Like smokers, the Daily and Sunday Express have been marginalised in recent years (decades even).
I remember when the Mail was a cottage industry alongside the great behemoth that was the Express.
All that started to change with the appointment of the late Sir David English as editor and the change from broadsheet to tabloid format in 1971.
The Mail's circulation overtook that of the Express many years ago and even in the current declining newspaper market the Mail continues to enjoy enormous influence in political circles.
It's easy to dismiss it but the Mail is genuinely feared by the left. Love it or loathe it, it's a formidable newspaper that has moved with the times. The Mail Online is one of the great digital success stories.
The Express, the Mail's long-time rival, has struggled to compete and at times it's been less a newspaper and more a marketing tool for its current proprietor Richard Desmond and his other business interests, or a repository for Princess Di memorabilia.
Nevertheless, recent events suggest the Express may be more in touch with the zeitgeist (how I hate that Guardianista word!) than it has been given credit for.
Yesterday it ran a leading article on plain packaging which I missed (although I read the report that inspired it) but it's worth repeating in full:
Time for the Government to treat us like adults
Is it too much to hope that the Government has finally realised that it should stop treating the nation as if we were particularly imbecilic five-year-olds?
The news that the Prime Minister has abandoned plans to force tobacco firms to sell cigarettes in plain packets in next week’s Queen’s speech has not come soon enough.
Over the past few decades we have become inured to being bullied, hectored and patronised by political parties that see it as their divine right to poke their noses into every aspect of our lives, but this was a step too far, depriving consumers of individual choice and restricting yet more of our personal freedoms.
There cannot be many people left on the planet who are unaware that smoking is bad for you but that is not the point. Adults should be allowed to make their own choices. Riding motorcycles and skydiving entail their own set of risks and yet no one has (yet) suggested that huge restrictions should be placed on them or that they should be banned.
It is the Government’s role to offer advice on how to live healthily but it is totally up to the man and woman on the street to decide how to follow that advice, if at all.
Smoking is still a legal activity and the state has no right at all to dictate how this entirely lawful substance should be sold.
From a tactical viewpoint I wish that leader had appeared in the Mail because it carries more weight with mainstream politicians on left and right. Hats off though to the Express for being bold enough to publish it.
The good news is that not one of the big beasts of the newspaper world – the Mail, Times, Telegraph and Sun – has criticised the Government's decision to drop plain packaging.
Even the Guardian, bar one crackpot columnist and a naive PhD student, has been pretty quiet.
Perhaps the tide of nanny state style legislation is beginning to turn.
If so, let's credit the Express for explicitly supporting our cause when no-one else would.