Sunday, 11 March 2012

White Space, VDD, and Thank Goodness for Free Range Eggs

On my return from holiday in Scotland, I had to get some basic essentials yesterday, and so dropped into my local Tesco’s to shop. As it turned out, the few crucial items quickly unraveled into a major shop. By the time I got to the till I could see it was time to pull out that double point’s coupon that had been lingering in my wallet with just such a shop in mind. With the flourish of a seasoned Whist player at the local Derby and Joan Club, (younger readers ask your parents what a Derby and Joan Club was) I triumphantly pulled out the coupon only to be told the ‘computer says no’ and that I would need to ask at Customer Services.

So off I dutifully trotted, by now wishing that I had stuck to the just bread and milk shopping list. Now Customer Services sits beside the Cigarette Kiosk and at first I thought the cigarette kiosk must be closed. The shutters were down and where it was normally possible to see the various brands, these were obscured by white space bearing the legend, Cigarettes Sold Here. I asked the young lady who was dealing with me (the participant observer in me noticing that she had matching painted white nails) what was going on. She told me it was some Government thing to stop young people from smoking.

What I had missed in my reading, was the fact that from the 6th April, all large shops in England will need to hide tobacco products from view in a drive to cut the number of smokers and protect young people, who its said, are often the target of much tobacco promotion.

In the interests of fairness, (and in acknowledging that if like me you are in need of purchasing some basic essentials, there are retailers other than Tesco’s who can meet your needs) it needs to be noted that Sainsbury’s, The Co-operative and Waitrose have already been trialing the ‘White Space’ hidden tobacco display approach. Other shops have until 6th April to cover up their tobacco displays and train their counter staff on the new law.

Our Chief Medical Officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies has noted that ending open cigarette displays will help people trying to quit smoking and help change attitudes and social norms around smoking. And last week she also talked about the dangers of vitamin D deficiency. It appears that up to a quarter of the population has low levels of vitamin D in their blood. In severe cases, vitamin D deficiency can lead to bone problems such as rickets in children and weakness, aches and pains due to osteomalacia in adults.

Vitamin D is naturally obtained through exposure to sunlight and from foods such as oily fish, eggs, fortified fat spreads and some breakfast cereals. But it’s difficult to get enough from food alone. Given that I eat my own home produced free range eggs every day for breakfast, and having just come back from a week’s holiday where the sun shone every day, I hope the risk of my experiencing osteomalacia are pretty low. So I think the slump in my shoulders and pain in my back is more likely due to the weight of those emails awaiting a response in my post holiday in-box than any Vitamin D deficiency.