​Smoking ban could see return of under-the-counter single fags - Vladimir McTavish

New laws on smoking will prevent anyone born on or before 2009 being sold cigarettesNew laws on smoking will prevent anyone born on or before 2009 being sold cigarettes
New laws on smoking will prevent anyone born on or before 2009 being sold cigarettes
When I was a 15-year-old, quite a few doctors smoked. I seem to remember, our family GP was a smoker.

In fact, he didn’t just smoke. I have a pretty clear recollection of him puffing on a Capstan Full Strength.

Younger readers will be blissfully unfamiliar with these lethal fags from my childhood. They had no filter tip and were so high in tar and nicotine that nowadays they would probably be banned and even listed as a class-A drug.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

There was probably enough tar in a 20-pack of Capstan to fill all the potholes in the average city centre street.

These gaspers were undoubtedly very bad for him, but he had no idea of their danger because the packets didn’t even carry a health warning in those innocent times.

Also, when I was 15, we used to be able to buy single fags for two pence each from the sweet shop outside our school gates.

I’m pretty sure it was highly illegal even back then to split up a packet of cigarettes and sell them under the counter to school kids.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Amazingly, even at 2p-a-pop the shop owner would have made a whacking profit on a 20-pack of Player’s Number Six, which probably retailed for around 25p. We would either smoke these illicit fags in the cafe next door, because it was legal to do so indoors in the Seventies.

Either that, or we would share one Embassy between three of us on the back of the bus on the way home. Smoking on buses was allowed then too, as long as you were upstairs.

Not only are these simple rights of passage denied to today’s 15-year-olds, they are very unlikely to ever be able to legally buy a packet of cigarettes in this country.

A bill passed in Parliament this week, when it becomes law, will prevent anyone born on or before 2009 to be sold cigarettes. From 2026, the legal smoking age will rise by a year every year. So by 2030, no-one under the age of 31 will be able to pop down to the corner shop or the all-night garage for a packet of 20.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

It’s an ambitious bill and it will doubtless reap huge benefits in terms of the nation’s health. The lost revenue from tobacco taxes will be more than offset by the millions it will save the NHS. Or so the thinking goes.

I’m just not convinced it will stop people smoking. The fact that heroin is illegal doesn’t appear to stop people shooting up. For years, there has been a huge black market in cheap fags smuggled in from Europe and a chillingly dangerous trade in counterfeit tobacco products.

A few years ago, a BBC Scotland documentary found counterfeit cigarettes to contain lethal amounts of lead. All of this is likely to increase in the coming years. On a lighter note, the new law could open up a very lucrative income stream for the 70-year-olds of the future.

They’ll be able to top up their pensions, standing outside Tesco’s selling smokes to the 30-somethings who have been knocked back at the tobacco counter. We may even see the return of the under-the-counter single fag.