The promise of government proposals to create a “smoke free future” for the UK provoked a press battle over the nanny state.
Most carried reports ahead of health secretary Andy Burnham’s expected announcement on justifying further state intervention. If successful, the Department of Health’s ambitious proposals would mean just 10 per cent of the country’s adult population smoking by 2020, compared with 21 per cent today.
The Mail called it “meddlesome” while the Mirror called it “moral responsibility”
It was reported the scheme would see the government “carefully consider” enforcing plain packaging for cigarette packets, and review whether to extend the smoking ban to cars.
But the lack of specifics did not prevent the Daily Mail using the headline “Drive to stop you smoking at the wheel and at home”, or stop it quoting opinion leaders who said the proposals were “meddlesome” and “unworkable”. These opinion leaders were Simon Clark, director of pro-smoking lobby group Forest, and Conservative MP Philip Davies, who voted against the smoking ban.
The paper did accept that smoking was the leading cause of preventable death in the UK, claiming up to 80,000 lives a year and resulting in 1.4 million hospital admissions, and costing the NHS £2.7bn a year.
However, such figures prompted the Mirror to publish a blistering leader column in defence of Mr Burnham’s arguments. It was, it thundered, the government’s “moral responsibility” to pursue this “noble cause”.
It argued that “stubbing out smoking was the single biggest act that would most improve the nation’s health” and suggested Mr Burnham’s proposals were no more than his “duty”.
The Sun helped its readers understand the significance of the policy by mocking up a picture of a grey coloured cigarette pack.