Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Up With This Sort Of Thing

As a business owner, I've ploughed through many a politely-worded business-speak pdf file, the good Lord help me I have. I've seen so many that if you cut me up, my retinas would be indelibly imprinted with terms such as 'Key Performance Indicators' and 'Milestone Objectives'. In triplicate, probably.

Then, for relaxation, I come home and ... read more pdf files from public sector blow-hards and state-funded, pumped up, anti-fun bansturbators who seem to think they are somehow not the same as indolent benefit leeches. Which they are, of course. In fact, here are some pictured sitting on their sorry arses wasting the handouts that they are shovelled. Bring back national service, I say! Send the lazy, good-for-nothin' tax drains off to Afghanist...

... anyway, I digress. Back to the point.

I read yet another last night, as posted at Taking Liberties. A response to the Welsh Assembly by Imperial Tobacco, specifically, and if you haven't yet done so, perhaps you should read it too as it came as a bit of a surprise.

Simon Clark gave us a few teasers, but the whole document was a fully-referenced piece stubbornly rejecting the collective back-slapping of Welsh legislators in the tobacco control debate (if there ever was one).

As I said, these things have to be worded in a certain way - it's laid down in the public sector scriptures, so it is - but in seven glorious pages, Imperial Tobacco eloquently conveyed the message "Sorry, but you've lost the plot, and we ain't buying your crap no more".

What's more, they did so by quoting back to the assembly their own - and Westminster's - (expensively-drafted) documents. Here's an example.

It is therefore bewildering that the Government sees adult free choice as a ‘problem’; that prevalence stagnation is due to a lack of mass-media anti-smoking campaigns7, the use of niche tobacco products8, and smoking in cars and homes9, all of which were considered negligible issues at the time of the smoking ban6. When informed adults choose to continue smoking the answer should not be yet more draconian and disproportionate policies to force behaviour change.
The superscript references were Welsh consultation document assertions totally refuted by Welsh NHS papers apparently referenced in the process.


The Plan claims that ”Smoking is also a leading cause of health inequalities, having been identified as the main cause for the gap in life expectancy between rich and poor.”11

The belief that health inequalities arise as a consequence of smoking is spurious. As set out clearly in the Marmot Report published in the UK last year, the root causes of health inequalities are fundamental:

“…Most effective actions to reduce health inequalities will come through action within the social determinants of health. However, attempts to reduce health inequalities have … relied increasingly on tackling more proximal causes (such as smoking), through behaviour change programmes. Part of the explanation for this emphasis lies with the comparative ease of identifying action to address behaviour, rather than the complexity of addressing social inequalities shaping such behaviours.12
Marmot sets out two alternatives; one challenging but effective, one simple but ultimately inadequate. The Government appears guilty of opting for the latter option.
And after blowing a raspberry at the consultation for its shoddy evidence, well, why not a bit of plain old-fashioned ridicule, eh?

The Plan insists that there is no evidence of a shift in smoking to the home from pubs and workplaces. Considering that prevalence levels have remained flat at 24% since 2007 it leads one to question where else the Government thinks the adult smokers, who have been forced out of pubs, now smoke.
I just wish the author had been allowed to suffix that with "well, duh!".

Oh, oh, wait. I nearly forgot this bit, you'll love it!

Furthermore, the evidential base for the introduction of invasive legislation is often absent or highly flawed. For example, one report that was extensively recycled in the media claimed that second-hand smoke was “…23 times more toxic in a vehicle than in a home...” 20 Such claims are without any substance, and have been roundly refuted by the evidence21.
Indeed. In fact, there wasn't any evidence whatsoever. It was a load of made-up guff from the start and bolstered by a game of gullible Chinese Whispers, as we who are 'not experts, Dave' have known all along, but which ASH (the experts, remember?) swallowed whole.

As did dozy Welsh anti-smoking politicos (and boy are they dozy, you only have to remember laughing at this guy for proof), it would seem.

It's been suggested that the response, great as it is, won't even be read by the people paid by Welsh taxpayers to do so. That's as maybe, but perhaps Imperial Tobacco knew that, as the only thing missing from the response was a great fat dirty one of these at the bottom.

Yaki dah this, sunshine

Following on from obstinate challenges to the vending machine and tobacco display bans in Scotland, is this a new, hunkier tobacco industry we are seeing here? One more in tune with what we would like to see from them?

Let's hope so, 'cos I read the Imperial response and was hearing the A-team theme as Mr T bazooka-ed the damn fools who had held him captive for much of the show; it was the Indiana Jones grimace as he decided enough was enough in Temple of Doom; the bullied kid finally wising up and kicking Big Baz squarely in the balls.

We want more of this stuff, guys and gals. Civil servants and their fake charity lickspittles may not be listening, but if we really must be surrounded by morally and evidentially corrupt righteous scumbags, let's go down fighting like Butch and Sundance, not Mr bloody Bean*.

* Or, indeed, CAMRA.


handymanphil said...

Excellent blog DP, and may I say that it is about time the slumbering giants roused themselves and started to object to the varying prohibitive measures being put on their customers for using a legal (their legal) product-TOBACCO!
Serious anti prohibition organisations have not gone unnoticed thus far but bigger muscle is needed. We nned a powerful voice to combat the daily inanities emanating from the ASH office of spurious surveys/statements. Keep it up DP :)

Mr A said...

I bet not one of those ASHites is is on less than a 100k a year. Then again, I'd gladly pay them twice as much to stop distorting the scientific method, trampling on private property rights and encouraging social division.

Reckon any of them would take me up on the offer?

Blue'n'Bramble said...

Well done Imperial! There is no point meekly saying yes sir, no sir, three bags full sir all the time to the government. It's about time they were threatened with tobacco companies leaving the country for good. Just think of the tax they would lose out on!

Snowdon said...

Judging by the photo of ASH's AGM that you link to, they hold their meetings underneath inverted crucifixes. Perhaps this is the source of all their power?

David Davis said...

Very good, and not before time, but probably too late.

In 1980 and 81 when I was working at Allen, Brady and Marsh (ABM) advertising agents, and was advising peter Marsh on political issues as he regularly appeared on the wireless,in "Any Questions?" I and a lawyer, Graham Smith (who I think may still be senior partner of Bird and Bird) wrote a document for Marsh to discuss with the tobacco firms, about the increasing levels of State interference in tobacco advertising. We averred that the any controls on advertising were (a) the thin end of the wedge of total tobacco control, and (b) represented outright censorship by the British State of the right of private firms to speak well of their own products in ways that pleased them and their customers. If the battle had perhaps been joined at that point, then the forces of tyranny might have been stayed or eliminated early on, for little money and time. But it was not to be: the firms decided to argue to the State that advertising was "all about persuading customers to switch brands". On this basis the State threw out the industry's objections, justifying logically that the advertising spends were therefore a zero-sum-game, and could be banned.

The rest is history. It was the Thatcher government, so it would not have taken mush of a push to get a more libertarian argument through to policy-makers. But they blew it.

Anonymous said...

If freedom2choose had the money available as ASH have, ASH would have a serious problem maintaining their position as chief fabricators of facts and manipulators of anything statistical. It is incredible that what they produce is believed over and above scientific fact!

Dick Puddlecote said...

Snowdon: Well, we always knew there was something evil about them, Good spot. :)

David Davis: Very interesting stuff, thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

As for the old peculiars, they'll soon be CAMRA OBSCURA.

Anonymous said...

That ASH picture was like something out of a vampire movie.
Even the lighting was dimmed.

Belinda said...

Interesting background from David Davis, but I am not sure that I like the 'too late' implication: is everything lost to us because of a decision made in 1981?

Sam Duncan said...

Well, if this is a sign of the tobacco industry growing a pair, I said it in my last comment on a smoking thread: I'm with B'n'B. Take the “nuclear option” and pull out of the UK altogether. Give 'em what they want, good and hard.

Sure, they might take it as a sign of weakness, until they had to deal with the public outrage, the job losses, and the massive loss of duty revenue.

It would be fun to watch, anyway.

Back in the real world, David Davis is absolutely right: tobacco advertising should have been tackled as a freedom-of-speech issue (which it is) from the off, and - to follow one of Dick's favourite themes - not simply for its own sake. Once the principle of censorship has been conceded, they can start on other businesses.

And Belinda, the trouble is that the principle has been conceded, the precedent set for too long. It would be hard enought to get a government to accept that it has no right to further censor advertisers, let alone reduce what already exists.

ali said...

Ancient Egyptians suffered from 'health inequalities' too:

Must have been all that smoking, drinking and obesity, oh wait....

Anonymous said...

Really well attended AGM, eh - and is Debs wearing her lucky jacket since it seems to be wheeled out for every photo op/telly appearance?


Junican said...

I was going to comment on the attendance but Jay beat me to it.

Google/blogger seems to be plaaying up again - trying Livejournal.

Junican said...

Livejournal is out too. Had to use 'name'.

So this sorry bunch of 21 attendees are the people who have been organising and financing multiple studies and surveys, is it? Talk about a front group!

Anonymous said...

thanks for the link to the ASH flickr page... I just added a nice comment

Anonymous said...

Tobacco companies have for all too long now sat back and been MORE than compromising and accomodating to what has become essentially a ban on human rights, ban on liberty, ban on freedom and ban on free enterprise in what used to be a free economy, tobacco marketing included.

As far as I am concerned, if the anti-smoking liars wish to continue their deceitful war on smokers using falsehoods, lies, deceits, conjectures, straw men and exaggerations, like the Second and Third Hand Smoke "studies" - which proved NOTHING in fact - in order to quelch an entire industry, culture, way of life and the lifestyle choices and pleasure of millions - then to be totally honest and fair - tobacco companies should be totally allowed to advertise freely, in all media, however and whereever they like - with no more government interference in the matter.

What's fair is fair. And since in my eyes, anti-smoking has come out of the closet and revealed itself for being the lying, thieving beast that it is - then it is high time the tobacco companies be given their fair time to respond in kind - including advertising on television and in any manner in which they choose.

It's pretty damn sad when it's to the point one can't even smoke outside for fear of penalty and fine, let alone the indoor bans and soon extending into private homes and cars - and all of it based on the total lie and fabrication of "Second Hand Smoke" - which is a fable, a myth, a modern day fairytale.

Anonymous said...

I have often wondered why the tobacco companies have not spoken up more often on this hateful, divisive, bullying anti-smoking nonense. For years now we have heard very little from them so hooray for Imperial Tobacco!

nisakiman said...

I was much impressed with the document, so much so in fact that I was moved to send an email yesterday to Adam Cleave who wrote it, complimenting him on the response but bemoaning the fact that it was too little too late.

Much to my surprise, I had a reply from him today (I'm accustomed to my emails to companies eliciting no response at all) which was written in his personal capacity (i.e. "off the record" as he put it) and was very pleasant. He admitted that we face an uphill struggle at this late stage of the game, but that "...I can assure you that Imperial Tobacco will continue to robustly defend our collective rights and freedoms, and will do so in a way that our consumers can see, feel and relate to wherever possible.".

This is a person who understands the realities of the current situation, and is well aware of the methods employed by the 'anti' lobby. With people like him working within the tobacco industry, with the financial clout they possess, there may even be a light at the end of the tunnel.

He obviously has to tread carefully, "Big Tobacco" having been the Big Bad Wolf of the piece for so many years, but it's a start.

I raise my glass to Adam Cleave of Imperial Tobacco.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting, Nisakiman.

I wonder if that is the reason for the mad, panicy article in the Independent (about which, I have complained to the Press Council)? Perhaps ASH and co have suddenly realised that the plain packaging idea is a direct attack on Tobacco Companies, and that they have awakened the sleeping giant.

Dick Puddlecote said...

Link, Junican?