Anorak News | Just Say No Tar

Just Say No Tar

by | 1st, January 2007

HOW can we be certain that “9 per cent of children aged between 11 and 15 smoke – down from 13 per cent in 1996”?

Granted, the Independent is often a reliable source for factual reporting but something about statistics on underage vice nags.

Picture the scene as a gang of oiks are hiding their spots beneath hoodies in the shopping precinct. These yoofs are bad to the bone. And along comes a government-sponsored clipboard.

The bored yoofs are asked if they have sex. They do have rampant and almost constant sex. They drink hooch and beer. They take loadsa drugs. They smoke tobacco.

And, according to the figures produced by the Department of Health, and raised by the Times’ front page, these bad yoofs smoke some 600million fags a year. The Department intends to get this figure down to 515million.

And the way to do this is simple: raise the legal age of buying cigarettes from 16 to 18. And on October 1 this will become law.

As a Department of Health spokesman tells the Times: “There is little conclusive evidence that a higher minimum age alone has an impact on reducing smoking prevalence among young people.”

But the thinking is that something needs to be tried. And this something is making it harder than ever for young smokers to buy cigarettes. Although the resourceful young puffer could always get someone to buy cigarettes for them. Buying tobacco for an under-16 is not a crime. It is equally not illegal for an under-16 to smoke a cigarette. These rules will soon be extended to under-18s.

And the tough new rules state that any proprietor caught selling cigarettes to under-18s will be liable for a fine of up to £2,500. And imagine how many Romanian fags that can buy in the market for that much money? Lots.

And, in any case, the under-18s will not be able to smoke their fags in public places from July 1. From that day forward, smokers lighting up in “substantially enclosed” spaces will face on-the-spot £50 fines.

How these fines will be enforced is something of a moot pint. Deborah Arnott, director of the anti-smoking charity Ash, tells the Independent: "More needs to be done to enforce the penalties. The fines are pitiful. In 2004, only about 50 retailers were fined for selling to those underage."

As the Indy says, the Smoking, Drinking and Drug Use Among Young People in England Survey 2004 found that 70 per cent of 11 to 15-year-old smokers buy their cigarettes from small shops such as newsagents.

If Ms Arnott and the Department of Health are correct, small shops sell 420m cigarettes to under-age smokers each year. And if the existing law on selling tobacco to minors is being properly enforced, the 50 or so shops busted sell 840,000 fags to minors each year, or 42,000 packets of 20.

It is clear that the corner shop is either making a fortune for the owner – and the Exchequer – or it is hard to enforce the law when Exhibit A is on fire.

But Public Health Minister Caroline Flint tells the Guardian that the plan is foolproof. Says she: "Smoking is dangerous at any age, but the younger people start, the more likely they are to become life-long smokers and to die early.

"Someone who starts smoking aged 15 is three times more likely to die of cancer due to smoking than someone who starts in their late 20s. Buying cigarettes has been too easy for under-16s, and this is partly due to retailers selling tobacco to those under the legal age.”

So the law will be changed. The Government will get tough with young smokers. It will show them. Smoking is bad for you – no-one can now claim ignorance of this truth.

But what of choice? You know – that thing the Government is so in favour of…

Posted: 1st, January 2007 | In: Uncategorized Comment (1) | TrackBack | Permalink