Sainsbury’s fireworks ban will only bring false hope to the agitated and uptight

Steven Downes says the decision of Sainsbury's to stop selling fireworks is an empty gesture that wo

Steven Downes says the decision of Sainsbury's to stop selling fireworks is an empty gesture that won't solve any particular problems with anti-social behaviour - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

If you aren't sure what the phrase 'virtue signalling' means, think Sainsbury's and think fireworks.

The supermarket giant has banned the sale of fireworks at its stores, apparently to stop pets leaping out of their fur and older people jumping out of their armchairs during Countryfile.

But, as with so many gestures in this "do the right thing" world, there is always a secondary aim pustulating beneath the thin skin of good intentions.

It's not just about saving dogs and the elderly, but receiving praise from various charities and countless hand-wringers.

People are falling over themselves to pat Sainsbury's on the head for taking the lead in the oh-so-millennial movement to ban fireworks full stop.

But it's a gesture so empty that it probably comes with cobwebs and dry rot.

Imagine if John Lewis banned the sale of kitchen knives in a bid to reduce knife crime. Yeah, that'd help.

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Or imagine if Thornton's stopped selling chocolate, to beat obesity. Within weeks, we'll all be skinny, right?

The sort of amoebae who frighten the bejeezus out of Killer and Ethel are highly unlikely to be stocking up on their fireworks at Sainsbury's. They'll get their arsenal from budget supermarkets, pound stores and market stalls.

An empty gesture deserves empty praise, so Sainsbury's I salute you for bringing false hope to the agitated and the uptight.

Oh, and thanks also for spreading fog to obscure what should the real debate around fireworks - how to control their use, not how to ban them.

We are in an era when anything that is found to have caused even the slightest harm or offence should apparently be banned. That doesn't stretch to the white wine that is creating a generation of middle-class alcoholics, but that's another story.

When it comes to fireworks, there's no need to overreact, but there is a need to legislate - and to back it up with action.

Guy Fawkes Night has existed for a long-old time, and given generations of people a safe outlet for their desire to set fires and blow things up.

The key word here is "night". It's not Guy Fawkes Week or Guy Fawkes Month.

It used to be observed pretty much on the one evening each year - ideally November 5. Now, though, random rockets are being set off willy-nilly throughout the autumn.

If you have young children, pets, are elderly, have anxiety, or have a heart problem, it's either annoying or downright dangerous. It's also double jeopardy time, because there's a risk of answering the door to a child in a Scream mask as the Halloween season stretches.

I wouldn't care if fireworks ceased to exist, as I find displays terminally dull. They are here, though, and will not go away.

Therefore there needs to regulation, not prohibition (the USA saw how that worked out).

The use of fireworks should be legally restricted to November 5.

The only exceptions should be large, set-piece displays linked to be events - such as carnivals, big outdoor gigs, etc.

Every event or any person that seeks to let off fireworks - even just one - should be made to make a licensing application, in the same way that those who sell booze do.

If you do it without a licence, it's a police matter. Hopefully nobody will be let off.

The effect of tightening the law will be that the market will shrink: demand for fireworks will fall, therefore supply will have to be adjusted.

Shops don't stock what they cannot sell.

By firing a legal rocket up the rear end of the firework bandits, the problem dissipates like a sparkler.

And all without the need for virtue signalling and angst among the chattering classes.