Welcome though the tobacco white paper will be if it saves even one life (and it will surely save far more than that), it was in truth a disappointing document afforded an unwarranted easy ride by the many professional and lobby groups which usually campaign with such vigour (See News Focus, page 13).

As health secretary Frank Dobson himself pointed out in Parliament last week, the tobacco industry ultimately kills half its customers and invests vast sums in recruiting replacements for the 120,000 who die each year. Yet the measures to tackle it set out in Smoking Kills remain slow and patchy.

And while Mr Dobson himself is a confirmed non-smoker (how odd it now seems to look back on the days when Kenneth Clarke would puff happily away on a cigar without that much censure), the government appears to have suffered a collective failure of nerve and to have panicked at the possible cost.

There will be no ban on workplace smoking - and no explanation, either. Just consultation on another code of practice. Nor will there be even a partial ban on smoking in other public places. A voluntary agreement with the publicans' and restaurateurs' trade bodies is judged sufficient. Neither is good enough.

Some smokers will be offered nicotine replacement therapy on the NHS. Good. But it will be available only for the very worst off, only for those among them who live in health action zones... and then only for one week. To describe that as a 'comprehensive' service is to stretch credulity.

And even as tobacco smugglers are being threatened with up to seven years in jail - not for peddling a deadly product, as the white paper suggests, but for evading taxes - prime minister Tony Blair is busy defending our right to buy industrial quantities of cheap tobacco the moment we set sail for Calais.

Smoking Kills could never have appeared under the Conservatives. But we expect more of this government on public health - not least because it tells us to. And given that it tells us to expect so much, we should demand more than this has to offer.