Row over council decision to name road after cigarette brand

By Adam Postans, Local Democracy Reporter

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An artist's impression of Curo housing association's 70-home development in Imperial Park (Photo: Curo/Stride Treglown via LDRS)

Anti-smoking campaigners have slammed the decision to name a new South Bristol road after a cigarette brand as “morally unacceptable”.

Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) and doctors are imploring the city council and a housing association to change their minds to call the street “Navy Cut Road” in honour of a product made at the site’s former Imperial Group tobacco factory in Bishopsworth.

Bristol City Council says the Mayor’s Office is now reviewing the proposed name.

The row broke out after local Tory Cllr Richard Eddy secured a U-turn from the original idea to name Curo housing association’s 70-home development “Crox View”, after an ancient nearby woodland.

He branded the suggestion “ridiculous” because the geographical feature, Crox Bottom, is obscured from residents’ view by the huge Imperial Park retail centre, and he challenged Curo to come up with something more “gritty” reflecting the location’s recent industrial heritage.

The council’s street-naming team offered four alternatives, all based on the manufacturer’s tobacco products, and Navy Cut, after Imperial Group’s Players Navy Cut cigarettes, was accepted by both the housing association and Cllr Eddy, who welcomed it as “novel” and “inspired”.

But ASH has criticised the decision and wants it reversed.

Chief executive Deborah Arnott said: “Naming a street after a cigarette is a form of advertising called ‘brandsharing’ which if a business were to do it would be illegal.

“It’s legal only because it’s the council not a business doing it, but while it may be legal it’s still morally unacceptable.

“Bristol City Council is responsible for promoting the health and wellbeing of the population, while this will undermine it, something the street-naming team clearly doesn’t understand.

“We urge the council to reconsider.”

She said the legislation was still effective even though Navy Cut cigarettes are no longer officially sold in the UK, although it is understood they are still on sale at some outlets.

North Bristol NHS Trust consultant geriatrician Kyra Neubauer said: “As a doctor I’ve seen too many of my patients suffering from cancers, heart and respiratory disease caused by smoking, before dying prematurely.

“Bristol City Council is responsible for the health and wellbeing of its population, so how can it be ‘appropriate’ as Cllr Eddy has said, to support the promotion of a cigarette brand?

“I’ve written to the director of public health at Bristol City Council to ask her to challenge the decision by the council’s street-naming team to give a street a cigarette brand name.”

Cllr Eddy said in response: “Bishopsworth is a plain-speaking, no-nonsense place and we don’t take kindly to politically correct busybodies pushing their noses into our affairs.

“The ‘woke’ warriors of ASH are nothing more than ignorant Leftie professional agitators and they should refrain from lecturing Bristolians as if we were uninformed and not grown-up.

“Bristolians know our city boasts a ‘gritty’ identity based on manufacturing and trading and we should not shy away from acknowledging our past.

“After all, should the Bedminster coalfield and the sacrifices of its miners be airbrushed from history because of modern concerns about fossil fuels?

“Within living memory, the tobacco-producing Wills family employed over 25,000 workers in Bedminster and thousands more people benefited from jobs in nearby businesses.

“The decline economically and socially in Bedminster can be traced directly to the relocation of the tobacco factories in the early 1970s.

“It would be insane not to acknowledge the importance of this industry to generations of Bristolians in, amongst other things, our street names.”

A Bristol City Council spokesperson said: “The Mayor’s Office are currently reviewing this street naming proposal.”

A Cancer Research UK spokesperson said: “While we understand that councils are often keen to acknowledge local heritage when naming roads, celebrating a tobacco brand in this way isn’t the most helpful message to give out especially to children and young people.

“Smoking remains our biggest preventable killer.

“In England alone 200 people a day die from smoking and it is estimated that 23,000 young people take up smoking by the age of 15 each year in England and Wales.”