HAVING a conscience and principles doesn’t come cheap - at least, not in circumstances when having them truly matters.

For proof of this we need look no further than shopkeeper Jatin Pandya, a good man who is paying a terrible price for trying to reduce the sum of human misery.

Rather than paying mere lip service to last month’s anti-smoking Stoptober campaign, he opted instead to stop selling tobacco and concentrate on e-cigarettes, which contain far fewer toxins.

Were Mr Pandya a character in some work of feel-good fiction, his bold step would have been repaid many times over in good will and increased revenues, with members of the public vowing to support him and make up for the loss of tobacco money.

Sadly, events in the real world don’t generally turn out like those in feel-good fiction. That is why Mr Pandya faces the prospect of having to pump £20,000 of his own money into Stratton St Margaret Post Office or close it altogether next month.

The customers who voted with their feet were perfectly entitled to do so, of course, just as all smokers are perfectly entitled to smoke.

Even so, there is something very sad about a shop facing ruin because a shopkeeper tried to do something good. It is not as if declining to sell tobacco for a month causes harm.

We only hope that members of the local community who hear about what has happened will now do everything they can to support Mr Pandya and his business.

They should perhaps remember that a post office is always a vital local resource that sells more than tobacco, and that a post office lost is seldom regained.