Something Pat Nurse said recently has been niggling at my mind:
…there may be something we can do to sue the Govt for removing our consumer rights under The Sale of Goods Act 1979 which says that consumers must be assured they they know what they are buying and can be assured of the quality of the goods. Of course when plain or standarised packaging comes in, we won’t have a clue.
Plain packaging for cigarettes makes no sense. If, as the antismoking drones believe, kids are still able to buy single cigarettes in some shops (I rather suspect that that has not been happening for quite some time) then of what relevance is packaging? How can they be at all affected by the shiny packets, when they are buying one cigarette?
I don’t care if all tobacco comes in plain packs. I have already taken to using a cheerful tobacco tin which carries no warnings at all. Sell it in black wrappers with ‘The Dried Leaf of Death’ stamped on it, I don’t care. I’ll transfer it to this happy little tin box and throw the wrappers away.
Plain packs will have no effect on anyone at all, ever, other than the criminals.
As it is, if a counterfeiter makes a fairly good copy of a branded pack, he can fill it with his crap smokes and sell it to some bleary-eyed bloke in a pub. What he will find much harder to do is to sell a caseload of it to a shopkeeper. The shopkeeper is likely to spot the forged packs because he has them in his shop and sees them every day, even if he doesn’t smoke.
Forged plain packs will be much harder to spot. They all look the same. The only thing the forger needs do is type the name of the brand he’s forging on the front of them. So the forged tobacco can move from the bleary end-of-evening pub car park to selling by the truckload in Tesco. Tesco will spot it? How? All you need do is get into the supply line at any point and the unsuspecting legitimate system will do the rest.
Take a caseload of fake tobacco worth, well, nothing at all, really. Get your mates in the warehouse to swap it for a case of the real thing. You now have something worth a goodly sum, and since you have replaced it with something that looks exactly the same, nobody knows it’s gone. This is what the Health People are setting up. This is what the BMA think is a good idea.
This is what your government is arranging for you.
It goes further. Pat mentions the Sale of Goods Act, so can we expect all those consumer groups to get involved? Not a chance. ‘It’s only the smokers’, so they will not do a damn thing to help us. The government will amend the Sale of Goods Act so it’s nicely woolly and vague, and plain packs will come into being. And all those consumer groups will smile and pat the smokers on the head and say ‘never mind’.
Next it will be booze. Again, the consumer groups will do nothing because ‘it’s only the drinkers’. If necessary, the government will further amend the sale of goods act to let them have their grey beer bottles.
It will continue to spread. Eventually it will hit some group of consumers that the consumer groups actually give a shit about and they will rise up, enraged, and say ‘You cannot do this. The Sale of Goods Act…’
Oh, but the Sale of Goods act now says yes, they can do this. To anything they like. There’ll be no point in the consumer groups existing, there will be nothing they can do any more. The laws they used to quote to defend consumers will have all been torn down.
It starts with plain packaging for cigarettes. Once that is passed, it’s then too late to moan that all cars must be grey and all houses painted the same colour and you can’t have a picture of whatever you’re buying on the box and you don’t know what clothing you’ve bought until you get it home to find it’s yet another set of blue overalls.
The smoking ban set off a whole new wave of puritanism that is still going, but plain packaging is an entirely new dimension of control. It is the destruction of brand image. All of it For every brand, everywhere.
It’s not even about smokers any more. The target is capitalism.
Maybe it always was.