Thursday 9 June 2022

Arrested development

Given all the problems currently besetting the country, you might have thought that the government had enough on their plate at present. But apparently not, as they have now come up with a proposal to increase the legal age for purchasing tobacco products from 18 to 21.

This would be a grossly illiberal and abhorrent measure. Smoking, while widely deprecated, remains a legal activity, and 18 is generally recognised as the age of majority. What kind of message does it send to young people that you can’t trust them with what they put in their bodies? It is also completely inconsistent with allowing them to exercise informed consent over being vaccinated, not to mention the widespread pressure to reduce the voting age from 18 to 16. So you can decide who should govern the country, but not whether you can enjoy a legal product?

Some may see this as yet another stick to beat the present government, but I really can’t see the opposition parties raising much objection to it. They will do their usual nodding dog act as they did over lockdowns.

It’s not as if it would be particularly effective anyway. It would presumably only be a ban on purchase, not on possession and consumption, so there would be nothing to stop young people actually smoking. With the ban on smoking in indoor public places, the range of situations in which young smokers will stand out and be subject to social stigma has already greatly reduced. And, from the aroma hanging around many bus stations and public parks, the consumption of cannabis seems to be generally tolerated even though possession is illegal at any age. It’s more a case of sending a signal that smoking is being further denormalised.

It’s estimated that 25% or more of all tobacco products consumed in the UK are already bought on the black market, so young people are unlikely to encounter much problem in getting hold of smokes. It will also place more pressure on retailers who have to enforce the restriction and lead to potential confrontations.

And don’t imagine that it wouldn’t set a precedent that would in the fullness of time be extended to alcohol. Indeed, it’s already been proposed in Scotland, which in recent years has been the standard-bearer of authoritarian public health policies.


  1. It isn't going to happen Johnson dare not offend his traditionalist back benchers.
    And this government does not seem to recognize the difference between proposing a policy and implementing it.

  2. I'd go as far as to say that the vast majority of tobacco bought by younger people is rolling tobacco - I very rarely see them smoking bought cigarettes - and most often bought primarily to mix in with herbal cannabis which despite being illegal, is just as easy to get hold of as black market baccy. Yet another pointless suggestion from out of touch government.

  3. Most people now buy off people they know now, sourced from abroad where it is much cheaper. Hardly anyone i know buys in the UK with these stupid prices.

    1. Professor Pie-Tin9 June 2022 at 17:37

      As an occasional smoker I'm always intrigued by the stupidity of the anti-smoking lobby.For a feller like me who has the occasional gasper when out pinting the old packets of 10 fags or a small pouch of rolling baccy were perfect. Now you can only buy packets of 20 and rolling baccy that costs nearly 20 quid a packet all to stop the kids smoking apparently which, of course, is utter bollocks. So instead of smoking less you're being encouraged to do more. You're right about Scotland though - the sooner they shove off and become a Third World Country the better.

    2. I buy my cigars in Wakefield

    3. Professor Pie-Tin9 June 2022 at 23:58

      I was on a cruise last year when we stopped off somewhere in the Caribbean.Everywhere was quarantined except for a bar and a duty-free shop on the quay.Naturally we got shitfaced in the sun on cheap rum and then someone produced cannabis gummies.Next morning I woke up in the cabin with three boxes of " Cuban " cigars and a receipt for $800.
      I'm ploughing through them but they're rank.
      I normally get my cigars from Germany.

  4. The Stafford Mudgie9 June 2022 at 19:37

    The Scottish Government being advised to raise the legal drinking age to 21 comes fifty years after the Errol committee suggested extending the sale of alcoholic drinks to 17 year olds. .

  5. There are many things I don't agree with this blog about (a Corbynite writes!=) but on this issue you've been proved right. There are three key points, I think. Firstly, what's happening to tobacco is prohibitionism by stealth - a kind of two-track ratchet* of policy measures to make tobacco use less popular and measures to make an unpopular habit more difficult; the ultimate goal of the process is clearly to ban tobacco altogether, and there's no reason to believe it won't succeed. Secondly, it's not happening by popular demand; the process is driven entirely from above, as it has been for the last 20 years. (Labour won the 2005 election with a manifesto promising, among other things, to allow individual pubs and bars to go 'officially' non-smoking. If any policy had democratic endorsement it was that one - but clearly this wasn't what they implemented.) And thirdly - and perhaps most importantly - there are good reasons to think that what's happening to tobacco is going to hapepn to alcohol: the same pressures are starting to be applied, using the same or similar arguments and driven by the same or similar groups.

    As I say, despite a shared interest in pubbing and decent beer, I'm not at all keen on some of the things you come out with on here - but on those three points, which you've been hammering for quite a while, I think you're dead on.

    *apologies for the terrible metaphor


Comments, especially on older posts, may require prior approval by the blog owner. See here for details of my comment policy.

Please register an account to comment. Unregistered comments will generally be rejected unless I recognise the author. If you want to comment using an unregistered ID, you will need to tell me something about yourself.