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« Ireland: a major faux pas and other matters | Main | Céad míle fáilte »

Stephen Williams agrees to plain packaging debate

I am pleased to report that Stephen Williams MP has agreed to take part in a debate on plain packaging.

You may recall that following the launch of Plain Packs Protect in January the MP for Bristol West, who is chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking and Health, wrote a blog on the subject.

In the ensuing uproar (over 1300 comments were posted on his blog alone) Williams invited Forest to "rise to the challenge".

I took this at face value and invited him to take part in a public debate. He accepted on condition that the debate was organised by a third party - a think tank or university debating society.

As luck would have it, the University of Bristol Debating Society has decided to organise a discussion entitled 'Plain packaging: sensible health policy or nanny state nonsense?

Speakers currently include me, Chris Snowdon and ... Stephen Williams.

The event takes place on Thursday May 10 at the Faculty of Arts. Members of the public are welcome so if you live near Bristol do please come. More details on this Facebook event page.

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Reader Comments (6)

It's one of those Victor Meldrew moments - " I don't believe it!"

Friday, April 27, 2012 at 10:44 | Unregistered CommenterXopher

I would like to know the answers to these questions Simon since he is going to debate with you.

1. Will all the images used to festoon the packets be real or photo-shopped. If they will be fake images showing what smoking is supposed to do, then this would constitute fraud - since they will not be based on real clinical conditions which can be substantiated.

2. Does he believe it right to interefere with IP(intellectual property rights) which is a basic human right under the auspices of the UN Declaration on Human Rights, combined with the World Health Organisation and World Trade Organisation study to verify this very point.
Remember, that the trade marks and logos have to show that they can cause harm - it is not about the contents of the packs.

3. Is it not right that any company marketing a perfectly legal product should be able to show the public a distinct package of its own choice from other competitors.

4. It will be far easier for counterfeiters to replicate one colour packets than having multiple colour packs, it also means less machine set-up time for printers, so therefore lower prices.

I'm sure there are many more questions you would like to ask him.

Friday, April 27, 2012 at 13:08 | Unregistered CommenterAlanP

You seem keen on encouraging debate Simon, eg this one involving Stephen Williams, so could you please publish this correction of factual errors.

Re: Spiked etc entry below

These two articles seem particularly ill informed Simon. Need to commission some better authors who know the subject they are writing about.

For instance, Simon Hills says "[plain packaging]...means I as a consumer will be forced to buy a product that I have no idea what it contains and will therefore be far worse for my health". Err, not true, among the things permitted on packs will be "tar, nicotine and carbon monoxide yield information as currently required" [paragraph 4.6 of Govt Consultation].

Brendan O'Neill says "In demanding that cigarettes be stuffed into boxes with no branding or logos on them, the authorities are denying companies the right to publish perfectly reasonable and inoffensive material: the names of their products". Err, not true, see Govt consultation: among the things "..permitted on packs: a brand name; a product name...." [paragraph 4.6]

Pretty poor journalism really; wouldn’t take much to read the Govt proposal before writing a long comment piece on it.


Dave H

Friday, April 27, 2012 at 13:54 | Unregistered CommenterDave Hill

@ Dave Hill

So presumably Dave, you would be happy to see all alcohol in plain packaging, then? (They're already talking about it). All uniform size and shape bottles / cans, all with the same label, with the addition of a grotesque photoshopped image, and the brand name in small letters, all the same font? That would look nice on the dinner table when you've got special guests for dinner, and you want to provide a specially good wine. And of course, the salt would be in a similarly plain pack, with the mandatory warnings. And then the après-déjeuner coffee and brandy, the brandy of course in the same shaped bottle as the Château Lafite Rothschild that you provided, with an identical label. And of course the nauseating photoshopped image covering most of the label.


But we have to think of the chiiildren, don't we? They must be protected from the evils of alcohol, so it's a good thing, isn't it? I mean, if they saw a bottle of Château Lafite Rothschild with it's glitzy label, they'd be straight round the local wine merchants for a bottle, would't they? So they must be protected from Big Alcohol, with it's pernicious advertising disguised as labels, eh?

Oh Dave, what a dull, colourless dystopia you yearn for.

I tell you what, mate, you can have it, with my blessing. Just don't try to impose your depressive vision of the world on me, ok? I like colourful, branded cigarette packs, and since there seems to be zero evidence that changing them will stop kids taking up smoking, I think we should just leave them as they are. In fact better still, since the warnings plastered all over them have been found to have absolutely no effect on smoking rates, why don't we get rid of those too, and go back to aesthetically pleasing packaging?

Friday, April 27, 2012 at 20:33 | Unregistered Commenternisakiman

@ Dave Hill.

I am sure that you are right about the consultation document, but I think that a bit of poetic license is in order here. A 'product name', printed in very small font such that it cannot be read from any significant distance, is hardly the same as a 'brand' or 'logo'. Also, the tar, nicotine and carbon monoxide content is a legal requirement. Such information tells one nothing about the type of tobacco used, such as 'virginia blend'. This sort of information is quite important in respect of rolling tobacco, pipe tobacco and cigars.

In any case, as you recall, the original Health Bill which introduced the smoking banexempteded private clubs and wet-led pubs. It was amended at the third reading. A shocking parliamentary device. What the consultation says and what will actually happen are two very different things.

Friday, April 27, 2012 at 21:00 | Unregistered CommenterJunican

Nisakiman - bizarre response. As David Cameron might say, "calm down dear". If you reread my post you will see I express no preference for a particular outcome, just that those debating the proposal use facts and not incorrect beliefs.

Junican - More fact checking needed here too. Health Bill was not amended at third reading. It was amended following a free vote at report stage. Report stage is where amendments are debated on the floor of the Commons. As with every other Bill. Not remotely "shocking". You may find this helpful:

Poetic license is one thing - but the article was actually wrong. Not good enough. The author claimed "... I as a consumer will be forced to buy a product that I have no idea what it contains and will therefore be far worse for my health". This cannot be true when all the current information on health impact (aside from the pictures) allowed on packs now, will be allowed on plain packs: tar, nicotine and carbon monoxide.


Monday, April 30, 2012 at 13:27 | Unregistered CommenterDave Hill

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