Media release: World No Tobacco Day

FMF holds inaugural “Free to Choose Tuesday” in response to World No Tobacco Day

Today, 31 May is ‘World No Tobacco Day’ when the anti-tobacco lobby including the World Health Organisation (WHO) will call for greater legislation and controls on tobacco consumption and for plain packaging on tobacco products. In his latest salvo in the battle against smokers, South Africa’s Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi intends to introduce plain packaging in South Africa and include graphic pictures of diseased lungs on cigarette cartons. In response, the Free Market Foundation (FMF) is holding its own event on the day to celebrate adult freedom of choice with “Free to Choose Tuesday” to underline the threat to individual liberty from draconian legislation that demonises a legal activity and is a declaration of war on millions of adult consumers who know the risks and choose to continue to smoke.

UK smokers’ group Forest director Simon Clark said, “Plain packaging treats adults like children and teenagers like idiots. Everyone knows the health risks of smoking and very few people start because of the packaging. Plain packaging has nothing to do with health. It's gesture politics designed to appease public health campaigners who are forever searching for new ways to force smokers to quit”.

FMF executive director Leon Louw said, “The battle against draconian anti-smoking legislation, including the latest proposals for plain packaging, is part of the war against intolerance and excessive government intervention in our daily lives. Perhaps you don't smoke but enjoy alcohol, sugary drinks and convenience food and if so, you should be concerned by this attack on your freedom to choose your own lifestyle”.

He continued, “As adult individuals we may decide that the pleasure derived from smoking is worth the health risk. Very few consumers can be unaware of the risks of cancer and other diseases from tar inhaled from tobacco products. However, that informed decision, to smoke in the face of medical evidence, is one that only we as individuals can and should make. That choice is a freedom and one which once given up, is very hard to regain”.

The Department of Health (DoH) says the measures are intended to protect the nation’s health, which is a fine and reasonable principle. However, good health is not the only factor at play in individual happiness. Should we allow politicians to decide for each of us that one factor is preferable to another? Informed consumers accept the health risks associated with smoking. It is the government’s job to educate and remind us and to provide the latest research data.

The FMF will continue to highlight the increasingly intrusive nature of government in the lives of private individuals.

Plain cigarette packaging, also known as generic, standardised or homogeneous packaging, refers to packaging that requires the removal of all branding (colours, imagery, corporate logos and trademarks), permitting manufacturers to print only the brand name in a mandated size, font and place on the pack, in addition to the health warnings and any other legally mandated information such as toxic constituents and tax-paid stamps. The appearance of all tobacco packs is standardised, including the colour of the pack.

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