Sunday 5 May 2013

Wigan Council: Confused, Irresponsible, Or Just Plain Stupid?

In March last year, Wigan Council were determined to stamp out smoking by any means possible.
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.


compassandmap said...

This prompted me to have a look at some other councils in the North West and so far I've found from Sefton this about banning vaping in vehicles where smoking isn't permitted

All the usual "potential health risks" rubbish, then a ridiculous misleading comment placed so that it wrongly implies the four times more likely is compared to e-cigarettes - "Smokers are four times more likely to quit with the support of the Local Stop Smoking Services. People can receive Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) free of charge"

Dick_Puddlecote said...

Oh, I'm in no doubt that Wigan isn't alone as a council in being stupid.

Politicians in general are hollow vessels at the best of times, but the further down the ranks you go you just find more ad more ill-informed ignorance. Town councils are only just above "non-league" parish ones so will inevitably be populated by people who don't feel the need to do their research.

Precisely why I hope fellow jewel robbers get in touch with Wigan Council and tell them how stupid they are, and do the same with any other councils who display the same arrogant stupidity.

Edward. said...

What business is it of Wigan or any council to 'breath fire and fulminate' about something which is after all when I last checked - is still a perfectly legal activity?

These bumholes want to pop along to the nearest bog standard sink estate school perimeter and attempt to halt the local pond life vending proscribed drugs to the kids at break-times - they're fairly obvious - it's the flash Pakistani guys with gold teeth and taxi markings on their 'wheels'.

Wigan council, if they are debating this kind of stuff - have too much time on their hands. God knows, how about worrying about the gobsmacking blackhole, running into £trillions and projected to cost the taxpayer £16 billion/year in 2018. Aka, the public sector pensions liability.

Junican said...

Local councillors have at least the excuse of being ignorant of the facts since most of them are similar to Bartlett. But that does not excuse them from accepting the blandishments of Common Purpose Graduates. It seems to me that the councillors just chickened-out before the convictions of the Health Professionals. One might ask why they chickened-out. I suspect that it is because of the PRECAUTIONARY PRINCIPLE. It is clear from many of the phrases in the Policy Document that the phrase "it is not known" decided the actions. In which case, we ought all to stop drinking tap water since "it is not known" whether it is safe or not.
I am from Bolton, which is less than 10 miles away from Wigan. By writing to my local councillor, I may be able to influence his thinking. But I could not influence the thinking of the Wigan Authority by writing to it. The only way to influence Wigan councillors is by the direct action of vapers in Wigan. But are vapers in Wigan organised and in contact with each other? I doubt it. Vapers therefore suffer from precisely the same problem as smokers - lack of organisation.

What is clear beyond doubt is that the document is a pack of lies. Lies pervade it. It is NOT true that a substance should be considered to be harmful because it has not been proved NOT to be harmful. If that were true, we would all starve because it is not possible to prove that any particular bit of bread, or apple, is not contaminated in some way.

Wiganers should complain to their local councillors. It could be useful to complain to Pickles MP, the Local Government Minister. But the best protest of all would be for 50 or so vapers to enter the townhall and vape. Far easier than protesting in a similar way about the smoking ban since there is no law against vaping.

john miller said...

Wow. Just wow.

Totalitarian stuff by idiots.

E-cigs "presumably contain carcinogens", i.e. e-cigs presumably give you cancer. What? Can anyone spout this rubbish and think they can be taken seriously? Perhaps they should look up "presumably" in the dictionary and see that it is an opinion asserted in the absence of facts.

They haven't been "proven safe". Has anything in the world been PROVEN safe?

They should just write "We want to ban cigarettes and because e-cigs look like cigarettes we think you're taking the piss out of us so we will ban them."

This would be honest and accurate, at least.

Ivan_Denisovich said...

I am not party political but I have noticed that the Labour party appears to contain more than a fair share of ill-informed ideologues. I believe that over 80% of Wigan Councillors are Labour affiliated these days. The other parties do of course contain would be totalitarians but based on my limited research a Labour majority of that magnitude almost certainly increases the likelihood of local government talking nonsense and espousing healthism. I have tried to develop my theory through more stringent research but my grant was turned down in favour of a project intended to "prove" the dangers of 6th hand smoke, a health risk associated with smokers farting in public places.

Dick_Puddlecote said...

They could concentrate on more important stuff, yeah. But then they wouldn't be hip and trendy in the lefty bubble, would they? ;)

Dick_Puddlecote said...

I hope Wigan voters do object, as I hope their staff will too. I also hope e-cig consumer bodies like ECITA make strong representations to the council.

Dick_Puddlecote said...

You got it. ;)

moonrakin said...

This leaves little room for doubt - if any further were required of the ferociously low caliber of (most of) our elected representatives and the results of giving petty powers to farquit dullards. They are shepherded along by the public servants most of whom themselves are little more than compliant management fashion victims parading the head gear du jour - which in this case is a large pair of clip-on donkey ears.

JonathanBagley said...

My sister is CEO of a Borough Council. She told the people who objected to others vaping at the work station that, if she banned vaping, she would also have to ban eating and drinking soup and coffee on the grounds that some people find these objectionable.

Junican said...

It makes little sense to write to the Local Authority at Wigan. What I have done tonight is write to Eric Pickles MP as Minister for Local Authorities etc. I have described to him the nonsense of claiming to wish to help people to stop smoking tobacco cigarettes while stopping them from enjoying non-tobacco ecigs. I also pointed out the defeat of REASON by DOGMA. Stopping people from using ecigs, which actually are helping them not to smoke tobacco cigs, is extremely perverse.

The text of my letter is at:

Also, the Blackpool Council have voted to erect 'corrected' notice boards at the entrances to public parks . These boards say "This is a 'Designated Smokefree Site". I still cannot stop laughing.

By the way, DP, why is it that the Bolton Smokers Club does not appear in your sidebar? WE are very influential, doncha know.