Monday 28 November 2016

Drafting A Sheffield Council 'Smokefree' Consultation Response

It seems that another daft council is proposing to waste taxpayer cash on illiberal, incoherent, unenforceable and pointless outdoor smoking bans, this time it's Sheffield.
Council chiefs are considering whether to ban lighting up outside hospitals and other NHS buildings, universities, council offices and leisure centres – and they are seeking the public’s views on the proposal.
Seeking the public's views, did they say? That sounds right up our street, I reckon.

The consultation can be found here and only consists of six questions, so let's have a bash at it, eh?
1. Tobacco is an addiction that takes hold in childhood. It is estimated that 5 children start smoking every day in Sheffield. We want to work with all secondary schools in the city to equip children with the skills to resist starting to smoke. Are you in favour of us doing more work in schools to prevent children from starting to smoke, and funding this work by moving some money out of stop smoking services?
Do you know, I can actually agree with this. I'd disagree that it's an addiction rather than a habit, and that it always "takes hold in childhood", but who could disagree that children should be educated as to the risks of any substance, not just tobacco. They are, of course, likely to be taught all kinds of alarmist bullshit, but the basic premise is sound.

Especially since the proposal is to take money away from stop smoking services, with which I can heartily agree. As I've mentioned before, they shouldn't exist at all, and not only because they are an abject failure.

Consider also that demand for stop smoking services has plummeted by around half since 2010 and there is simply no need for them now. So yes, remove that funding and spend it elsewhere. If you needed any further justification, ASH's Debs Arnott says education doesn't work (which is bollocks) and that only handing her and her pals more cash does, which speaks volumes about her seeing as she has strenuously tried to obstruct e-cigarettes at every step of their evolution so far.

It would be preferable if Sheffield didn't spend any money on such things, but taking it away from stop smoking services - which are used in certain situations as a tool to shame or bully smokers into quitting - and funding non-coercive education of children instead is a step forward.
2. We know that children learn the smoking habit from observing their parents and others, so we want to reduce the number of public places where people are visibly smoking so that children don’t think it is normal and copy this harmful behaviour. Are you in favour of us doing more work to increase the number of Smokefree outdoor sites in the city (e.g. outside NHS buildings, hospitals, universities, Councils, leisure centres, at events such as Skyride/Sheffield half marathon/Christmas light switch on) and funding this work by moving some money from Stop Smoking Services?
Erm, didn't we just get told that kids start smoking because of the glitzy packets? I wish they'd make their minds up.

This is an absurd suggestion. Yes, peer pressure is a factor in starting smoking, but the council has no business playing parent and getting involved, it is simply none of their business. Smoking is a legal activity and doing so outdoors has no harmful effect on bystanders whatsoever, nothing should be spent on preventing people from consuming lawful products where they can harm no-one else. It's a silly idea, is entirely unenforceable and would be a waste of taxpayer funds if so much as a quid is spent on signage, even if it's just a scribble on a post-it note.
3. Evidence suggests a very effective way of motivating smokers to quit is by developing mass media campaigns that smokers can relate to, using targeted messages about the reasons to quit. Certain groups smoke more than others, are more heavily addicted, and find it harder to quit. These groups are more at risk of poor health outcomes. We need to ensure that we successfully motivate these groups to quit smoking. Are you in favour of us funding more work on mass media campaigns; targeting those who find it the most difficult to quit smoking and who are the most addicted and funding this by moving some money from stop smoking services?
Why does Sheffield Council believe it is their job to "motivate smokers to quit"? Personal choices should be of no concern to them. While it's encouraging that this is the third question in a row which suggests taking money away from stop smoking services, wouldn't it be better to spend it instead on things that people actually expect their council to do properly? You know, fixing potholes, looking after the elderly, keeping the streets clean and picking up bins? Maybe even funding libraries better considering people are quite fond of them and yet Sheffield seem to have no cash for stuff like that.

Mass media campaigns? Do behave! If they can't fund books, why the blithering fuck are they even considering such a waste of taxes as this?
4. Since 2003 we have had a stop smoking service that anyone can access and we have supported around 3000 smokers a year to quit. From 2010 local demand for stop smoking support has reduced. This has happened alongside increasing popularity and use of e-cigarettes. More people are also choosing to quit on their own. Since 2015 councils across the country have faced significant budget cuts to public health grant funding. This means there is less money to fully fund a stop smoking service that meets the needs of everyone. We are therefore proposing to spend the most on those who find it hardest to quit. For those smokers who are able to quit alone we will direct them to online advice and support. Are you in favour of us supporting only the most addicted groups who find it very difficult to quit smoking, rather than having a universal service that anyone can access?
The reason those budgets are being cut is, hopefully, because politicians are starting to realise that the country can't afford such frivolities anymore, especially since it is none of their business if people smoke or not.

It's encouraging, too, that Sheffield have recognised that e-cigarettes are a good thing and are attracting quitters without need of state intervention. Funny, then, that the recent Freedom to Vape report on council policies revealed that Sheffield City Council treats vaping in exactly the same way as smoking; that is, you can't use an e-cig on any council property whatsoever, indoors or out. This is because, and I quote from their policy:
ii) Whilst they do not produce smoke, electronic cigarettes produce a vapour that could provide an annoyance to other employees.
iii) There is currently no reliable information about what substances and quantities are given off in the vapour from e-cigarettes and therefore no reliable indication of whether or not the vapour poses any risk to health to those in the vicinity of the user.
Now, just a thought, but if Sheffield want to be taken seriously about this new 'smokefree' drive, and recognise the promise of e-cigs, wouldn't it be worth their while changing that ignorant lunacy pretty damn sharpish - as in, now - before they start implementing something new? Motes and beams and all that. 
5. Due to the significant budget cuts to public health grant funding made by Central Government we are consulting the public on their opinion on funding stop smoking medication (such as patches) for the groups of smokers who smoke the most , who find it hardest to quit, and who are the most addicted. Are you in favour of us funding stop smoking medication (e.g patches, gum etc) for the groups of smokers who smoke the most, are the most addicted and find it hardest to quit?
Well this is simple, of course we agree disagree. Pharmaceutical products are utterly useless and ridiculously expensive. Save cash and just hand out a map to the local vape shop, it'll cost pennies. Just have a few handouts in reception and save Sheffield residents the grief of paying fat salaries for the council to employ people to hand taxpayer cash to huge pharmaceutical interests.
6. E-cigarettes have become popular amongst smokers. Public Health England recommends that all smokers should stop in the first instance, however those who cannot or will not stop smoking should swop to using an e-cigarette. There is evidence to suggest they are less harmful to a smoker as they contain significantly less toxic chemicals than mainstream cigarettes, and so encouraging smokers to switch to e-cigarettes will reduce the overall harms from tobacco. Are you in favour of promoting vaping to current smokers as a harm reduction method?
Erm, it's "significantly fewer toxic chemicals", for God's sake. But pedantry aside, see previous response, it's a no-brainer that the council should be promoting e-cigs which smokers buy for themselves rather than hugely expensive and massively useless pharmaceutical products. Spend the savings on a new lawnmower to cut some grass verges.

The consultation is open for a month but don't leave it too late. As usual, how you respond to the questions is up you (above are just a few thoughts) but I do always enjoy seeing what you've written and this consultation is another where they will send you a PDF if you include an email, so if you take part please do feel free to ping me yours.

You can take part in the consultation by clicking here. Enjoy.

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