Sunday, 5 August 2012

Sunday Post reports dangers of counterfeit tobacco

To its credit the Sunday Post has published a story on the dangers of illicit cigarettes (the story is not published online). It reports the views of Roy Ramm, former Commander of Specialist Operations at New Scotland Yard, who 'has witnessed the illicit tobacco trade explode from a small-time cottage industry to a multi-billion pound trade of global proportions in his 30 year career'.

The content of these illegal products is, by definition, unregulated. Ramm speculates that 'fake fags can be 50 times more dangerous than normal cigarettes', as they may contain 'arsenic, asbestos or rat poison'. Unlike anti-smoking campaigners he is prepared to acknowledge a difference between a hazardous product that it regulated and a hazardous product that is not.    To the anti-smoking zealot, there is no difference between regulating a product and condoning it. Ramm is able to make this distinction, but the anti-smoker cannot say that fake fags are particularly dangerous without worrying about the implication that 'normal' ones are less dangerous.

 As per usual, Cancer Research UK is quoted in the article denying that plain packaging will have any impact on smuggling. To the extent that the plain packaging policy is not in place anywhere it may be hard to produce tangible evidence for an increase in tobacco smuggling.

But the logic of tobacco control is to denormalise smoking. I reported recently the story of a tobacconist forced by law to stop calling his shop 'tobacconist'. How are shops meant to convey what they have to offer the customer in the face of such laws? And if shoppers cannot find the legal product in their high street or local shop, where are they supposed to go? Anti-smoking campaigners cannot seem to see the hazard to the smoker in such a policy direction – or if they can see it they blame the smoker for wanting the product or the evil bastard who is prepared to supply it.

Nowhere do they blame themselves for failing to accommodate tastes that are more risky than their own. In their blindness they undo all the good work of regulators who have worked out what legal additives may be used in tobacco: first by insisting on extremely high tax levels, and then by hampering the operations of legal outlets, in the misguided hope that it will stop customers wanting the product at all.

Just as banning boxing would not stop people fighting (only ensure they did it without any recognised constraints, rules or etiquette), so this all-but-prohibitionist approach to tobacco will not stop people taking narcotics – especially in this age of economic austerity, where money is tight for so many. If a known risk is made inaccessible, life becomes more precarious and the quantity of unknown risks increases.

Cancer Research should note: it is not enough to say that plain packaging will not encourage smoking. They should absolutely lay off their policy of denormalising smokers and everybody involved in supplying legal and regulated tobacco. Smuggling of tobacco is already on an upward trajectory and plain packaging will do nothing to stop it.

A skeleton of this story appears online today in the Scotsman: perhaps the discussion will shed more light on it!


Anonymous said...

Ramm speculates that 'fake fags can be 50 times more dangerous than normal cigarettes', as they may contain 'arsenic, asbestos or rat poison.

Thats the same BullShit the Nazis preach about bootleg smokes,this guy states it VERBATUM! Just another troll nazi for TC!


Anonymous said...

Now F2C get off your arses and take what you learn and come fight in the trenches with the rest of us soldiers!!!

Anonymous said...

Harleyrider. Are you saying you support plain packaging?
This guy you are calling a 'troll' is arguing against it.
A stance which I and many others support.

Michael Davidson
Freedom to Choose (Scotland)

Belinda said...

Anonymous (2):

Where are the trenches? Constructive ideas helpful, petulant criticisms not – especially when you don't give a name.

Belinda said...

Harleyrider: Nobody is saying that all illegal smokes are made by unscrupulous criminal gangsters but if this guy says he has found poison on the market I don't see any reason to disbelieve him. As Michael says his view is that plain packaging would be a complete disaster for consumers as it would expose them to more dangerous products.

Anonymous said...

Oh Dear!

The problem here is that of motivation. We applaud Mann for pointing out that plain packaging will almost certainly make smuggling easier and more profitable. The 'danger' of such smuggled tobacco is less clear. I saw a TV programme from Ireland which was more propaganda than fact (the Irish Gov and TC trying to scare people). They wheeled out a 'scientist' to tell us that there was 20 times the amount of arsenic in the 'fake' fags than in ordinary fags. But we know that the amount of arsenic is utterly minuscule, and 20 times utterly minuscule is still utterly minuscule. The only thing that bothers me about smuggled cigs is whether or not they are made with tobacco and nothing but tobacco. The employment of 'the Chapman Trick is blatant.

So let's not fall out! If a Police Chief (note that they are almost always 'former') says something which spikes the gus of the Holy zealots, that's good enough for me!

Anonymous said...

Your final paragraph nails it.The whole idea of plain packaging is to further marginalise and 'denormalise'(sounds like an entry in Adolf Hitler's book of favourite verbs) smokers.
We,smokers or not,who oppose prohibition and those who would impose their will on law abiding citizens cannot always choose our allies.

Michael Davidson
Freedom to Choose (Scotland)

Anonymous said...

thanks for sharing.