Some campaigners are making much of the fact that stores will lose tobacco sales, but, in fact, this is what government wants. If removing a gantry costs £5,000 is that an argument-winning figure compared with NHS savings from reduced smoking?
I suggest a new strategy that would win the hearts and minds that matter. A constructive path would be the founding of in-store forums made up of customers and their MP. It would be a more powerful platform than merely writing with a complaint to the MP who has heard it all before.
The issue for the forum would be the fundamental of losing the shop as an essential community amenity.
This concept could be the seed from which community store MP forums would become a feature of local life – a Community Store Forum held three times a year is feasible.
The proposition for the debate would be: “This community and this store unconditionally supports moves to discourage children from smoking. Therefore, we call on government to invest in promoting old-fashioned parental responsibility, more impactful health education in schools, and real investment support for local shop schemes such as ‘18? Prove It’. Removal of the cigarette gantry will not achieve its target, whereas our proposal is far more constructive. This community asks its MP to take this message back to Westminster.”
The forum campaign needs activist retailers, co-ordination and energy – and our sector has this in spades.
I recently witnessed the positive impact on an MP of ministerial rank chatting to lots of shoppers in an independent c-store. This was my inspiration. Ranting and crying foul has proved counter-productive for the convenience lobby. There must be another way.