As the Department of Health launch the consultation on Standardised Packaging of Tobacco Products, I went to meet my local MP, Duncan Hames at his latest surgery.

Beforehand, I sent Mr Hames an email outlining my concerns. Here’s an excerpt:

‘My concerns about a further move towards tighter tobacco control are about the unintended consequences. When excise duty was increased in the 1990’s the consequence was an illegal import of tobacco and cigarettes from the near continent. This has grown into a criminally organised operation and this has lead to a huge increase in burglaries and robberies, many armed against newsagent and convenience store. My wife and I were victims of a night time raid in 2009 so we know all too well the trauma and disruption that this causes.’

Mr Hames responded saying that he understands my concerns, and would be pleased to meet with me. A useful start.

To prepare, I first read the Plain Truth by Patrick Basham and John Luik. The key messages I took from this?

  • There are better ways to reduce the number of children who start smoking than ever increasing legislation and taxation
  • Tobacco control science appears to be far from rigorous

I then drew up a list of points that I wished to discuss:

  •  Illicit tobacco now makes up 25% of the market. Not only does the Government not receive tax from these supplies, but their content is uncontrolled, possibly meaning an increased health risk
  • The possible causes and answers to reducing smoking among young people
  • The lack of rigour in Tobacco Control science
  • Which parts of his constituency have the worst smoking problems?
  • The back-door funding of the SmokeFree South West’s publicity campaign.

This was the first MP surgery I had attended and – after a 2 hour wait – it went much better than I anticipated.  Mr Hames listened actively to my points and asked questions where he needed clarification. He promised to look at what correspondence he has had on the issues that we covered and to send me copies. For other issues he would ask the Department of Health for answers and provide me with a copy.

I will report back on his response!