Wigan Council members overwhelming voted to urge the Health Secretary to bring forward legislation to introduce plain packs for tobacco products, at a meeting of the Full Council this week.
Elected members took part in a lively debate about health promotion and the need to de-normalise smoking in society. In supporting the motion, councillors sent a strong signal that Wigan wants to lead from the front.
The motion was carried and makes Wigan Council the first in the country to make this point in support of further marginalisation of tobacco products.In fact, they went further than that. They actively campaigned in favour of plain packaging by stating just one side of the debate on their website and urging their citizens to support the measure.
Just as an aside, in itself this is a breach of the Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity, which clearly states:
15. Local authorities should ensure that publicity relating to policies and proposals from central government is balanced and factually accurate.
16. Local authorities should not use public funds to mount publicity campaigns whose primary purpose is to persuade the public to hold a particular view on a question of policy.
19. Where local authority publicity addresses matters of political controversy it should seek to present the different positions in relation to the issue in question in a fair manner.
35. In general, local authorities should not issue any publicity which seeks to influence voters.In other words, a cast iron example of government lobbying government during an ongoing public consultation.
Just thought I'd throw that in there as yet another example of how twisted and unprofessional the plain packs campaign has been, but it's not the main point of this article. Instead, this is.
See, scroll on to March 2013, and this is Wigan Council's e-cigs policy. Or, rather, their policy of banning them to all staff while on duty; demanding that residential care home and day centre users must go outside to the smoking area to vape; and banning their use by the public in council buildings, most especially if there are chiiildren about.
Do have a read in full either in the embed above or at this page as it's an object lesson in woeful public sector ignorance.
In their attempt to "provide information to employees and others" about e-cigs, they have exhibited an astonishingly childish credulity in swallowing every half-baked fallacy promoted by the lunatic fringe of the tobacco control industry. Yes, even including the batshit crazy belief in fantasy secondhand e-cig vapour.
They make the claim that "Wigan Council actively promotes the health and wellbeing of employees" but it is a laughably hollow statement. There is no credible evidence whatsoever that plain packaging will have any effect on reducing smoking prevalence, as illustrated by the cautious campaign slogans employed by Cancer Research UK and others.
However, there are now one million e-cig users in the UK, hundreds of thousands of whom have quit smoking entirely using e-cigs. And there is a huge amount of anecdotal evidence, population level observation, and compelling research showing that they are the most effective smoking cessation method on the market today.
Yet Wigan Council have - in pursuit of the health of their employees - banned them. Go figure.
For info, Wigan Council is an overwhelmingly Labour authority.
If you feel the urge to comment on their crashingly stupid policy, this form on their website is very useful.