So there we are walking through Hull - I forget quite where but it doesn't matter - and, as was are wont, we were smoking. Anyway a young lad walks up to John de Forte waving a slightly scrunched fag.
"Gotta light mate?" John looks at the child, snatches the cigarette from him and screws it up before throwing it to the ground where he stamped on it.
"Disgusting. Disgusting." Exclaimed John as he reached for his jacket pocket from which he brought out a packet of Capstan Full Strength. "That's not a cigarette. This is a cigarette."
That kid is either coughing his guts out on some council estate in Hull or else hasn't toughed tobacco since - kill or cure as John put it at the time. And the truth is that that child hadn't opted to smoke because of the shiny gold and silver packets. He smoked because his mum did or because all his mates did or because he thought it made him look tough.
Still the government has taken another step towards introducing plain packs for cigarettes. This is mostly because those nasty Labour people said we wouldn't do it not because it's a policy that has loads of public support. In the end it probably doesn't matter a great deal - smokers will go on smoking, kids will carry on trying a cigarette they nicked off their mum or a drag from the old brother.
Nevertheless the legions of health fascism will be raising their glasses of filtered water (or whatever it is that puritan teetotal fussbuckets drink these days) to Jane Ellison the Minister for Public Health. And this utterly illiberal measure - the stealing of someone's intellectual property for a supposed health benefit that simply doesn't exist. Put bluntly, plain packaging (rather like advertising bans and banning smoking in pubs) will not make a jot of different to either the prevalence of smoking or the propensity of children to take up smoking. There is precisely zero evidence showing that the suppression of brand advertising reduces aggregate consumption - whether we're talking about fags, booze or butterscotch.
The very worst thing about this is that we now have open season - every fussbucket with a cause (usually a state-funded cause) to plug will be out there calling for plain packaging for their chosen demon. Plain packs for booze, plain packs for burgers, plain packs for sugar...for sweets, for chocolate, for fizzy drinks...there really is no end to the things those hideous puritan teetotal fussbuckets don't want us to see. And stupid politicians - the ones like Jane Ellison with no spines - will skip around the health fascists cooing and purring because they're good at getting headlines on the BBC or in the Daily Mail.
It is depressing, sad and pathetic.