A display of fudge
After months of waiting for the new government to make good its pledge to review the tobacco display ban, its first announcement of substance on the issue is a rather surprising one.
Plain packaging for tobacco is, it seems, very much on the agenda. This is surprising because not even the last Labour government thought this was a good idea, rejecting the notion in the same series of votes that saw the display ban put in the statute book.
So is it a good idea? The first thought is, what a nightmare this would be for staff, as incredible accuracy would be required to make sure that compartments are filled with the correct stock and that customers leave with their chosen brand. I'd be interested to see if there was any provision for pricemarked packs if branding was not allowed. There is also an argument about making it easier for counterfeiters but, if truth be told, they are incredibly good at mimicking major brands already.
Potentially, there are positives, too. If we press ahead with plain packaging, then all the (in my view) spurious arguments about the merits of the display ban are blown out of the water, as it can no longer be claimed that the gantry is an 'advert' for tobacco.
I'm still not sure if this latest example is political innovation or fudge, but I am certain of what government needs to do next. We need a clear announcement about plans for the display ban. Stop it now, or at least delay it, and use the time to think through the detail of the latest big idea on tobacco.
I was interested to read a research study commissioned by my colleagues at leading pub weekly the Morning Advertiser.
The pub trade is concerned about being given the blame for all drink-related anti-social behaviour, as well as understandably losing its share of the alcohol market to the off-trade, particularly the supermarkets. But what the study showed is that young adult drinkers are generally having a drink or two at home before going out, and then having a couple more when out on the town. So it's impossible to say which drink is the problem one. The first one? Or the last one?
At the moment the police blame the pubs, on-trade blames the supermarkets, and everybody blames the local shops. We need to stop this, and all think as retailers with a common purpose.
Alcohol-induced anti-social behaviour is not down to one element, it is a common problem, and so what we need is a common, multi-agency solution that everyone can get behind.