So they've gone and done it. Even the sight of cigarettes cannot be tolerated in Brown's Britain. Tobacco displays have been banned.
The Tories, the Lib Dems and even fucking Peter Mandelson can see that this is a piece-of-shit policy which will shaft small businesses for no conceivable benefit. But what the hell, eh? It's not like there's a recession on.
James Lowman of The Association of Convenience Stores is one of many pissed-off people:
"We have explained that implementing a tobacco-display ban will cost our industry over £250 million and concessions on a longer lead-in period will not allay our grave concerns."
"This announcement makes a mockery of government claims to be the friend of small and local businesses."
After eleven years, they still don't get it, do they? James, they don't give two shits about "small and local businesses". They butt-fucked the publicans and they're going to butt-fuck your members, just like they did the rest of us. Deep, hard and with sand in the vaseline.
What was striking, however, was the comment from Health Secretary Alan Johnson:
He [Johnson] told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that the "overwhelming evidence and support" in the government's consultation on smoking was for such a ban.
Having read the consultation document, I would say 'overwhelming' is a fair word to use. I haven't seen such a consensus this overwhelming since Saddam Hussein's last election.
"Almost 98 per cent of respondents...were in favour of plain packaging"
"There was over 99 per cent agreement by respondents to this question that there should be further restrictions."
"Approximately 90 per cent expressed a preference for option three (prohibit the sale of tobacco products from vending machines altogether)"
It's fair to say that you won't replicate these results if you ask the average man in the pub, let alone the average man outside the pub. The extraordinary support for the Department of Health (DOH)'s recommendations can only be explained by looking at the "stakeholders" who got involved. Of the 96,000 responses, only a handful came from private individuals. The rest came from block-voting by state-funded pressure groups and charities. And, as my gracious host has recently pointed out:
...whenever a so-called charity supports a government initiative, you can almost always find that they rely on substantial state funding.
Sure enough, SmokeFree NorthWest - with 49,507 votes - is entirely funded by the DoH. Direct Movement by the Youth Smokefree Team - with 10,757 votes - is entirely funded by SmokeFree Liverpool who are entirely funded by the DoH). SmokeFree NorthEast - with 8,128 votes - is entirely funded by...yes, the DoH.
Weighing in with a further 1,562 votes were SmokeFree Action. These were the cunts who masterminded the smoking ban. As they say on their website:
We came together initially to lobby for smokefree workplaces...
Now they've achieved that, do you reckon they're happy to leave it there - as they swore blind they would - or do you think the mythical slippery-slope worked its magic again?
...and are now committed to reducing the harm caused by tobacco more generally.
Of course you are, you dishonest set of bastards.
SmokeFree Action is headed up by the biggest fake charity of all: Action of Smoking and Health (ASH). ASH, like all the rest of the "stakeholders", were created by the government but try their best to pretend to be a grass-roots organisation. Since they are registered with the charities commission it makes it that bit easier to inspect their accounts:
Year ended 31st March 2007
Department of Health: £210,400
Wales Assembly Government: £110,000
Supporting charities: £185,228
Donations & legacies received: £11,143
Incidentally, take another look at that last figure. That is the full amount that was voluntarily given to this 'charity' in a whole year. To give you a frame of reference, the Cat's Protection League received over £30 million in private donations in the same year. The fucking Donkey Sanctuary was given over £20 million.
ASH - one of the most powerful charities in the UK - made eleven grand. If they were left to fend for themselves they wouldn't have the money to rent an office. They would be hard pushed to send out a solitary press release, let alone change the law of the fucking land every five minutes.
In case you're wondering, the "supporting charities" were the British Heart Foundation and Cancer Research. These are real charities, no doubt, and we've all given to them in our time. Still, when I donated to Cancer Research I foolishly assumed that the money might go towards actual cancer research. Now I know it gets hived off to pay for the fat salaries of a bunch of hateful, lemon-sucking harridans I don't think I'll fucking bother in future.
This is what happens: The fake charities set up websites where vistors can support the cause by entering an e-mail address and pressing click. No one really knows what they're voting for, but it has got something to do with thinking of the children and it only takes a second. Then the fake charities send postage-paid postcards out to every address they can get their hands on, urging the clueless recipients to sign them and send them back. Again, it isn't clear what the postcard is supporting but if you don't send it back it means you want lovely little children to get cancer.
Dick Puddlecote explained exactly how the Department of Health's "public consultations" work back in September (in the comments to this post):
1) The DoH think up some looney proposal and have to pretend to ask the public in order to exhibit some semblance of democracy.
2) The public aren't actually told about it unless they are avid watchers of smokefree sites so therefore will have formed an opinion one way only anyway.
3) The smokefree sites are told of course seeing as they are paid for by the Labour Government
4) Labour pass the measures and can say in front of the cameras that X% of stakeholders are fully in agreement with them about this. No fiddling at all. Not in the slightest. Perfectly above board.
With eye-watering disingenuity, the DoH specifically asked for input from shopkeepers regarding the mooted tobacco display ban:
We are particularly interested in hearing from small retailers and in receiving information on the potential cost impact of further restrictions on display
But when it arrived, it found that:
"Among the 10,570 small retailers responding, virtually all are against the proposal."
"Ninety-five percent of specialist tobacconists and all non-specialist shops surveyed suggested that a display ban would lead to them being unable to carry on trading."
So obviously the DoH ignored these dirty capitalist interests and pressed on with what could easily be the most stupid piece of legislation of the year. If you're on the gravy train, you get a voice. If you're not, forget it. Not so much a public consultation as a public sector consulation.
And in case you're under any illusion that the government might lay off smokers for a while after this, you should remember that Labour wouldn't be turning to fruitcake anti-smoking policies if they hadn't committed themselves to cutting the smoking rate to 21% by 2010 (it's 22% at the moment).
In that context, the scariest (and unreported, natch) thing about the DoH's bullshit consultation is that it asked 'stakeholders' what the smoking rate should be in a few years time. Here's what they said:
Action on Smoking and Health: 15% by 2015 and 5% by 2030
British Medical Association: 11% by 2015 "with the aim of making the UK tobacco free by 2035"
Royal College of Physicians: 11% by 2015 and "the eradication of smoking between 2020 and 2030"
Oh Lordy. These cunts haven't even got into second gear yet.