One of the most important purposes of a nation’s constitution is to protect all individuals, organisations and companies – without discrimination – from the ever-present temptation amongst politicians and other rulers to restrict or destroy their rights and freedoms. Two of the sacred pillars of the Swedish Constitution are those which protect the freedoms of speech, expression and the press (encompassing all printed information). Which is why current events are sending shockwaves through the country, as well as chilling reminders of darker times.
The reason for this concern is the news that Public Health Minister Gabriel Wikström is planning to re-write Sweden’s Constitution in order to drive through his proposed policy of plain packaging for tobacco products.
You see, thanks to the constitution, the government can’t simply order companies to dispense with the intellectual property that constitutes their products’ packaging. Which makes sense. Otherwise governments could run roughshod over all manner of things that they personally happen to disapprove of at any given time. Think of it as a baby-harness to stop immature politicians from running astray.
So rather than break the constitution, the government intends to re-write it. Extraordinarily stupid policies require extraordinary measures.
It’s a distressing sign of the times that an elected politician in a modern democracy feels the need (and the power) to change the rulebook so drastically, purely in order to railroad through a policy that has had precisely zero effect on youth or adult smoking rates elsewhere. But that’s the inevitable result when you prostrate yourself before the ideological gods of the Public Health and Tobacco Control industries. You end up abusing the law to appease their addiction to increasingly far-fetched and illiberal demands. It displays such a shameless disregard for the democratic process in and of itself. But the consequences of such tyrannical action are as far-reaching as they are ominous.
Wikström isn’t acting alone of course. Not only will his policy be welcomed by a worrying number of politicians from all the major parties, he is also being egged on, as always, by the notorious gang of prohibitionists at anti-smoking, anti-snus, anti-vaping lobby group Tobaksfakta. Here’s their Chairman:
It’s incredible that this group of fanatics is still thriving, considering the scandals that it’s been involved in over the years. But I suppose it’s easy to thrive when you have a sugar daddy. It’s particularly sweet when that sugar daddy is Gabriel Wikström, who is always eager to dig deep into Swedish taxpayers’ pockets in order to hand out ludicrous sums of money to Tobaksfakta and their web of spin-off groups.
Of course, Wikström’s plans may yet be defeated, and be forgotten as a sad but ultimately harmless footnote in history. If it is waved through parliament, this disregard for a basic yet hard-won freedom is a trivial development for almost everyone outside of Sweden, and will likely go un-noticed by many within. But it serves as yet another reminder that nothing is sacred in the eyes of the world’s health fascists – not even the law.
As Christopher Snowdon has documented on countless occasions, this will not (and was never intended to) stop with tobacco. If Herr Boëthius and Minister Wikström succeed in destroying a freedom that is set in stone in the nation’s constitution, on the flimsy justification that it is necessary “to support health”, who can possible predict where it will end? Boëthius & Wikström are polishing the most slippery of slopes. It’s not just the alcohol or food trades that should be speaking out, before they too become victims. This concerns anyone who believes in the right of the individual, the organisation, the company to be free from the puritanical diktats of an authoritarian regime.
No matter what your views on smoking may be, it’s vital that people speak out while they still can. You might even think that plain packaging is a good idea (and if you do, feel free to post your “evidence” below for us to laugh at). But no policy is worth it if the price is the trampling upon of basic, universal freedoms. Throwing the tobacco industry under the “public health” bus is a dangerous game. Because there’ll be another one bus along any minute.