Tuesday 16 September 2014

Policy-Based Evidence-Making - A Video Guide

An item from July popped up on one of my Twitter search streams yesterday which is quite revealing about the methods of the tobacco control industry and how they are applied to the pursuit of plain packs legislation.

You see, when it comes to smoking, tobacco controllers have descended into a comfort zone whereby they feel confident in saying just about anything amongst themselves, while politicians are being fed something completely different.

Note, for example, Debs Arnott's comments in the video below:
"At least 13, 14 times a day [an average smoker] gets their pack out; they put it on the table; and the pack symbolises something. It's really important, it's about the smoker's identity"
Smokers can't be allowed to enjoy an identity, now can they? This is the whole point of plain packaging which tobacco control will make sure politicians hear little of. Instead the entire campaign has said nothing else but children, children, children. But when boasting amongst themselves on the ESRC YouTube channel (comments banned, natch), and elsewhere (see a preening rundown of dirty tricks prior to the smoking ban here) we get something more truthful.
"At the time that the last government - Labour government - was in power, and they were consulting on the next steps in tobacco control, at that time there was a big fightback from the industry and so the government sort of said "well, we're interested in this but we want more evidence". And that's where research like Olivia's became so crucial, because they needed the evidence to take that next step"
While it's very kind of Arnott to admit what we all know, that plain packs was a rent-seeking policy promoted to government before evidence had been produced to justify it, do you - for even a twinkling moment - believe that this 'evidence'-gathering exercise was ever going to come back to government and say, "you know what, we've found that plain packs isn't useful at all, so forget we ever mentioned it".

Of course not.

It doesn't even matter to tobacco control that the study being lauded in the video is not very good. A dedicated expert in eye-tracking technology describes here and here why he thinks that Maynard's 'science' has failings, this part being the most damning.
Well, I'm not the first to research this topic, and given the results I will be presenting, I could have chosen to go directly to some high profile publication relating to marketing and packaging, health psychology or tobacco control, where the research would almost certainly not have been reviewed by those with any expertise in eye-movements and visual attention.  And here’s the point, submitting research to peer review, when you know that the “peers” reviewing are not equipped to detect errors or omissions from the submission is, in my opinion, second only to the falsification of data
But not only is Maynard's research held up as the pinnacle of integrity and scrupulous scientific standards in tobacco control circles, it also gets a gong. The true eye-tracking expert however - who came to a different conclusion to Maynard - will, of course, be entirely ignored and get nothing.

This is how tobacco control works. They put their heads together to think up some pointless idea which will gain them taxpayer funds for another couple of years, then go about lobbying politicians for it with your money and using institutions paid for by you. In the meantime they will carry out 'research' which has only one purpose - to make the conclusion fit the policy they are pursuing. Then, when the legislation is passed by woodentop MPs, the same tobacco control industry trousers even more of our cash to 'prove' that it works. And guess what? It always does. Fancy that!

Then it's back to square one and the whole process starts again.

Now, if you can see where democracy, fairness, objectivity, integrity, transparency, or public engagement fits into any of this, do let us know.


harleyrider1913 said...

5 Propaganda Techniques

Propaganda techniques are commonly encountered in commercial advertising but these techniques, or variations of them, are used by political campaigns and nearly every other organization that needs to persuade the public. The five techniques are known as bandwagon, testimonial, transfer, repetition and emotional words.


The bandwagon technique seeks to convince people that "everyone" is doing something, or likes something and you should too. This method plays on an individual's need for social acceptance. One example of this is seen in political rallies with large cheering crowds, waving flags and cheering or booing in unison. In advertising it is common. Examples include a 1959 Elvis Presley album titled "50,000,000 Elvis Fans Can't Be Wrong: Elvis' Golden Records, Vol. 2" and any TV programs that claims to be "the show America is talking about."


Testimonials use people to persuade other people of the value or importance of something. This is most frequently done with celebrity endorsements but it is also done with experts or average people. In politics, this can be as simple as having the president or another popular political leader endorse an idea or point of view. In advertising, examples include Jenny Craig having celebrities talk about their diet plans in commercials and any advertisement that uses a doctor or someone dressed as a doctor to say something is healthy.


The transfer technique involves using symbolism to give virtues to a product or idea. This is sometimes done with celebrities, such as putting athletes on a Wheaties box or putting Michael Jordan's name on sneakers. Sometimes placing, for example, an American flag next to a product can convince people that it is somehow patriotic. Products also might be placed in a hospital setting to give the impression that a product is healthy or somehow endorsed by medical workers. This type of propaganda is most frequently found in print advertising


Repetition is the most frequently used propaganda and advertising technique. Repetition works under the assumption that the more often people hear something the more likely they are to believe it, even on a subconscious level. In politics this is known as "staying on message." A politician, during a campaign, speaks to different groups of people every day, but always includes the same handful of points that they wish to make. In advertising, it works basically the same way. An advertiser will attempt to convey the same handful of points about a product in all of their advertising including television, radio, print and digital.

Emotional Words

The emotional words technique uses strong language to attempt to persuade people. This can mean an impassioned speech but relates more often to key words that trigger emotion in people. For example, putting the word "free" in an ad causes it to be looked at more closely even if the product is not free. Putting the word "important" or "urgent" at the top of a page will make people more likely to look at it. In politics this technique is used almost constantly. Referring to an idea as "left wing" or "right wing," "liberal" or "conservative" automatically triggers certain responses to the idea. Calling a foreign government a "regime" automatically implies certain attributes about that government.

Read more: http://www.ehow.com/info_8464540_5-propaganda-techniques.html#ixzz2wz8vxqyE

Junican said...

I've been reading the links that you provided to the 'proper' study about PP. Quite fascinating, apart from the tables in the 'results' section.
One thing that emerged most clearly was that, when smokers are confronted with a packet of cigs, they look for the brand name or other identifier, like colours, logos, etc. Thus, rather than seeing the warnings and obscene, fraudulent pictures, they look for the brand name, and don't really pay attention to the pictures and warning text. In fact, the author of the study suggested that the Tobacco Control Industry would be well advised to make it easy enough for people to see the brand - perhaps including a small logo.
But the TCI is obviously so top-down organised and so rigid that it would take any idea of 'compromise' as a sign of weakness. Its PP on its own terms or nothing.
Totalitarian 'one size fits all' will be its downfall in due course.

Lisabelle said...

I just love your informative writing Dick Puddlecoat and each and everyone of the commentors. I must say Jeff Stier has nailed the coffin shut on Bloomberg's tyranny and the failed use of public funds via punitive taxation.