We’ve all seen it, haven’t we? An individual standing at the counter in a corner shop or supermarket, asking for a packet of cigarettes, becoming more and more irked as the hapless member of staff tries, desperately, to locate the requested brand from among the myriad of uniform, sludge-coloured items hidden behind a shutter. It’s becoming an increasingly common sight in shops around the UK, now – which is all the more worrying, given plain packaging legislation has only recently come into force.

In Spiked this week, Rob Lyons puts pen to paper to highlight what so many of us have experienced first hand; the supreme irritation of having a line held up in order for someone to buy cigarettes.

If we didn’t know better, we might almost think the policy existed to simply annoy smokers into quitting. Of course, that’s not the stated reason; it’s just a happy bonus for the sadists at Public Health England and other health lobbies. Meanwhile, the real reason for plain packaging – to deter smokers – is founded on dodgy science; there is little to no evidence to suggest that it does anything to put smokers off. Even the BBC has admitted as much!

If anything, the fact that so many are prepared to put themselves through the tedium of the process demonstrates that what attracts smokers is not simply the brand, but the tobacco itself. This is what many with sense have told the healthists all along. Smokers may prefer a certain brand for, say, the taste, but they won’t be put off smoking by obscuring the brand and trying to intimidate them with images of diseased lungs; smokers know full well the risks of their hobby, and partake of it anyway.

As Lyons states, plain packaging is simply one of a series of ‘health’ measures based on limited evidence that are introduced but have little effect. But, as is the nature of health bodies, ‘the bandwagon rolls on to the next policy’, completely uncaring as to the damage caused by blanket legislation with no room for manoeuvre, and based on bad research. Just look at the effect tobacco legislation has had on smuggling and the black market!

The article is quite right in saying that policies such as plain packaging for tobacco is why we need to hold politicians, and those in the pay of government, to account in a post-Brexit world. Plain packaging was rushed through without the backing of the public as a result of an EU directive and on the initiative of PHE and the Ministry of Health. This sort of state interference and meddling by government ‘sock puppets’ cannot be allowed to continue.

by Edward Baer