Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Cigarettes under counter in Queens Speech

I've railed before about the absurd proposal to make shopkeepers put their tobacco products out of sight under the counter (go to the topic column on the right and click "smoking" for my thoughts on the subject). Just so that there is no doubt I'll say again that I don't smoke, never have done and hate the thought of it. But now that the matter has resurfaced as part of the recent 'Queens Speech' I shall have to let rip again.

Above a certain age it is perfectly legal to smoke so why is it in anyway acceptable to tell a retailer that he or she cannot display cigarettes openly. It is legal to sell them or it isn't, there's no half and half situation here, that to me is as plain as daylight. As I've noted before excess alcohol consumption can ruin your health and in the worse case scenario can lead to premature death so why are the supermarkets allowed to have their booze on public display? I've pointed out too the impracticality of keeping the fags below the counter in a busy retail environment and the cost to the shopkeeper in preparing for this nonsense legislation.

We are told that the new law will apply first to supermarkets and then to the small shops and I believe that it was Lord Mandelson who came up with the idea that small businesses shouldn't suffer initially. That bit might sound a decent concession but is it? My argument on that aspect is that how do you define a supermarket - a huge number of small shops are laid out on the supermarket principle and many of them are in groupings like Mace and Spar. So will they be included in the first group to be affected by the new law? As usual not thought through.

I have been trying to think of any precedent in this country to this draconian legislation. Now I don't know now whether it was a new law or something akin to a Code of Practice but some might point out that the magazines banned to the 'top shelf' could be an example of something similar. Not at all because whether one agrees or not about soft porn magazines being sold they are still on open display and the retailer hasn't incurred extra costs. The other one is solvents, I've no idea whether glue sniffing and suchlike is still prevalent among young people but I think that it's mandatory for ID to be produced or at least I've seen individual stores with notices to that effect.

As I mentioned in a previous rant there are specialist tobacconists about - I can think of a well known one in Exeter - what are they supposed to do? I know that the health police will point out that Canada has already gone down the route of keeping tobacco products under cover but that doesn't make it any more right. Back to my original argument: tobacco is either legal or illegal, it is as simple as that.

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