Following our announcement yesterday that the Hands Off Our Packs petition has raised 235,000 signatures (with some late arrivals being added today), Plain Packs Protect has finally come to the party with a tweet suggesting that they have over 170,000 signatures in favour of plain packs.
Add that to the 75,000 announced by Cancer Research UK yesterday and the pro plain pack total is currently just over, er, 235,000.
Perhaps they forgot the 30,000 shop workers who signed a petition submitted by the Tobacco Retailers Alliance a few weeks ago which means that the current total against plain packaging is actually 265,000, a figure that could be even higher once all the petitions against PP are submitted before tomorrow’s closing date.
For all we know, of course, the pro plain pack figure could be higher too, much higher. Personally I don’t trust the tobacco control industry to tell the truth on anything these days but they do appear to be rattled by our numbers.
Why else would they need the help of a global online community to raise last minute support?
Riding to their rescue is a group called Avaaz which I had never heard of until five hours ago.
According to its website Avaaz means "voice" in several European, Middle Eastern and Asian languages. I have now been advised that:
Avaaz is a very powerful campaigning organisation, based in Brazil initially, focusing mainly on environmental issues, but they have widened out to human rights issues and more political issues.
Odd, isn’t it, that Avaaz should launch an online petition in favour of plain packaging 48 hours before the closing date for the government's consultation and just hours after HOOPS announced that we had raised 235,000 signatures against plain packs.
Odder still that Avaaz should implore its 15 million supporters to sign the petition with these words:
We only have 48 hours left before the consultation closes. If enough of us support Health Secretary Andrew Lansley now, we can strengthen his hand to push the plan to make cigarettes uncool for teenagers by selling them in plain, non-branded packs. Click below to send him an urgent message in support of plain packs – and then tell your friends to join in and send a message too!
So, the tobacco control industry (if not the Department of Health) has seen fit to call for international rescue. How pathetic – and desperate.
Note the picture on the Avaaz website of an angelic looking girl smoking a cigarette (above).
When was the last time you saw anything like that? These people should be giving Alistair Campbell a lesson in the art of spin doctoring. Shameless.
The Avaaz petition is already up to 12,700 with an initial target of 20k, although I wouldn’t be surprised if the final figure is higher.
A Forest supporter, who is on the Avaaz mailing list, has written to them as follows:
Sorry, but this is utter bollocks. I can't believe you're doing this!
There is no research or scientific evidence of any kind that connects plain packaging to a reduction in kids (or anyone else) smoking. Do you seriously imagine for a moment that teenagers will think cigarettes "uncool" if they come in a plain pack? What kind of packaging do you think drugs have? I challenge you to name me a single person who can say they started smoking because of the pretty package. You can't, because it's never happened. Kids start smoking through peer pressure, and plain packs will make no difference.
The so-called "research" behind this move consists of (e.g.) showing teens a plain pack and a regular pack and asking "which of these do you like best?" Any responder would choose the colourful pack. Does that mean that suddenly become smokers?? What nonsense! Are you now asking us to make decisions and take sides on the basis of pseudo-science and emotional blackmail?
Have you paused to consider that plain packs would make the work of cigarette counterfeiters infinitely easier, and that really would have a serious impact on health! You need to really think about that, because it's a potentially huge problem.
There is no "powerful cigarette lobby" any more - do get with it, that was extinguished years ago. Quite the contrary; human society has a nasty compulsion to bear down on easily defined minorities, and since it's now illegal to discriminate against blacks, gays, Jews, Moslems, women, oldies, dwarves etc, guess what: there's only smokers left! The divisive practise of demonising and de-normalising 22% of the population just because they smoke is quite disgraceful.
I've been a solid supporter of Avaaz since the get-go, but by joining the mindless anti-smoking lynch mob bandwagon & promoting this emotive and ill-informed rubbish, you discredit yourself and bring the whole organisation into disrepute, and I will have no part of it. There are genuine causes out there that require serious action, whereas this "campaign" has no merit whatsoever.
I urge you to halt this nonsense at once, and turn your considerable energy to something worthwhile. Otherwise I for one will be out of here, and I won't be alone.
Watch this space.
Avaaz has removed from its website the picture of the little girl with the cute blonde bob 'smoking' a cigarette.
Fortunately I still have the evidence.