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Saturday
May192018

Plain speaking on plain packaging revisited

Tomorrow marks the first anniversary of the full implementation of plain packaging of tobacco in the UK.

On February 24, 2015, Forest hosted An Evening of Plain Speaking on Plain Packaging.

Speakers included Angela Harbutt (Hands Off Our Packs), John O'Connell (TaxPayers Alliance), Dr Madsen Pirie (Adam Smith Institute), Emily Barley (Conservatives for Liberty), Rory Broomfield (The Freedom Association), Claire Fox (Institute of Ideas), Chris Snowdon and Mark Littlewood (Institute of Economic Affairs).

The arguments against standardised or 'plain' packs are as relevant today as they were then. So here's the video featuring the edited highlights of what, if I say so myself, was a rather splendid event. Standing ovations all round!!

Thursday
May172018

Plain packaging and all that jazz

On Sunday (May 20) it's the first anniversary of the full implementation of plain packaging in the UK.

When I think back to the campaign we set up to try and stop the government introducing the measure, I'm tempted to ask, 'Why did we go to so much bother?'

If you haven't already done so (it's essential reading!) you can read the full story of the Hands Off Our Packs campaign here.

Looking back it's a reminder of how my life was dominated for the best part of four years by that one issue. And when I say dominated, I truly mean that.

Activists who took part in the EU referendum campaign talk about the way it ruled their lives. The plain packaging campaign wasn't as concentrated as that but with the exception of a six-month period in 2013 – when we naively thought we'd won a stay of execution and the issue wouldn't return until after the 2015 election – it was pretty full on.

The first meeting to discuss a consumer-led campaign took place in a peaceful rural retreat overlooking a lake in Oxfordshire. It was a warm and sunny day and by the end of the afternoon – following several hours' brainstorming – we had a rough plan in place, including a name. (You should have heard some of the other suggestions!)

We then had to get funding, appoint a campaign manager and hire an assistant. Eight months later – following a great deal of work (and a lot of angst) – Hands Off Our Packs was officially launched on February 28, 2012.

Even at the time however I was conscious that relatively few smokers seemed bothered by the threat of standardised or 'plain' packaging. In the same way that the display ban elicited a cursory "meh", most people appeared apathetic.

That's not to say they supported the idea. You've only got to look at the hundreds of thousands of people (almost half a million) who signed letters and petitions opposing plain packs – vastly outnumbering those who signed petitions in favour of it – to realise there was little public support for the measure, and a lot of opposition.

Among smokers however the attitude was one of, "Who cares? No-one smokes because of the packaging."

And so it's proved.

This week, quoting figures from something called the Smoking Toolkit Study, the Tobacco Manufacturers Association reported that:

The Smoking Toolkit Study has found that on a three month rolling average, from December 2017 to March 2018, smoking rates in England were higher than for the same time last year before plain packaging was fully introduced.

The TMA estimated that:

If the same effect was seen across the UK there would be approximately 350,000 more adult smokers in March 2018 than a year before plain packaging was fully introduced.

I should add that the TMA's interpretation of the figures has been challenged on Twitter by Jamie Brown, deputy director of the UCL Tobacco and Alcohol Research Group, but however you read them it's clear the introduction of plain packs in 2016/17 has done nothing to reduce smoking rates.

Nor is this outcome exclusive to the UK. In Australia, where plain packaging was introduced in December 2012, and France (January 2016), it's a very similar story.

The reality is that while there are a host of very good reasons to challenge plain packaging – the attack on intellectual property, the attempted denormalisation of a legal product, the infantilisation of society and the slippery slope argument – it makes relatively little difference to consumers, apart perhaps from driving them to buy cheaper brands, which they were doing anyway as the price of cigarettes continued to rise year on year.

The failure of plain packaging to have any substantial impact should be a great disappointment to the tobacco control industry but they do what they always do when an anti-smoking policy fails – they ignore it.

If standardised packs showed even a small sign of achieving their goals (including a reduction in youth smoking rates) rest assured we would hear all about it. Instead ... silence.

In that respect plain packaging is a classic anti-smoking measure. Promoted and campaigned for over many years, introduced with no little fanfare, then quietly forgotten when it fails to meet its objectives.

We've been here before. Graphic health warnings, the ban on tobacco vending machines, the display ban, the ban on smoking in cars carrying children.

All, in their day, fiercely fought for but, years later, there's little evidence that any of these policies had a significant impact on smokers, potential smokers or public health.

It's an indictment of graphic health warnings, for example, that a few years after they were introduced anti-smoking campaigners were demanding plain packaging and even larger health warnings, suggesting the existing ones hadn’t worked.

The tobacco control lobby retorts that it's a combination of all these policies that has helped reduce smoking rates but the evidence doesn't support that.

Historically smoking has been in decline for more than 50 years. Smoking rates fell heavily between the mid Seventies and early Nineties (when there were relatively few anti-smoking laws in place) and has edged down ever since.

The smoking ban – as has been well documented – had relatively little impact on smoking rates and the significant drop that took place from 2012-2016 would seem to be related to the 1.6 million smokers who switched permanently to e-cigarettes.

Punitive taxation has probably been a factor too but many smokers have found a way around that, buying abroad or on the black market. Increasing tobacco duty even further may force more smokers to quit but the downside is the boost it will give illicit trade allied to a serious loss of revenue (which government can ill afford to lose).

Anyway, here we are, a year on following the full implementation of plain packaging. As it happens it's also the first anniversary of the full implementation of the EU's revised Tobacco Products Directive (TPD2).

In case you've forgotten, measures included a ban on packs containing fewer than 20 cigarettes, a ban on smaller pouches of rolling tobacco, larger health warnings (up to 65 per cent of the front and back of the pack) and a ban on flavoured cigarettes (menthol will be prohibited from 2020).

Again, where is the evidence that these measures are improving public health? To the best of my knowledge it doesn't exist. Instead anti-smoking campaigners retreat behind the mantra that "It's too early to judge."

In my experience, if any of these measures were going to work in terms of smoking rates it would happen soon rather than later because people get used to the changes very quickly.

Like it or not (and I know some readers don't like me saying this), the overwhelming majority of smokers adapted to the smoking ban. They didn't quit. They went outside or stayed at home (in preference to standing outside the pub).

Graphic health warnings? A bit shocking at first but within weeks hardly anyone noticed them. The overwhelming majority of smokers didn't quit and the impact on young people was unremarkable.

Prohibition of tobacco vending machines? The ban has been a very minor inconvenience to smokers, no more than that. They were the most expensive method of buying cigarettes which is why the suggestion that 50,000 children regularly accessed cigarettes via pub or hotel vending machines was stretching credibility. Impact of the ban on smoking rates: zero, I would argue.

Tobacco display ban? A bit annoying at first because of slow service while shop assistants got to grips with the new system but that was soon ironed out. Like all the policies I've mentioned I still think it's wrong (for several reasons) but how many people have actually quit or were discouraged from taking up smoking because the packs are behind a sliding door?

It's a rhetorical question and with good reason. No-one knows. None of these measures has been independently reviewed so no-one knows what impact they've had – on health, on smoking rates, on consumers, on retailers.

Yes, smoking rates have continued to decline but there is nothing to suggest that any of the measures listed above have had a significant effect beyond historical trends or the impact of smokers switching to e-cigarettes.

That's why Forest is calling for a "root and branch" review of tobacco regulations. Here's my comment:

"Governments blunder on from one tobacco control measure to another, regardless of their impact.

"It's time for an independent root and branch review of all the tobacco control measures introduced since 2010, including plain packaging and the behind-the-counter display ban.

"The failure of plain packaging is an indictment of the haste with which the policy was pushed through parliament before the 2015 general election.

"Plain packaging has nothing to do with health. The decision to introduce it in the UK was based not on evidence that it would reduce smoking rates but on party politics. It wasn't right then and it isn't right now."

See 'Consumer group calls for review of tobacco regulations' (Talking Retail).

Will the Government listen? Probably not, but you can't fault us for trying.

See also 'One year on, no evidence that tougher EU rules on tobacco products are working say campaigners' (Forest EU).

Wednesday
May162018

Primary school children recruited to fight war on smoking

I recorded a short interview for ITV Calendar News this afternoon.

It was in response to this story – 'Barnsley schoolchildren urge parents not to smoke':

Children from a primary school in Barnsley are urging parents to think twice before smoking around school grounds.

The 'peaceful protest' by pupils at Laithes Primary School is part of the 'Breathe 2025' campaign - and the council's vision to make the borough a smoke-free zone.

A 'peaceful playground protest' by primary school children, none of whom would be older than eleven. What the hell's going on?

The first word that came to mind was 'exploitation'. How dare the council use children in this way.

One, I doubt very much that many of the children would have given a moment's thought to parents smoking 'around the school grounds' until they found themselves taking part in a staged 'playground protest'.

Two, can you imagine the pressure this puts on the young children of parents who do smoke? Effectively they are being press-ganged into fighting the council's war on smoking.

Three, I'm pretty sure most headteachers have many more things to concern them than a handful of parents smoking outside the school gates.

If the words 'Barnsley Council' sound familiar it's because I wrote about the council only a couple of weeks ago. (See 'Trouble at market' and 'Hypocrites!'.

It's clear that councillors are determined to create a 'smoke free' borough, whatever that means, and they'll do whatever it takes to achieve it, even if it means putting market traders out of business or exploiting children in local primary schools.

What a truly disgusting thing to do.

Update: Just seen this on Twitter. Note the way the woman with the megaphone is coaching the children to chant "Keep our schools smoke free".

Sunday
May132018

A new era

Aaron Biebert has posted a couple of comments on my last post.

You can read them here.

At risk of annoying the director of A Billion Lives even further, here’s my response to his response to my response to his tweet that declared ‘A new era of the anti-smoking movement begins today in the US. We're a small (but very proud) part of it. Check this out!‘:

Aaron, let me get this right. There is a new anti-smoking movement. It still involves smoking bans, punitive taxation and denormalisation, but this is a gentler, kinder form of anti-smoking because smokers will be offered alternatives to smoking that will make giving up much easier.

I’m sorry, but however you dress it up, anti-smoking is anti-smoking and when you declare you are “very proud” to be part of the “anti-smoking movement” (which is where I came in) don’t blame us if we take you at face value.

Leaving aside the wisdom of embracing the same name (if you are genuinely different from the ‘old’ anti-smoking nutjobs and prohibitionists you would surely want to distance yourself from them), I’m not convinced there’s a great deal of difference between the old and new era you describe.

For example, the article your original tweet urged us to read (Finding a balance between protecting our youth and saving 40 million smokers’ lives) concludes:

Public health officials ought to welcome the manufacture and marketing of regulated, safer nicotine containing products and encourage innovation and competition to eliminate smoked products. Products and regulation that will make smoking obsolete will also make most concerns about youth moot once smoking disappears and safer products are available. This will take time but if we keep our eye on the prize and if cooler heads prevail, America can lead the way to get rid of burning tobacco products.

‘Eliminate smoked products’, ‘make smoking obsolete’, ‘get rid of burning tobacco products’ ... It’s pretty clear that the goal of the ‘new’ anti-smoking movement you are “very proud” to be part of is not dissimilar to that of the ‘old’ anti-smoking movement - the elimination of combustible tobacco.

Both movements are driven by zealots who seem to know what’s best for other people. The difference is, the ‘new’ anti-smoking movement now has technology (and Philip Morris) on its side.

I think you’re nice guy, Aaron, and you mean well, but you’re flailing around a bit here. We called you out on your boast that you’re “very proud” to be part of the “anti-smoking movement” and you’ve tried to justify that by talking about a ‘new era’.

Words matter so why mention ‘anti-smoking’ at all? If you can’t throw yourself enthusiastically behind the ‘pro-choice’ movement, why not say you’re “proud” to be part of the “tobacco harm reduction movement”? Instead you chose to nail your colours to the ‘anti-smoking’ mast and no amount of semantics about a ‘new era’ can change that.

Btw, a word of advice: it’s always better to be ‘pro’ than ‘anti’ because it lends itself to a far more positive message. Also, declaring that you are proud to be ‘anti-smoking’ is a red rag to many smokers, even those who may be thinking about quitting for health or other reasons.

Like it or not, it makes you the enemy to many smokers who have put up with decades of harassment and abuse from the international stop smoking brigade. It may even make some smokers who are thinking of giving up less likely to quit or switch to new nicotine products because that’s human nature.

Finally, I totally accept that some smokers want to quit and (possibly) need help. We’ve never denied that or the serious health risks associated with smoking, although I do think they’re exaggerated.

Forest embraces and supports ‘safer’ nicotine products and opposes vaping bans and other unnecessary restrictions on e-cigarettes because we believe in choice. The difference between us and most vaping advocates is that we will NEVER abandon those who enjoy smoking and don’t want to stop.

Saturday
May122018

Director of A Billion Lives replies

Aaron Biebert, director of A Billion Lives, has replied to my previous post.

You can read his response in the comments here, but what astounded me was his claim that:

The movement to help people who want to quit smoking switch to something safer is called the Anti-Smoking movement.

That was news to me. As Paul McNamara commented:

No it is not, Aaron, it is called Tobacco Harm Reduction (THR). I have never in my life associated any anti-smoking movement that was anything other than hostile to smokers.

"I respect smokers and their choice."

Then please respect the feelings of smokers when they tell you that anti-smoking is not an appropriate name.

Exactly right, Paul.

To be fair to Aaron, at least he’s prepared to engage with us (and always has been), unlike many others I could mention. I respect him for that, so here’s my own response to his comment:

Aaron, I have never heard the term ‘anti-smoking movement’ used in the context you describe. As Paul says, what you are talking about is tobacco harm reduction.

You may think that THR and anti-smoking are the same thing but they are very different, or should be. THR informs, educates and encourages smokers to switch. It doesn’t (or shouldn’t) seek to coerce smokers to switch or quit or denormalise a substantial part of the population.

Like most readers of this blog I support tobacco harm reduction but I’m not anti-smoking (or anti-smoker). THR is about choice - “extending choice” as British American Tobacco rightly puts it. The anti-smoking movement, in contrast, doesn’t believe in choice.

Anti-smoking campaigners want to restrict and ultimately ban the sale of combustible tobacco and smoking accessories. They support discrimination, regressive taxation, creeping prohibition and other policies designed to force smokers to give up.

The anti-smoking movement is in denial about the pleasure many smokers get from smoking. I suspect many anti-smokers are also in denial about the pleasure of vaping. In their eyes it's a smoking cessation tool not a device for the long-term recreational consumption of nicotine.

As far as the anti-smoking movement is concerned most smokers (and even vapers) are addicts, victims of Big Tobacco. The anti-smoking industry exaggerates and distorts scientific evidence (on secondhand smoke, for example) with no thought for the negative impact that has had on the lives of smokers, their families and even their non-smoking peers.

THR has belatedly been embraced by anti-smoking campaigners, which may explain your confusion. That's no excuse though for allying yourself with the the "anti-smoking movement", parts of which you yourself attempted to expose as “corrupt” in A Billion Lives.

Wearing both my personal and Forest hats I will happily work with and support those who promote THR but as soon as THR advocates cross the line and embrace the language and endgame of the anti-smoking industry (a 'smoke free' world run by serial prohibitionists), they become our enemy. Anyone who promotes an anti-smoking agenda will be called to account because the war on smoking - and those who enjoy smoking and don’t want to quit - is unacceptable in a free and tolerant society.

As I have written several times on this blog, I respected the hard work and commitment with which you promoted A Billion Lives. In the UK I was one of your most active cheerleaders, even though I had reservations about the film that were partly confirmed when I saw it. I did so on the grounds that, tendentious title aside, it was an honest if laboured attempt to promote tobacco harm reduction and expose corruption within government and NGOs.

Now you have declared yourself “very proud” to be part of the “anti-smoking movement” you have crossed the line I referred to above. You may have done it in ignorance of what “anti-smoking” truly means, but I find that hard to believe.

When you started on your 'journey' I considered you slightly naive and gave you the benefit of the doubt. I can no longer do that. Anti-smoking is the antithesis of individual choice and personal responsibility. The “anti-smoking movement”, like the temperance movement before it, is puritanical and illiberal.

Some anti-smoking campaigners may be well-meaning but the outcome of their fanaticism is ultimately detrimental to society because it breeds intolerance.

To say you are part of the “anti-smoking movement” because “pro-choice movement” was already taken is a pathetic cop-out. The “anti-smoking movement” has existed for centuries. In its more organised public health form it's been with us for decades, if not the best part of a century, far longer than the “pro-choice movement”.

As I've explained, the pro-choice movement includes support for tobacco harm reduction but you've chosen to be part of the anti-smoking movement whose endgame is a ‘smoke free’ and probably nicotine-free world.

If you are now “proud” to be part of a movement that includes many of the NGOs and governments you previously sought to condemn as corrupt, good luck to you, but it strikes me as a betrayal of the message you were trying to communicate in your film.

You’re not the first and you won’t be the last THR evangelist to nail their colours to the anti-smoking mast but don’t insult our intelligence by reinventing the meaning of “anti-smoking movement” after we've called you out.

You may be a little ingenuous but you're not stupid, and nor are we.

Friday
May112018

Billion Lives team "very proud" to be part of the "anti-smoking movement"

Still on vaping, Twitter threw me another bone this week:

You may remember A Billion Lives. It was a worthy but rather dull pro-vaping documentary that was shown in a handful of cinemas at the back end of 2016.

I wrote about it several times and reviewed it here. Dr Attila Danko (see previous post) was one of many vaping advocates featured in the film.

At the time director Aaron Biebert insisted his film was principally about corruption. Commenting on this blog in response to my review, he wrote:

The movie was created for future generations to tell the story of how millions (or even a billion given enough time) people will die early from smoking and how corruption in our government and NGOs helped enable that death.

Even though I agree 100% that smokers should have the right to smoke (and not be harassed), the movie was not about the right to smoke. With some estimating that there are now 1.4 billion smokers, that right is alive and well. It was about the right to quit.

If I interpreted that correctly, A Billion Lives wasn't an anti-smoking film. It was anti-corruption and pro the 'right to quit' (a strange concept I shall return to in another post).

Fast forward 18 months and the Billion Lives' team is not only working for Derek Yach's Foundation for a Smoke-Free World (funded by PMI), it's "very proud" to be part of the "anti-smoking movement", a racket that is driven by many of the NGOs and governments A Billion Lives was supposed to expose.

As for "the right to smoke (and not be harassed)", I don't remember seeing that in any tobacco control manifesto.

Harassment of smokers – whether through bans, taxation or 'denormalisation' – is central to the anti-smoking crusade.

When you become a "very proud" member of that movement you signal your support for policies that are designed specifically to coerce smokers to quit.

Forest, on the other hand, is proud to belong to the pro-choice movement. If adults choose to smoke, or vape, or smoke and vape, or quit, or never smoke, good luck to them. It's their choice and whatever they choose they have our support.

As it happens I was invited to talk about about vaping on BBC Radio Essex on Wednesday.

They were running a story about a woman whose e-cigarette battery exploded in her car, burning her hair and scalp, but they wanted a broader discussion about vaping and were interested to hear what Forest's position was.

I defended vaping in pubs and other public places including hospital grounds.

I said e-cigarettes are popular (with some smokers) because they offer a pleasurable alternative to smoking.

I refuted the suggestion that e-cigarettes might be a gateway to smoking, pointing out there was no evidence for this.

I also stressed that tobacco is a legal product and Forest will continue to support adults who choose to smoke.

Would vaping advocates stand up for smokers in the same way? Some would but not many.

As for the team behind the pro-vaping documentary A Billion Lives, they make no attempt to disguise their allegiance. In their own words, they're "very proud" to be part of the "anti-smoking movement".

Who could have predicted that?

Friday
May112018

Transparency, transparency, transparency

"Off to Canberra today to help make smoking obsolete!"

I don't mind admitting that when I read that comment by Dr Attila Danko, president of the New Nicotine Alliance Australia, posted on Facebook on February 14, 2017, it raised my hackles a little.

I won't repeat my lengthy response but you can read it here – Enemies of choice.

As it happens the good doctor had been on my radar for a while. In 2015 he gave a speech at the Global Forum on Nicotine in Warsaw that was reported to me privately as follows:

Attila Danko brought the house down with a passionate (some might say overwrought) defence of ecigs and railed against the insane regulation of them in Australia.

I watched a video of it later and had to laugh. I'm all for passion but this was something else.

Delegates gave him a standing ovation, which is almost unheard of at an event like that.

Anyway, God love him, Danko popped up on my Twitter feed last weekend.

This was due to the fact that he was recently appointed 'medical director' at Nicovape, a "proudly independent New Zealand owned and operated e-cigarette device and liquid manufacturer".

According to Nicovape's website:

Under Australian laws, it is illegal to buy, possess or use liquid nicotine for vaping without a prescription from a registered Australian medical practitioner.

However, use and possession of liquid nicotine for a ‘therapeutic use’ (eg to quit or reduce smoking or to prevent relapse) is classified as a Schedule 4, which is legal to possess and use if the user has a prescription.

To cut to the chase:

Due to our exclusive affiliation with Australian registered medical practitioners, Nicovape allows you to legally purchase and possess nicotine containing e-cigarettes in Australia.

In other words, the company is selling its product not as a recreational device but as a medicinal tool available only on prescription.

There may be some very good reasons why Attila Danko has accepted his new role but it did seem at odds with his position as president of NNA Australia and one person (the group's estranged founder) was unimpressed.

Since that and several more tweets appeared on Sunday, NNA Australia has announced that Danko has now resigned as president. As of this morning though he was still listed as a board member and there is no mention of his role with Nicovape.

I mention this not because I want to point the finger but because it raises some interesting issues. In particular, how close should vaping advocates align themselves with commercial interests?

As director of Forest, a group that receives donations from tobacco companies, it would be grossly hypocritical of me to criticise any group or individual who accepts money from the private sector.

What I would say is: transparency, transparency, transparency.

If vaping advocates get into bed with the industry - even via third parties - they should be open about it.

To be fair to Danko, there’s nothing clandestine about his new role. It's there, in black and white, on the Nicovape website ('Meet our doctors').

How that sits with others is up to them. Personally I don't have a problem with it as long as there is a clear line in the sand.

For example, I don't see how you can be on the board of an 'independent' vaping advocacy group while at the same time working for a company with a vested commercial interest.

Can you imagine the outcry if someone working for a tobacco company was on the board of Forest? (I can't imagine rival companies would be very happy about it either!)

As it happens, my predecessor at Forest was a huge advocate of air filtration systems as a solution to the issue of smoking in indoor public places.

She became quite an expert and when she left Forest she got a job with ... an air filtration company.

While she worked for Forest however she was a genuinely independent advocate, never promoting any specific brand or company.

It was only after she left Forest that she joined the air filtration industry and her appointment was open and transparent. (I seem to remember the company issued a press release.)

Vaping advocates should take note because I suspect Attila Danko won't be the last to make the switch from independent advocacy to a more commercially driven role.

Like former ministers who take jobs in a sector they gained some knowledge of while they were in government, there's nothing wrong with it, but perceptions do need to be handled.

There has to be a clear demarcation between independent advocacy and commercial interests and in my view NNA Australia got it wrong by not announcing Danko's resignation as president before he was revealed as 'medical director' of Nicovape.

If he’s still on the board he should probably resign from that too.

Thursday
May032018

Hypocrites!

Barnsley Council's bid to ban the sale of smoking accessories by market traders has reached the ears of the Sheffield Star.

The story, which I wrote about yesterday, comes with a twist however.

Thanks to a Freedom of Information request by Keiron Knight, who runs a market stall in Barnsley and represents the National Market Traders Federation, the Star is able to report that:

A council which banned the sale of smoking related goods from market stalls in a prestigious new shopping complex on public health grounds has money tied up in tobacco companies through its pension funds, it has emerged.

Market trader Kieron Knight, who has built up a business based principally on selling goods for smokers on Barnsley market has been told he cannot continue to do so if he takes a stall at the new Glass Works complex, being built to replace Barnsley’s old Metropolitan Centre.

He has been offered help by the council to switch to other products, but says his reliance on supplying legally available items to smokers means it would be impossible to do so and has asked questions under Freedom of Information legislation which reveal the council invests indirectly through the South Yorkshire Pensions Authority, which provides retirement income for its staff, in several tobacco firms.

I have no problem with councils (or anyone else) having shares in tobacco companies. (I'm no expert but traditionally it's been a pretty safe investment so it makes shrewd financial sense.)

You must be a hypocrite of the first order though if you invest in tobacco companies while banning smoking in outdoor public places and prohibiting small traders from selling smoking-related accessories – all in pursuit of your ultimate goal, a 'smoke-free' borough.

I spoke to Keiron Knight (and the Star) a couple of days ago. The paper reports:

Mr Knight has the support of smokers’ group Forest and director Simon Clark said: “Tobacco is a legal product. It’s wrong and extremely hypocritical for the council to ban the sale of smoking accessories in every market in the borough.

“To the best of our knowledge neither traders nor consumers were consulted which demonstrates the contempt the council has for local people.

“If the aim is to denormalise smoking it won’t work because smokers will buy their accessories elsewhere. The policy will however hurt market traders, some of whom may be forced out of business.”

Full report: Council accused of hypocrisy over tobacco investments while promoting 'smoke free' town (Sheffield Star).