Tobacco Lobby vs. Parliament: Packaging to Become Plain by 2016
Despite promises of “expensive legal action” from the tobacco lobby both Houses of the UK Parliament defiantly passed legislation this month mandating the plain packaging of all tobacco products. The legislation was voted by the House of Commons with a majority of over 200 and is to become law in May 2016. England is the first European country to pass such legislation.
Proponents of the legislation claim that it is an important control measure for a habit which remains the leading preventable cause of death and disability in the United Kingdom. Tobacco consumption claims 100,000 lives every single year. Health campaigners have been particularly buoyed by the success of the legislation with ‘Action on Smoking and Health’, a British anti-smoking charity, calling it an “immense triumph”. It is hoped the plain packaging - a dark monotone colour with a standardized typeface and most of the box given over to graphic health warnings – will help to protect children from being lured into the habit and to remove the powers of ‘brand affinity’ from the tobacco industry.
The industry itself has denied the claims made by health campaigners refuting the efficacy of the move as a public health measures and insisting that there is no evidence that plain packaging reduces smoking uptake either in children or the population at large. The tobacco lobby have also painted the legislation as the theft of tobacco companies’ intellectual property and have vowed to fight the move in both the domestic and international courts.
Legislative representatives of the other UK Home Nations have vowed to pass similar legislation in the coming terms. The effects of the ban are hard to calculate, but both health campaigners and the tobacco lobby will be watching with baited breath to see if other member states make a similar move.
Osborne’s Budget Announced – Will It Alter the upcoming Election?
On 18th March Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne (Conservative Party) announced the final Budget before the general election in May. His speech in the House of Commons was a key chance to woo the electorate two weeks before the election and reassure the country that his economic plan for Britain has so far been successful. “Britain is walking tall again”, said Osborne.
However, he also stressed the fact that the country needs to be kept on track, and that the Conservatives aim is for “Britain to become the most prosperous major economy in the world”, a statement which is nothing if not ambitious. He then continued to explain how his plans would benefit everyone.
There were several Budget points which aroused the public’s interest, from a 1p cut to duty on beer and a 2 percent cut on cider and spirits, to an increased tax-free personal allowance. In addition, annual tax returns are to be replaced by individual online tax accounts, and ‘Help to Buy: ISAs’ (Individual Savings Accounts) will be introduced. Due to a lack of affordable homes, Britain has experienced a housing crisis over the past few years. The ‘Help to Buy: ISA’ is the government’s way of helping first time buyers by contributing £50 for every £200 they save towards a house deposit.
However, it appears unlikely that this Budget will dramatically alter the election results in May. Although the Conservatives gained a three-point lead over Labour in the opinion polls, the latest figures show the Labour and Conservative parties to be neck and neck.
Furthermore, certain groups have criticised Osborne`s policies The housing and homelessness charity Shelter, among others, has condemned Osborne’s ‘Help to Buy: ISA’, stating that “by 2020 we’ll spend the same amount on Help to Buy ISAs as is needed to plug the affordable housing gap”. In addition, while the cuts to beer duty might appeal to the average consumer, alcohol campaigners have warned that cheap alcohol causes problems. Balance, the North East Alcohol Office, stated that liver disease and violent crime linked to alcohol is “largely driven by the widespread availability of cheap alcohol.”
Prime Minister Cameron Will Not Serve Third Term as PM
During an interview with the BBC on 24th March, Prime Minister David Cameron revealed: “I’ll stand for a full second term, but I think after that it will be time for new leadership,” unveiling his intentions to step down as Conservative party leader before the 2020 general election. What some considered little more than an honest reply to a question, others saw as big news. The media began to speculate on the effects of Cameron’s response on his election campaign.
Following the statement the Labour party critizised Cameron for this move:“It is typically arrogant of David Cameron to presume a third Tory term in 2020 before the British public have been given the chance to have their say,” says Douglas Alexander, Labour election strategist, referring to the upcoming election in May. Furthermore, speculation has begun regarding who would take over the reins as party leader: Home Secretary Theresa May, Chancellor George Osborne and Mayor of London Boris Johnson as examples of Conservatives who might succeed him in the future.
After the initial stir caused by Cameron’s remarks, a survey has revealed that 38% of Britons think his announcement was right, and 38% think it was wrong, indicating that it might not have the effect which certain people were expecting. Nevertheless, it will be interesting to see whether, should the Tories maintain their position as the governing party, Cameron keeps his word and stays the full second term, or whether someone new will be running the show.
Author Sir Terry Pratchett dies aged 66
In Terry Pratchett’s world famous disc world novels the grim reaper is called `Death´. Death is a rather quaint but likable fellow with a dark cloak and a skythe who likes cats and a good helping of spicy curry. For every human on the disc world he has hour glass filled with sand. Slowly but surely the sand trickles down. As soon as the last grain has fallen through, it is time for Death to his work. Sadly, on March 12th, the sand in Terry Pratchett’s hourglass finally ran out following a long battle against Alzheimer’s Disease.
With over 85 million book copies sold, available in 37 languages, Pratchett was one of the most popular writers in the UK and around the world. In his lifetime he received multiple awards, such as the prestigious Carnegy Medal, and was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE). In 2009 Pratchett was knighted by Queen Elisabeth II for his contribution to literature.
Having heard of Pratchett’s death Prime Minister David Cameron tweeted: „Sad to hear of Sir Terry Pratchett’s death, his books fired the imagination of millions.”