After a long and drawn out debate spanning years of "should we, shouldn't we" the government has finally decided that cigarettes must be sold in plain packaging.
General advertising of tobacco was banned in the UK in 2003, and 11 years on, the government has decided that having a few colours on a package will make people smoke. Tobacco sales have only reduced slightly in this time.
I would just like to clarify at this point that I am in no way condoning cigarettes. As a smoker, I know that it's bad for me. And, as a smoker, I genuinely believe that tobacco sales should be banned. But the move to make packaging plain is neither here nor there.
What this shows is a sign of weakness and that they are conflicted in themselves about what they should and can do.
Not much time passes between one call to ban tobacco completely to the next. These calls are usually supported by "smoking costs the UK taxpayer around £5bn (€6bn, $8bn) a year".
Yes that is an awful lot for something that could be so easily prevented with an outright ban. But tobacco sales in the UK in 2012 amounted to an estimated £15.1bn. And the tax taken from that in the 2012/2013 tax year was £12.3bn.
If you take the cost of treating smoking related illnesses and diseases away from that tax, that's an £8.3bn profit for the government. There is no way that they can ban smoking altogether.
Not only is it too valuable in terms of taxes, but it's a nice inflow for shops too. When it was announced that cigarettes were no longer allowed to be in the public view, the shops countered this by putting behind doors signs that say "TOBACCO" in massive letters followed by "kills" in smaller letters beneath it.
If you smoke, you smoke, and you know what is behind those shutters. So if cigs are already out of sight, how will plain packaging make any difference?
It's patronising to the youth also. They say that the colours and branding encourage young people to smoke. Ridiculous.
If kids start smoking, then they're probably going to be about 14-15 when they do. It's a worry if the government has that little faith in future generations that they believe that a few bright colours will encourage them to pick up a deadly habit. They are humans, not moths drawn to a light.
In 2003, when the ban on advertising cigarettes came into place, 26% of adults (aged 18 and over) smoked in England. Recent studies suggest now that almost 21% of the adult population smoke.
Maybe a portion of this decline can be attributed to the advertising ban, but we also know a lot more about it now. We know how bad it is, and we have been discouraged from smoking.
As a country, we make too much money from smoking. It's sad, but it's true. The implementation of plain packaged cigarette boxes will not discourage anyone from smoking. Not young people, not adults.
It won't make a blind bit of difference when you take into account that there is already a visual ban.
This latest action is simply a ploy to make it look like they're taking action. It just highlights that they can't do anything about it whilst they're making so much money.