London Shopkeepers Fear Fag Ban

Dean Nicholas
By Dean Nicholas Last edited 115 months ago
London Shopkeepers Fear Fag Ban

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

Last Updated 10 December 2008


I'm glad it's not just me spitting fire about this ridiculous ruling.

I'm getting a bit bored of hearing the sound of my own voice ranting like a post-war left over about how the country is going down the pan and I'm not enjoying the journey.

What I fail to understand the most is how the people relatively untouched by these constant reminders of our errant ways as drinkers and smokers don't realise that erosion of civil liberties will get them too at some point. By then no doubt it'll already be too late, the wheel will be in motion and we'll be too apathetic to do anything about it.

Just wound myself up so much I might have to go and punch someone... that's just the kind of person I am (apparently).


I can understand while you're upset about this if you're a regular smoker, but I think your post is a little over the top. I smoke occasionally and enjoy it, but I'm well aware that it's not good for me or the people around me. A lot of the times I buy cigarettes are when I'm standing in a shop and see them on display. If hiding them away means I smoke less, I'm all for it.

Also, it's not hypocritical of the government to want to simultaneously reduce smoking and raise tax revenue from it: smokers cost the country huge amounts of money in healthcare, not just for themselves but for the uncomplaining people they smoke around. Would you be happy if you got lung cancer and the NHS refused you treatment? Obviously not. But by smoking you indirectly cause lung cancers which cost millions of pounds to treat, and if you don't pay the extra taxes to fun that treatment, non-smokers have to.

In my opinion that would be a lot more 'Gestapo'-ly unfair than hiding fags.


I think the regularity of smoking has little to do with the issue here; maybe with the smoking ban in pubs that would be more correct however I never took issue with that and actually think it's a good thing. I don't want to be responsible for anyones ill health as a result of my lifestyle choices.

I'll continue to buy my cigarettes in the shops I already know sell them, assuming of course they fork out the estimated £5k required to put them under the counter. My point above leads on from the original post commenting on the act of buying cigarettes becoming the moral equivalent of asking for porn in a co-op (or something along those lines).

I appreciate that light smokers such as yourself may feel tempted to buy cigarettes because they're there in front of you, but surely the same argument could be applied to putting nice, fatty food on display in a shop that might be visited by an obese person. Whilst that may seem improbable now my concern is that simply accepting these ploys 'for the good of our health and society' can only lead to more erosion of our libertys and free choice in the future. There's a perfectly rational sounding explanation for it, but does that really mean it's ok?

As for smokers costing millions of pounds to treat I think that is also a popular myth banded around to make us seem like inconsiderate citizens. Below are the findings of a Dutch study which indicate the healthcare cost of supporting lifestyles, you'll note that smokers are the main revenue generators for the tax man assuming that all three groups are capable of working and therefore making equal tax contributions:

On average, healthy people lived 84 years. Smokers lived about 77 years, and obese people lived about 80 years. The researchers found that from the age of 20 to 56, obese people racked up the most expensive health costs. But because both the smokers and the obese people died sooner than the healthy group, it cost less to treat them in the long run.

Ultimately, the thin and healthy group cost the most, about £211,000, from age 20 on. The cost of care for obese people was £188,000, and for smokers, about £165,000.