We’ve heard on the grapevine that the government will be making some sort of announcement on the plain packaging of tobacco before Christmas, following the public consultation earlier this year.

It might not be a definitive statement, but will no doubt refer to the introduction of plain packaging already under way in Australia. And while I would love the government to say that they are keeping an open mind about the idea, or better still have dismissed it, I fear that tobacco regulation is only going one way at the moment, wherever you are in the world, and that plain packaging is on its way.

The point that the government has either spectacularly missed, or has strategically avoided, is that display of product is not the main reason why people take up smoking, or anything else for that matter. Issues such as plain packaging and the display ban are problematic for retailers not because they are on a mission to promote tobacco to the public, but rather because shoppers, millions of them, still want to buy into the category, and this form of regulation makes it much more difficult to serve them properly or efficiently.

Retail would be easy indeed if all you needed to do to trigger huge consumer demand was to build a display of products of your choice. If that was the case, I might even have a go at it myself – every line would have a 300% POR and a 25-year shelf life, and shoppers would be queuing round the block to take them off my hands. But we all know the real world isn’t like that, and it’s about time that the real world had at least some connection with government policy.