The government's hypocritical attempts to push smoking towards the brink of criminality – while continuing to rake in a healthy sum in tobacco taxes – reached new depths this week with the announcement that displays of tobacco will be banned from 2012.
BBC News has been getting the reaction from local shopkeepers, and not surprisingly for an industry already facing steep declines in newspaper and magazine sales, combined with unregulated competition from supermarket chains, the announcement hasn't been well received. Dinesh Shah, of Falstaff News in Marylebone, reveals that the £5,000 worth of tobacco business his shop turns over each week will significantly decline now that the Government has given the purchase of a pack of Marlboros the moral equivalence of asking for a German porno at your local Co-Op.
Other shopkeepers are wondering what they'll replace the ubiquitous display of tobacco-related merchandise with. We have a few early suggestions:
- A life-sized portrait of a grinning Bernie Ecclestone, moments after donating £1 million to Labour's 1997 election and mere months before – in a completely unrelated move – his Formula One franchise was exempted from the government's smoking display ad ban
- A photo-montage of sophisticated Brits supping sensibly in their al fresco cafes. Because as we all know, while smokes are the Root Of All Evil and the scourge of society, Labour's 24 hour drinking law has in fact turned the nation into continental-style quaffers who drink in moderation and are the picture of good health
- A nice new display of sweeties and other delights – though such treats will probably be banned a few years from now, shopkeepers should hopefully be able to (dairy) milk some use before then
- A dartboard with the lovable Tessa Jowell's face on it, plus a set of darts for any smoker who fancies a free shot at the high priestess of the New Puritans, who won't be happy until they've convinced everyone that it's their way or the highway.
Image by Misty~ via the Londonist Flickrpool