The Patch

January 9, 2007

Tuesday 9th January 2007

Filed under: UK News — Claire @ 12:03 am

So, my first column for The Patch. I’ve been sat here for a good few hours wracking my brain for topics to write about. See, it’s January the 9th, and lovely as it is to be here at the beginning of 2007 with our collective New Year’s resolutions barely broken, let’s face it, the UK is pretty boring at this time of year. The Christmas tree has been put away for another year, we’ve barely recovered from the hangovers we’ve had pretty much constantly since December the 24th, and nobody really does anything newsworthy.

Trawling the internet for ideas, I was amused that the ITN website thought it was important we all be aware that grapefruit sales have dramatically increased in recent days, with Asda selling 60,000 grapefruits in a three-hour period. This, they inform us, is due to the number of people starting New Year diets. Which is absolutely thrilling, but not what we here at The Patch would expect our readers to give much of a crap about.

It’s a pretty good job, then, that I found something in the UK News wilderness to actually report.

Yes, 2007 brought with it the news that the Government has plans to increase the age at which tobacco can legally be bought in England and Wales from 16 to 18 in October. An increase of two years…what’s the point? If you stood in front of me a common-a-garden mid-teenager, I’d have a very hard job telling you what age they actually were. Even the most proficient shop assistant would have some difficulty in determining whether a member of today’s makeup-plastered, short skirt-wearing youth is 16 or 18. Even youths younger than 16 could pass as 18 in the right light.

Even if we do become more strict as a country in whom we sell tobacco to, there’s nothing to stop a 15-year-old kid from bunging his big brother a few quid to go and buy him 20 Superkings. There’s nothing to prevent gangs of teens from hanging about outside supermarkets harassing random shoppers to go in and do them a favour

Sure, I see the logic. The teenaged smokers of today are the middle-aged patients with heart problems and lung cancer 40 years down the line. Stop them early, and you stop them for life, or so the theory goes. But it’s not always like that. The solution to the ‘problem’ of smoking doesn’t lie in one simple law change. It’s not foolproof enough, for a start. Shop assistants will continue to be lax in asking for ID, and kids will continue to smoke.

It’s a rebellion and an imitation of the Bridget Jones types in films who’s answer to all life’s problems is to spark up, and of those old suave male characters who are portrayed as cool simply because of their ability to control the fag hanging from the corner of their mouth whilst they solve crimes and fight bad guys. The perception of smoking is one of the many things that need to change if the number of people that smoke is to decrease significantly enough for our health service to be able to cope with the unwelcome after effects of the habit, and that’s not going to happen just because of a slight tweak in the law.

On the plus side, and despite my pessism, I’m sure the law change will make it a little harder for our youth to get their hands on cigarettes whilst they are underage. It will slightly decrease the number of people who smoke in the UK in a long term sense. But is it enough?



  1. Very good article… thought provoking. Nice one 🙂

    Comment by Martin — January 9, 2007 @ 12:14 am | Reply

  2. well you can’t really ID a 16 year old, as there’s no common government issued photo ID for that age group. however, once you’re 18 you can be expected to carry a driving license (provisional or real), proveit card, etc, so they can be stricter with the IDing without alienating most of their (legal) consumers.

    Comment by bob — January 9, 2007 @ 5:15 pm | Reply

  3. Very nice first article. 60,000 grapefruit! REALLY?

    I hope they keep steadily rising this smoking age until it gets to like 40 to accomodate for all the people who are already addicted (the ones who didn’t know better decades ago). Then one day you’ll only see cigerettes in museums, hopefully.

    Comment by Marton — January 22, 2007 @ 8:14 pm | Reply

  4. […] my actual story this week kind of links with my very first Patch article on one of my pet-rants, smoking. Rest easy, though, I’m not off on another whimsical […]

    Pingback by Wednesday 4th April 2007. « The Patch — April 4, 2007 @ 6:32 pm | Reply

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