why do they not concentrate on more important matters? They are trying to “cleanse” the people getting rid of the sick, elderly and disabled etc (does this not jog memories)

  • nuclear cockroach

    “I wonder if any of the desperate puffers would like to present evidence – not funded by the puffer industry and their paid media whores – that plain packaging would encourage more young people to smoke? They seem to believe, after all, that it would not encourage fewer young people to smoke.”

    No one is claiming that plain packaging will encourage more to people to make smoke.

    Just liberals believe that you should be free to do what you like unless you cause harm to others. So if you want to restrict freedom (for individuals acting alone or acting through organisations such as companies) you need to have evidence of harm.

    It is not enough to say that it is those who want to place restrictions to say others have to provide the justification against their restriction.

  • This article can be summed up as “I want people to want not to smoke.” – but surely that is up to them if you are a liberal? If your personally-perceived political success is dependent not on whether you have widened citizens’ freedom but on whether the citizens have made the choices you want them to then why not be in the Labour Party?

  • Dave Copeland 10th Sep '13 - 9:29pm

    Does anyone, anywhere, know of anyone, who has started smoking BECAUSE of the ‘glitzy’ cigarette packs?
    The fact of the matter, is that once you’re at the stage of choosing a brand, you have ALREADY made the decision to smoke. Fancy packaging in its own right is not enough to convince someone to start smoking. In other words, the brand and/or the ‘glitzy’ pack, only becomes an issue AFTER the decision to start smoking.
    Some people buy cars because of the colour, cost or manufacturer. They don’t learn to drive because they like blue cars!


  • Peter Watson 10th Sep '13 - 9:51pm

    @Psi “liberals believe that you should be free to do what you like unless you cause harm to others”
    So is it liberal to say that nobody should be allowed to sell cigarettes in the first place?

  • Melinda Waddy 10th Sep '13 - 10:22pm

    As far as recent comments in the press in Australia, the last health minister was under the impression that plain paper packaging was apparently responsible for changing the taste of cigarettes “it’s not like we’ve added anything to them ”
    What a gross misrepresentation of the facts. In 2010 the Aust government passed regulations for fire-safe cigarettes which meant adding two strips of glue to the paper, and significantly changed the taste.
    Since our own politicians are so ill-informed about what meddling is going on in the background, I would advise anyone listening to their feedback about the ‘success’ of this shambolic farce of plain packaging to dig around a but further before taking it at face value.
    Also – we had packs of cigarettes taken off display long before the plain packaging came in- so any illusions about advertising at point of sale is incorrect. Also sales to under 18’s are strictly forbidden and the police do send in undercover buyers to bust shop assistants.

  • Really Peter?

    Firstly on the specific point:

    Shops selling cigarettes are not harming the smokers by selling to them, the smokers are choosing to cause harm to themselves by smoking. Harm they are free to cause to them selves if they are not forcing it on others. No body should be allowed to force someone else to smoke, no one does this.

    It would be liberal to say nobody should be allowed to sell cigarettes claiming they are good for people health, but not to ban people from harming themselves.

    Secondly the general point:

    Harm allows the possibility of restriction to be considered not that it is required where harm exists. Other wise you become unstuck on how to square the “harm” to those who are offended by homosexuality with the harm of restricting the lives of homosexuals?

  • Robert Wootton 10th Sep '13 - 10:46pm

    As an ex smoker, I think and believe that it is not the job of a big brother government or for that matter a big mother NHS to exhort people not to smoke ( or eat or drink to excess) If the Lib Dems truly believe in Freedom, then the party should be prepared to let people live their lives as they see fit. Even if the lifestyle choices they make lead to an early death.

  • Gary Robinson 10th Sep '13 - 11:03pm

    What kind of future are we creating – one where health and continued existence are the highest ideals? Living for the sake of living? By all means, warn people of dangers to health – but don’t stop people from enjoying their little pleasures.

    Its strange, even in the dystopian worlds of V for vendetta and 1984, people were still allowed to smoke and drink!

  • Julia Watson 11th Sep '13 - 12:59am

    I am a bit surprised that so many commenters are against Stephen’s proposal. Surely, anything that harms our children should be discouraged? Would tobacco be permitted if its discovery as a sort of ‘palliative’ against stress happened today? I doubt it. After all, there is no need for such palliatives in view of the medicines that we have today. Further, as Mr Stephens points out, the health effects of smoking are devastating.
    It is right that the Government should look into these things and do something about the excess deaths caused prematurely by such things as alcohol, sugar, fat and lack of exercise. There is no excuse for inaction. The problems exist NOW and can only get worse in the future.

  • @ Garry Robinson

    “Its strange, even in the dystopian worlds of V for vendetta and 1984, people were still allowed to smoke and drink!”

    Sad but true, the authortarians were struggling to control one area so they have moved on to peoples small pleasures.

  • richardheathcote 11th Sep '13 - 9:18am

    I don’t think packaging makes a bit of difference i started smoking at a very young age and have smoked all my life as i find it difficult to give up the addiction. When i started smoking I was able to buy “looseys” from a shop on the way to school bear in mind i was 11 years of age and in my school uniform. I think you will find most schools will have there share of kids splitting packs and making money by selling individual cigarettes. The thing is once you are used to smoking the brand packaging really doesnt make a difference.

  • ASH calls; Williams acts; members yawn.

  • Unlike the professional opponents of tobacco product regulation I’ll make a Declaration of interest – I’m Business Manager of Action on Smoking and health (and a Liberal Democrat).

    The opponents of tobacco product regulation would love people to fall into the trap of believing that cigarettes are just like bread. They aren’t in 2 crucial ways:

    1) when used exactly as the manufacturer intends, they will cause serious illness and then premature death to many of the users;

    2) because of this, unlike bakers, the tobacco industry need to recruit a constant stream of new young smokers to replace the ones who give up or are killed by their products.

    Since the advertising ban, packaging is one of the very few ways the tobacco industry has of promoting their products to the young. If you don’t believe me, simply take look at the range of new packaging that’s been introduced in recent years.

    If packaging was merely about poaching customers from other brands, then as a result of deaths alone cigarette sales would be crashing world wide, this isn’t the case.

    All of this makes tobacco packaging an issue which Liberals should be comfortable legislating on. Please support the emergency motion at conference.

  • Deborah Arnott 11th Sep '13 - 10:28am

    I am sure there will be other important emergency motions but as Stephen says the emergency motion on tobacco packaging could make the difference by putting the Liberal Democrats firmly behind standard packs in a vote in Parliament this Autumn.

    I should declare an interest as I am chief executive of health charity ASH, which is dedicated to reducing the harm caused by tobacco. Smoking kills 100,000 people in the UK each year and two thirds of smokers become addicted before they’re old enough to legally buy cigarettes. Tobacco isn’t like any other product – it kills when used as intended.

    That’s why measures to protect children from tobacco industry marketing are needed. And they’ve been effective. In 2002 1 in 10 children aged 11-15 smoked, ten years later it had fallen to 1 in 25, a fall of more than a half.
    The fall is due to a range of measures including a ban on advertising promotion and sponsorship, larger health warnings on packs, success in tackling smuggling, and campaigns to encourage smokers to quit.
    But more needs to be done. According to calculations by CRUK around 570 children each day are still taking up smoking and many will go on to a lifetime of addiction, disease and early death.

    The impact of packaging on young people can be seen quite clearly in the CRUK video
    The arguments being used by those against standard packs were used previously against the advertising ban and all the other anti-smoking measures the government has brought in. They were wrong before and they’re wrong again now.

    Standard packs are designed to make the health warnings stand out and to discourage young people from taking up smoking. They don’t prevent adult smokers who want to carry on smoking buying the cigarettes they want. Why would Liberal Democrats want to oppose a measure which protects children and leaves adults free to do as they wish?

  • The emergency motion has my vote.

  • Tom Papworth 11th Sep '13 - 11:54am

    @nuclear cockroach

    Dismissing those who oppose plain packaging as “Puffers” demonstrates an intolerance for those with different lifestyle choices that I find surprising in a liberal (though, of course, you might just be a visitor to this site – I shouldn’t assume you are a liberal).

    And while we’re talking about assumptions, I know that some of the opponents who commented above are non-smokers, so you really should try to be a bit less prejudiced.

  • Dr Nick Hopkinson 11th Sep '13 - 12:18pm

    In the UK about 207, 000 11 to 15 year olds start smoking every year. There is compelling evidence that children are influenced by packaging which makes smoking appear more glamorous and diverts attention away from health warnings. As someone who treats people with lung disease I know it is vital to do all that we can to stop people taking up the habit.

    Plain, or more correctly, standardised packaging for tobacco products is a child protection issue and a crucial public health intervention which needs to be implemented as soon as possible.

  • Deborah Arnott 11th Sep '13 - 12:30pm

    PJH misses the point of the Stirling study the BBC report goes on to say “However, they did have an effect on non-smokers and experimental smokers.” It’s not a surprise that the warnings have most impact on young people who are not yet confirmed smokers, the health warnings are less effective once a smoker has become addicted.

    And standard packs are important as the health warnings stand out more and are more effective when the colourful branding currently on packs is removed , particularly with young people who are not yet addicted smokers,

  • nuclear cockroach 11th Sep '13 - 12:47pm

    The self-interested bleatings of the puffers really makes my day, I’ll be chuckling for hours having read through that miasma of spurious argumentation and special pleading. What a shower!

    And the worst insult that can be dragged out, doubt someone’s liberalism! I sincerely doubt the liberalism – and, indeed, sincerity – of those that would seek to hinder the removal of a little of the glamour from an industry that kills millions around the globe every year.

    The back of my Liberal Democrat membership card begins, “The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society” Addiction is not freedom, a false glamour for a poisonous drug that slowly kills its users is not fair for the young, seeking to close down the discussion by industry lobbying is not open.

    The membership card continues, “in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community”. Addiction is not liberty, addicts are not equal as they must answer to the call of their addiction. However, I have not heard anyone call for the removal of the liberty to become addicted to tobacco, rather they seek to educate and to remove a false glamour from a dirty industry whose pushers (executives) don’t care how many die, so long as their shareholders receive dividends. It is a sense of community which inspires the call for plain packaging; it is a cynical plea to defend a rent from the addicted which seeks to hinder it.

    The membership card goes further, “and in which no-one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance and conformity.” Addiction is slavery, those who promote it slave traders. The addiction costs money, a cost born particularly by the poor. The pushers have sought throughout the past century to promote ignorance and to deny the truth about the dangers of smoking.

    I wouldn’t prevent anyone smoking in their own privacy. I would even call for the decriminalisation of other drugs, too, in the name of harm reduction. However, as taxpayers fund an expensive national health service, government has every reason to implement measures that seek to drive down the prevalence of an addiction which adds greatly to the cost of that health service.

  • Stephen – which cigarette packages are designed to look like lipstick tubes and ipod cases? And you should probably take another read through ‘all of the points mentioned above’, because you seem to have just ignored most of them.

    Nuclear cockroach – Tobacco tax brings in far, far more money than the amount spent of treating smokers.

  • Children have always been able to get cigarettes from friends despite health warnings, shops hiding cigarettes behind shutters and not being able to sell to anybody under the age of 18. Does anybody really think that plain packaging will make any difference?

  • @ Julia Watson

    Careful your Authoritarianism is showing.

    You start by claiming it is about “children” lets be clear, you need to provide evidence which no one has yet done in this discussion of packaging encouraging children to take up smoking.

    Then suddenly you jump to:

    “It is right that the Government should look into these things and do something about the excess deaths caused prematurely by such things as alcohol, sugar, fat and lack of exercise.”

    So it is not about children after all? It is because you have made a decision about how you want others to live their lives. If an adult is aware that smoking, drinking, eating fatty foods and not exercising will dramatically reduce their life expectancy who are you to decide they aren’t allowed to make that choice?

    Let’s move this discussion on to how you would address this situation in a medical environment. If a 70 year old patient opts for a “do not resuscitate” order would you demand they are brought back against their wishes?
    The public does not give politicians power so you can chose how others live their lives.

    @Phil Rimmer

    Sadly your argument has a clear flaw. You mention that advertising is banned in this country, heavily regulated and we don’t have plain packaging. All true.

    Then you claim that this is not enough because:

    “If packaging was merely about poaching customers from other brands, then as a result of deaths alone cigarette sales would be crashing world wide, this isn’t the case.”

    The important part is “World Wide” if we are judging the current effect of UK policy we must look at people in the UK taking up smoking who were born here (we need to exclude any immigrants who took up smoking aboard).

    Also even if it were true, stopping adults from choosing to harm themselves is not a justification for restricting their freedom.

  • @ nuclear cockroach

    I get it now, you are a deliberate parody.

    Well done, funny and well executed!

  • Angela Harbutt 11th Sep '13 - 1:36pm

    Stephen, you say “Lastly, those who cite responses to the government’s consultation will I’m sure be aware that it’s widely known that there is evidence that the tobacco industry basically tried to ‘stuff the ballot box’ in this case. See this FOI which explains how a Department of Health official caught one of them in the act”

    Stuff the ballot box? Really? You seem to have selective memory again. Have you forgotten this? ->

    This describes how an FOI revealed that someone from UKCTCS urged colleagues to sign multiple times across the Cancer Research UK, British Heart Foundation and Plain Packs Protects websites (each running separate campaigns supporting plain packaging). The author of the email declared: “You can only vote once on each petition but I would seriously doubt that there will be cross checking between charity petitions so it may be worth signing all of them to get your money’s worth. You can also submit your thoughts to government directly and there is a website to guide you through that.”

  • Peter Watson 11th Sep '13 - 1:44pm

    I’m surprised by how intolerant some Lib Dems appear to be these days. On a thread about Sarah Teather readers were told they can’t be liberals if they don’t support same-sex marriage (from which I also inferred that religious belief was also deemed illiberal), and here they’re told they can’t be liberals if they don’t want to allow people to kill themselves by smoking.

  • When it comes to it, the Lib-Dems aren’t very Liberal are they. No need to demonise or persecute smokers who are I may remind everyone are not doing anything illegal. Allow e cigs to be sold everywhere as consumer products and without interference from vested interests. More and more smokers are switching and will switch to a safer alternative. Plain cigarette packets are just a red herring I’m afraid. They’ll make the anti-smoking zealots happy but they won’t prevent teenagers from smoking.

  • I know Liberal Democrats exist to protect freedoms, but surely the freedom to entrap and kill children is not one of them. As for compensating tobacco companies for the loss of the precious ‘intellectual property’ rights in their packaging, I’m still waiting for compensation for the premature death of my father.

  • Peter Chivall 11th Sep '13 - 3:07pm

    @Paul K who sums it up well. As Nuclear Cockroach says, Liberal democrats seek to balance the freedom of the individual with the freedoms of others and amongst others the freedom from poverty and slavery. Since nicotine is serveral times more addictive than heroin, those who smoke are, in fact, addicts. The fact that their drug of choice is only a mild stimulant and does not have the narcotic effect of heroin allows tham to continue productive activity. That is why they are tolerated by society.
    But they are still addicts whose choices are controlled by their addiction. Smokers leave more litter and filth than any other legally-tolerated group I know.
    I looked at the response times of the first dozen or so respondents. they followed each other so qiuckly they would have had to be speed typists to get their points in in the time. One suspects a small part of the £billions+ PR machine for the drug-pusher corporations doing its work.
    I’m sorry that nuclear cockroach doesn’t publish his name. His arguments would carry even more weight if he did. My name and heritage is there for everyone to check.

  • nuclear cockroach 11th Sep '13 - 3:23pm

    @Peter Chivall

    You can uncover my name and location behind the site login.

  • Peter – “I looked at the response times of the first dozen or so respondents. they followed each other so qiuckly they would have had to be speed typists to get their points in in the time. One suspects a small part of the £billions+ PR machine for the drug-pusher corporations doing its work.”

    You clearly didn’t look particularly hard. If you had you may have noticed that almost all of the first dozen or so respondents, responded using their full name – and many of those are clearly labelled as Lib Dem members, so err, not at all the ‘PR machine for the drug-pusher corporation’ at work. I could say something similar about many of the anti-smoking posters as well, but I won’t…

    The response time is the exact time that the poster clicked ‘post comment’ – not when they started writing it.

  • Julia Watson 11th Sep '13 - 9:38pm

    For Bucko, re protecting children.

    YOUR children and yours and My children are mine, but at the same time, all are THE NATION’s children – that is what I mean by OUR children.
    You really need to catch up. Laws have been in existence which protect children decades. Such laws existed over a hundred years ago. The difference now is one of degree. As a result of the vast advances that we have made, children are far, far safer than they were one hundred years ago. If child protection laws were, say, 5% in 1913, today, in 2013, they are more like 70%. All parents need to do is clothe, feed and entertain children. THE NATION looks after everything else.
    We have come a long way. Plain Packaging will add, say, another 5% to child protection.
    Personally, I look forward to the day when THE NATION accounts for 99%, the other 1% being fortnightly parental visits to the crèche, or to the residential school, or to the youth camps. Parents are a really bad influence on children, and there is ample evidence from studies indicating links between childhood deprivation and parental incompetence. You only have to look around you and see the fat, greedy, wheezing, asthmatic, ignorant kids to know that this is true.

  • @ Julia Watson,

    “Personally, I look forward to the day when THE NATION accounts for 99%, the other 1% being fortnightly parental visits to the crèche, or to the residential school, or to the youth camps. Parents are a really bad influence on children, and there is ample evidence from studies indicating links between childhood deprivation and parental incompetence. You only have to look around you and see the fat, greedy, wheezing, asthmatic, ignorant kids to know that this is true.”

    I wasn’t going to comment, but when I read the above I couldn’t not.

    btw, have you noticed how well those that are brought up by the state (in care) fare?

  • Chris Oakley 11th Sep '13 - 11:54pm

    I recently wrote a piece for Liberal Vision and attracted a comment from Geoffrey Payne who I believe to be one of Stephens supporters on this issue. In response, I asked Geoffrey if he would also consider plain packaging for other products based on their potential health impacts. I think it a reasonable question because I believe that the consequences of plain packaging should it become law are likely to extend beyond tobacco. I repeat my question to Geoffrey in the hope that he, Stephen or any other plain packs supporter can offer a response. I question whether it is desirable in a free society for government to mandate the packaging of any product to the extent proposed by anti-tobacco lobbyists and other public health campaigners.

  • Julia Watson 12th Sep '13 - 12:45am

    Why does that fraud, Dick P, doubt that Julia Watson is the same person as the other one? Is it not a natural consequence of the protection of OUR children that such protection by THE NATION is the best way to go?
    There are parents, especially those parents who have been well educated by our wonderful education system, who fully understand the science of benefit scrounging. There are formulas, like CB x CB x CB = CB cubed + HB + X cubed = EC, where CB is Child Benefit, HB is Housing Benefit and X means multiple claims via racial etc inequalities. All totalled means EC – Economic Contentment.
    That is what I mean when I talk about ‘childhood deprivation’. How can children who are brought up by their parents get out of the cycle of deprivation? They cannot. Only a proper collaboration between the Health Dept, the Childrens Dept and wholesome, kindly charities solve the problem.
    Plain Packaging is only one step in the right direction. There is much more that needs to be done.

  • Just the latest excuse for an attack tobacco consumers now not left with as much as a single pub to socialise in.
    Gay people were once repressed and not a part of society, now its people that smoke that are relentlessly
    victimised by government policy. Ill be voting UKIP again next time.

  • @Stephen Williams “I am a proud liberal but I do not believe that an industry which kills so many of its customers has any right to be allowed to market its products to young people. ”

    Stephen, very specifically. Why should you and other politicians decide and not the young people themselves? Do you believe people under 25 are possessed of free will?

    I believe you are “mistaken” when saying that tobacco is the only product which shortens people’s lives. There are many others, such as alcohol, fatty foods, legal highs, cars, divorce lawyers. No doubt many of these are next in line for you to “liberalise” though. I don’t personally smoke but I do other things, such as drink alcohol and gamble, which are restricted in many places. My feeling is that people who don’t stand up for smokers and (their suppliers, whether large or small), should not be surprised to later find their own freedoms disappearing.

  • Dick Puddlecote – if you want to be treated with respect and taken seriously, tell us your real name.

  • The best description I have seen to recent governments approaches to smoking is:

    @ Peter Watson

    I agree some of the reactions to Sarah Teather crossed the line from criticism, I may disagree with her decision on the same-sex marriage vote but lots of the comments went to far.

    You appear to have misunderstood the comments criticising this proposal. It is possible to be a liberal but hold illiberal views on limited issues. You could be accused of being illogical but that does not preclude someone from being liberal. Some people way be very liberal on judicial matters (e.g. detention without trial) but hold an illiberal view on smoking.

    So back to the specific point, you appear to believe you have the right to stop people killing themselves by smoking. So let’s take different examples:
    DNR orders on medical records? Should they be banned?

    Religious groups (as you brought up religion) refusal to accept blood transfusions. Should they be compelled to accept them?

    How about those who are thermally ill from some other illness, are they allowed to smoke if it is not likely to kill them before their pre existing condition?

    Or how about other risky activities, sky diving, flaying golf in a thunderstorm? Do all need to be banned? What is your threshold for risk before we must ban something? (I understand it is 50% for smokers) to if it is only a 40% chance of killing you? Or 30% or 20%? When do we stop banning things?

  • @ Phil Rimmer

    Why do you need someone’s name to be able to engage with their argument? If your argument doesn’t stand up to logical testing when you don’t know the person’s name why would it fare any better when you do?

    Some on this board have accused those who argue against restrictions of freedom based upon anecdotes as “puffers” or suggested they are somehow “in the pay of ‘big tobacco’” well I don’t smoke and don’t work in any way connected to tobacco industry. But that doesn’t make any argument I make more or less valid. You don’t need to worry about the identify of those making the arguments you need to worry about the arguments themselves.

    As the farcical arguments are coming from the supporters of restriction (comparisons to the slavery, seriously underplaying the suffering of those who suffered slavery), perhaps that tells you what you need to know about the strength of the supporters arguments.

  • Peter Watson 12th Sep '13 - 2:01pm

    @Psi “you appear to believe you have the right to stop people killing themselves by smoking”
    Not really: I’m quite content for them to do so.
    There seem to be a number of issues here, some way too philosophical for my small brain.

    On the subject of liberalism and smoking though, there must be points at which “you should be free to do what you like unless you cause harm to others” means that it is consistent with liberalism to protect non-smokers. So I assume it would be liberal to prevent parents from smoking in a house or car where there children are present, pregnant mothers from smoking, or anybody to smoke in the presence of a non-smoker (without illiberally restricting the non-smoker from being in a place where smokers choose to harm themselves). I would also consider it liberal to protect non-smokers from being influenced to take up smoking, whether that is by advertising, peer pressure, or seeing smoking as a “normal activity” with cigarettes on display in stores (I think that seeing die-hard smokers huddled outside in the rain is a great way to dispel notions that it is “cool”). I think the packaging debate could be redundant if packages are not put on display in the first place.

    I would also suggest that there are times when it is liberal to protect somebody from harming themselves when their decision-making capability is judged to be inadequate: we do this for children, the mentally ill, those with certain mental disabilities, etc. But what about addiction? Is somebody who chooses to smoke (or take heroin, crack, etc.) really making a free choice or should they be protected from themselves?

    I would hate the idea of banning all dangerous activities (though the Darwin Awards shows us that people would still find stupid ways to die), though comparing smoking with extreme sports is misleading. Every extreme sportsperson I have met is focussed on how to survive, but smokers are undertaking an activity that they are confident will kill them. Also we are not talking about banning smoking, merely making it less accessible and less influential.

  • Julia Watson 12th Sep '13 - 3:11pm

    No, Mr Watson. You are utterly, totally and completely wrong, and covering your errors with verbiage.
    I have been talking about protecting children. When I say children, I mean ‘children’, whom I shall describe as up to and including age 12. I do not mean teenagers, who need less protection by the Nation. And I most certainly do not mean adults – 18 and over.
    Not only should you not harass, cajole, bully and persecute such adults but you MUST not do so. It is not a matter for any specific political party, it is a matter for humanity.
    I have complained before about the fact that anti-tobacco publicists deliberately create confusion by using phrases like ‘young people’. Children need 99% protection, but ONLY children.

  • Richard Dean 12th Sep '13 - 3:43pm

    I challenge the view that a person changes magically from a child to an adult overnight on a certain birthday. I do not see that view as having any foundation in science or human experience or LibDem philosophy. It’s a gradual change that can take decades, is probably never complete, goes at different speeds for different people, goes at different speeds for a given person in different types of context, and starts to go backwards when you get old.

  • Richard Dean 12th Sep '13 - 3:43pm

    … except in law

  • David Allen 12th Sep '13 - 3:52pm

    “I know Liberal Democrats exist to protect freedoms, but surely the freedom to entrap and kill children is not one of them.”

    Well said Paul K. It is dismaying to find so many fundamentalist Liberals in this Party who cannot recognise this. Just like fundamentalist Muslims or fundamentalist Christians, the fundamentalist Liberal has surrendered their freedom of thought to a rigid, controlling ideology. That ideology takes precedence over all other considerations, all reason, and all humanity.

    Fundamentalism, including fundamentalist liberalism, should be our political enemy.

  • Chris Oakley 12th Sep '13 - 5:36pm

    Does anyone have any data on precisely how many children are “entrapped and killed” by tobacco? I believe that the latest epidemiological studies by Richard Peto suggest that women at least who quit before they are 30 negate almost all of the risk associated with smoking and those who quit before they are 40 eliminate 90% of it. Generally speaking, children are therefore not the population group directly at risk of death. Some children do of course take up smoking despite the laws designed to prevent this, there are very few immediate consequences for the majority so many continue to smoke as adults. Long term smoking increases the risk of contracting certain lethal diseases later in life., particularly it seems for people who continue to smoke beyond the age of 40. Not a great sound bite for a campaigner I know but I think that if we are going to accuse people of killing children, then we do need to exercise a bit of caution and respect for the facts.

  • @Julia Watson – your comments have rendered me truly speechless!

    @ Phil Rimmer – “If packaging was merely about poaching customers from other brands, then as a result of deaths alone cigarette sales would be crashing world wide, this isn’t the case.”

    Fallacious logic which fails to recognise that, in fact, people take up smoking for reasons other than the appeal of the packaging. I’d respectfully suggest that you have little understanding of the importance of market share and, therefore the lengths to which companies go to ensure that the consumer chooses their product rather than their rivals’. Companies spend huge amounts in resources to make sure that their product stands out from their rivals’ on the supermarket shelves . They will test every aspect of the packaging: the shape of the container, background and information colours and font, graphics. show potential customers mock-ups of the product on the supermarket shelf and ask which brands are the first three they notice and so on. On the basis of such quantitative research they will reject aspects that are responded to negatively by a significant percentage and test more deeply positive aspects using qualitative research. Do you really believe that the new ‘Pomegranate and Lemon’ fragrance of a soap powder is the result of someone just thinking that it might be a good idea?

    Usual disclaimer, which now seems to be obligatory in order to avoid the charge, wrongl, of Big Tobacco shill: I do not, nor have I ever received payment from the tobacco industry. I am a mere consumer who is sick and tired of being vilified for my use of a legal product by potiticians who really ought to have better things to do, by paid lobbyists whose interests are served by inventing problems to which they have a solution (but one which is never quite enough to eradicate the problem) and by intolerant individuals who fail to appreciate that, were it not for the tax paid by smokers, the coffers of this country would be even less full and the shortfall charged to them.

  • I have studied Doll and Hill’s Doctors Study very carefully, and I can assure readers that there is very little difference between smokers and non’smokers, in percentage terms , regarding causes of death, until old age.

  • Peter Watson 12th Sep '13 - 11:51pm

    @Chris Oakley
    Sir Richard Peto’s work was reported in The Guardian ( – and probably elsewhere, I just googled him – which quotes “giving up cigarettes before the age of 40 reduces a woman’s risk of smoking-related death by 90%. Quitting by 30 reduces it by 97%.”. So compared with “Women who smoke into middle-age have three times the death rate of non-smokers and risk dying at least 10 years early”, woman smokers who stopped by 30 reduce – but do not eliminate – the risk of kicking the bucket because of the habit they kicked. And the younger they started the longer they would have smoked. So although children may not be the group at risk of death, the adults they become are.

  • Julia Watson 12th Sep '13 - 11:55pm

    I see that this debate is winding down, so may I make a final comment.
    I believe that children (up to 12 years old) should be well protected from significant danger, although I may have exaggerated somewhat. But the dangers that I have been talking about must be REAL AND PRESENT dangers, and not some danger which may arise in the future should the SEE something which is disapproved of by some people. I do not believe that tobacco packets fall into that area. Children do not become damaged by seeing something.
    There is another point which should be mentioned, which is that many of the provisions of the Tobacco Directive are clearly not aimed at protecting children, but aimed at denying choice to adults, eg, Cigarette shapes and sizes, menthol cigarettes and similar things which cannot possibly come into play until AFTER a person has decided to enjoy tobacco.

  • @ David Allen

    I take it you are including me in your “fundamentalist Liberals?” I would love to be able to describe my self as one, but I can’t. I don’t have such certainty and easy clarity of being a purest, but I like most others arguing against this approach I am simply weighing the harm freedom argument and getting worried we have passed the point of balance. Many comments are supported by “something must be done” arguments and suggestions of extending this to alcohol or cheese!

    If we allow “something must be done” to dominate all arguments we end in a very authoritarian place. Apply it to a Judicial setting and see how quickly you become uncomfortable, detention without trial, freedom of speech (though the party leadership doesn’t believe in that anymore).

    Specifically what by your definition makes someone a “fundamentalist?”

    If you disagree with Labour party members you are quickly branded “evil” and “nasty” in their discussions. It appears you believe to disagree with you makes someone a “fundamentalist.” Well, name calling isn’t big it isn’t clever and if you want to be taken seriously I suggest you address the arguments and play the ball and not the man.

    @ Peter Watson

    I agree that the Harm principal allows the protection of non-smokers, but because harm does (or theoretically could) exist does not then require action (and definitely not a specific type of action). Obviously there are balances to be struck and when looking to reduce harm we should look for the solutions that provide the least harmful side effects and the least restriction in liberty.

    In relation to your point about children. So if we do ban parents from smoking around children (setting aside policing this matter) what of those who don’t follow the ban? So you are going to fine them? I suspect this will predominantly be poorer families (less spacious accommodation etc) so your fine will hurt… ah probably the children by taking from a restricted pool of funds. So then shall we imprison the parents? Well we now have to take the children in to care, hmmm not great outcomes there. Not to mention the negative impact on the parents future employment prospects.

    “I would also consider it liberal to protect non-smokers from being influenced to take up smoking, whether that is by advertising, peer pressure, or seeing smoking as a “normal activity” with cigarettes on display in stores (I think that seeing die-hard smokers huddled outside in the rain is a great way to dispel notions that it is “cool”). I think the packaging debate could be redundant if packages are not put on display in the first place.”

    Well there are a number of points that bother me here. I can’t see someone trying to “Influence” me to take up smoking a someone causing me Harm. They are offering me choice, which I choose not to take. Now we have a ban on advertising which personally I find uncomfortable but on the basis of child protection I am willing to accept (I don’t believe you could make judgments on adverts that were likely to influence children and those that were not).

    I am frankly terrified by your “normal activity” test, that is a huge blank cheque. And who are you or I to decide what must be seen as “normal?” Someone above was quoting the bit from the membership card about freedom from conformity, I shouldn’t need to explain that further.

    Regarding the visibility of displays, my local supermarket has a slide that hides them from display and I don’t think they are visible in my corner shop so I have assumed that this is already addressed.

    On your point about the mentally ill or children I agree though that as outlined above is no a freepass to engage in any illiberal policy paternalists want.

    With your concern about addiction, that is why we should (and do) offer services to help people quit (though our equivalent for drug addicts is in adequate, probably not helped by the prohibition). And that is the liberal approach, HELP to quit not a requirement. When they choose to do so they should have access to the assistance required.

    So should they be protected from themselves? If they are adults, NO!

    Comparing smoking to extreme sports is not misleading, they involve elevated risk. Smokers don’t smoke in order to kill themselves (there are cheaper, less painful and more effective methods of doing that), and smoking is not a guarantee that you will die from smoking, but it increases that risk (I remember but can remember from where they statistic is something like 50%, though Chris Oakley may be able to expand). Extreme Sports (and other dangerous activity) also increase risk and those taking part have weighed the risks (and tried to mitigate them where possible) but continue to take part.

    @ Richard Dean

    No one does change overnight but we have to draw the line somewhere, it may be arbitrary but I have yet to see a better alternative.

    @ All

    I remember the days when smoking was everywhere and as a non-smoker I felt the world had been balanced in the smokers favor to the detriment of the rest of us. But the gradual development of anti-smoking laws has pushed us past the point where I felt balance was being achieved. Why is the smoking ban a total ban when air standards in pubs etc could have been put in place that would have allowed technology to be developed to improve the pub environment so smokers and non-smokers could have enjoyed it without impacting on each other.

    Many of the new proposals seem not related to “denormalisaion” which is just another word for mild bullying. Smokers are still people, the anti- smoking industry who 15 years ago I would have sympathized with now strike me as a worrying group of authoritarians who rather than having an interest in minimizing harm to those who don’t smoke and children want to bully a minority of the population due to a lifestyle choice. I wouldn’t be accepting of that in other aspects why would I tolerate it ini realtion to smokers?

  • David Allen 13th Sep '13 - 2:43pm


    I wouldn’t want to try identifying an individual as fundamentalist or otherwise. I do see you use the term “balance”, which is anathema to the real fundamentalist – there is only one true “god”, so there’s nothing to balance!

    That said – Here we are, quite happy to lock people away for dealing with drugs well attested to be less harmful than tobacco. Then we see a proposal – not to ban tobacco, but to control what can be printed on the packet. We see “liberal” people jumping up and down in protest. Balanced?

  • Malcolm Todd 13th Sep '13 - 3:27pm

    David Allen

    Have you any reason to believe those who are against the plain packaging proposals are in favour of continuing to lock up users of other drugs? If not, then the implied accusation of imbalance has no traction.

  • Julia Watson 13th Sep '13 - 6:50pm

    A well-balanced comment, Psi. Would that the health zealots could take that view and cease the anti-smoker propaganda! Advice and help are totally different from scaremongering and coercion.

  • David – “That said – Here we are, quite happy to lock people away for dealing with drugs well attested to be less harmful than tobacco. Then we see a proposal – not to ban tobacco, but to control what can be printed on the packet. We see “liberal” people jumping up and down in protest. Balanced?”

    Err, no, I’m not happy for recreational drug users to be locked up at all. I can’t speak for everybody else, but seeing as we as a party are supposed to have an enlightened attitude towards drug use – indeed current party policy is that drug laws should be evidence based – I doubt I’m in the minority.

  • Hold on guys, I hope my remarks won’t shift this thread off topic and on to drugs policy generally. I’m just pointing out that it’s a bit anomalous to get hugely worked up about plain packaging of tobacco if you’re not far more concerned about locking people up over lesser drugs.

  • But, David, why are you pointing it out?

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