DUNCAN BARKES: Let’s speak plainly about alcohol sales

Duncan Barkes
Duncan Barkes

THE IDEA of plain packaging for cigarettes is intended to discourage people from starting smoking by making the product less appealing.

The zealous anti-smoking mob, obvious supporters of the initiative, is therefore unhappy that the proposal has been shelved, at least in the short term.

Health charities are also peeved, despite a lack of hard evidence that the measure is in any way effective.

But my gripe is that while we continue to travel down a path of restriction when it comes to tobacco sales, other products that are equally health damaging are not treated in the same way.

We all know fags are bad. The message is everywhere, extending to gruesome images plastered on the side of packets. Children are taught from a very early age that smoking is evil, and the sheer cost of a packet of 20 stops many from puffing away.

Despite all this, it is still a legal product. You could be forgiven for thinking otherwise.

Stroll into any supermarket and the tobacco products are hidden behind metal shutters in a move that would not be out of place in the prohibition era.

I am convinced that in some parts of town it would be easier to score class-A drugs than purchase a packet of Marlboro.

The idea behind hiding the cigarettes away is to ensure that children do not seen them and are somehow encouraged to take up smoking.

Yet several metres away a child can walk along an aisle of alcohol, displayed at eye level, and be fully exposed to a product that also costs the NHS billions of pounds a year in related diseases, mental health issues and accidents.

So why is an equally ‘dangerous’ but legal product treated vastly differently to cigarettes?

Then there is the packaging factor.

If there is a genuine belief that bright colours, funky typefaces and groovy images really encourage people to start consuming a product, why are health charities not also campaigning for plain packaging on alcohol?

The playing field is far from level. This is because of the increasingly militant attitude towards smokers by those who refuse, quite wrongly, to view booze in the same light.

Plain packaging for fags has been temporarily binned.

I am sure, however, that the persecution of Britain’s ten million smokers will continue in other ways.