Editor at Large: Under the counter

PUBLISHED: 11:26 27 March 2008 | UPDATED: 15:42 11 May 2010

IT seems that once again we members of the smoking class are to be assaulted by yet another proposal from the Government. Not content with reducing us to stand outside public buildings for a quick drag, the idea now is to put cigarettes under the counter.

IT seems that once again we members of the smoking class are to be assaulted by yet another proposal from the Government.

Not content with reducing us to stand outside public buildings for a quick drag, the idea now is to put cigarettes under the counter.

Times have certainly changed.

In the 1950s we had the audacity of walking to school instead of taking public transport, and from the money saved we would get ourselves a packet of Weights or Woodbines at the end of the week.

Those with more money could purchase a packet of Senior Service or Player's.

We would hide in the shadows of an alleyway with one of our number acting as look-out in case an adult became suspicious.

And, yes, I was one of those who did actually smoke behind the bike shed in schooldays.

Now I am not by any way advocating that we should turn a blind-eye to the health risks from smoking, or encourage young people to get into such a habit.

It's just that the latest suggestion does seem rather draconian.

And it's from a government which not too long ago decided during another clampdown on smoking that advertising could still appear on Formula 1 racing cars.

It did, however, ensure that such advertising was banned by such people as Benson & Hedges and Rothmans, who were keen to support sporting events.

Perhaps a tobacco company and sport together is, well, ironic.

But did it make people smoke their products? I doubt it.

I mean to say, I haven't changed any insurance policy because AXA sponsors the FA Cup. Nor did I change to Cornhill insurance because it was plouging money into cricket.

But to return to the subject under discussion.

Yes, it is right that the Government should do everything possible to discourage smoking.

Yes, it is right that smoking-related illnesses are a burden on the National Health Service.

And yes, it is right that young people should not be encouraged to begin smoking.

But for us of the smoking classes, it does all seem a bit too much to be almost treated as a criminal to buy a packet of cigarettes and walk away with them in a plain, brown paper-bag.

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