In fact, if talking to yourself is indeed an early sign of madness, then the Department of Health is indeed veering away from sanity on Andrew Lansley’s watch. In various parts of the country, taxpayer-funded billboard posters have sprung up, urging passing motorists to support the Plain Packs Protect campaign. You’d expect public money to be used only to actually hold the public consultation and to analyse and audit the responses, not to run a high-profile PR campaign pressing for a particular outcome. The Department of Health is using taxpayers’ cash to talk to itself and indeed to lobby itself. This isn’t just absurd, it is unconscionable.Do go read the rest of the piece on the Mail website.
The posters themselves urge people to “support plain packaging and protect our children”. The implication is that there is good evidence to suggest that the removal of branding from cigarette packs will reduce the number of youngsters taking up smoking. This simply isn’t true. No such evidence exists.
In the heat of an election campaign, you might just allow political parties to make grandiose and rather dubious claims. But for a government funded poster campaign to do so – in advance of a public consultation – is wholly unacceptable. Unsurprisingly, Smokefree South West, the producers of the poster, have now been referred to the Advertising Standards Agency.
Image courtesy of Lawson