Cigarettes

There’s clearly no love lost between the health lobby and campaigners against the introduction of plain packaging for tobacco. But at times their arguments, heartfelt though they clearly are, get completely lost among the animosity.

The finer details of competition and international law will be things for the lawyers to squabble over in the months and (no doubt) years to come. The voices not being heard are those of retailers who are already fighting a seemingly unwinnable war against the smugglers and crime gangs undercutting their legitimate trade at every turn.

Plain packs will make it easier for the criminals to ply their trade - retailers’ sales will be hit, as they are already likely to be by the display ban that will come in for small stores across the country in April.

I can’t see the logic for this plain packaging double whammy, which in effect achieves the same thing: putting brands out of sight. But if the government believes the damage to honest retailers’ businesses is a price worth paying to further denormalise smoking - and I see no evidence to suggest it doesn’t - then it should at least have the decency to front up and say so.