Monday, 3 July 2017

ASH's 10th Anniversary Begging Letter

As others have noted, the 10th anniversary of the most spiteful and damaging social engineering exercise England has ever seen - otherwise known as the smoking ban - slid past with surprisingly little fanfare from the tax-spongers in tobacco control. What there was of it, though, was mendacious cobblers as is to be expected.

What I found most curious, though, was the strange approach taken by ASH. Instead of relying on the reams of execrable and scientifically worthless junk research they and their pals routinely peddle, they chose instead to release a strange report referring to polls they have commissioned over the years from YouGov.

Now, any poll commissioned from YouGov by ASH should be treated with a huge pinch of salt considering its erstwhile President up to 2016 is also a member of ASH's board of trustees. His screaming bias has been on plain view for many years; he chaired ASH's editorial board for their 2008 'Smoking Kills' report, and has written openly to politicians and the public to demand support for prohibitionist laws. So a report packed full of such polls should be approached with extreme caution, as Sir Humphrey once explained.

Nevertheless, ASH's report was very illuminating. I say report, but it could more accurately be described as a commentary on how tobacco control bullshit has been swallowed whole by a largely under-informed public.

It tells us that ASH have been successful in turning a tolerant public into an intolerant one. This speaks volumes more about the disgusting nature of ASH than it does about the public. Each poll was followed by a further avalanche of trademark tobacco control media manipulation and the public tested again the following year. When the results were not compelling enough, poll questions were changed, and I fully expect junk science ramped up and targeted to bring a more favourable set of figures next time round.

ASH's choice of celebratory message is interesting too, why a review of their own polls? (They avoid entirely, of course, polls of equal provenance saying a majority still believe there should be an amendment to the smoking ban to allow separate smoking rooms). Well, the whole thing just reeks of rent-seeking from an organisation which has spent the past year demanding a new 'Tobacco Control Plan' that the government is slow in providing. As Snowdon highlighted last week, this is causing consternation at Misery HQ.
But ASH are now in a quandary. There hasn't been a Tobacco Control Plan for England for a year and a half. If there's no plan, how can ASH support it? And if there's nothing to support, why is the government giving them so much of our money? What have they been doing with the £250,000 or so that they have been given by the state in the last year and a half? 
It is only a matter of time before someone asks these questions. That, I suspect, is why ASH are getting so hot and bothered at the moment.
Indeed. What better way, then, to nudge MPs further than by releasing a résumé of their 'successful' lobbying, referencing their most trusted of biased sources, which screams "look at us and give us money cos we deserve it!" and "just imagine how much more we could could torture smokers if you did!".

With that goal in mind, in their boastful arrogance they have had to go out on a limb to attract MPs' attention, which has been very revealing.

For example, in the section on plain packs.
"Although the policy was principally designed to deter young people from starting smoking, existing smokers’ dislike of the redesigned packs is an additional benefit of the policy."
No, it was the ONLY reason for the policy, as tobacco controllers will admit privately - in fact, ASH do later in their document - but considering politicians were told it was solely to deter young people from smoking, ASH emphasise this to make absolutely sure MPs haven't missed it. If you have a {cough} friendly poll, you don't have to go into the evidence which is far less convincing with plain packs ... for the simple reason that it has been a damp squib where it has been tried before (eh, Australia?) and will continue to be so here in the UK.

There is also a proud shout-out to smoker-hating bullies in parliament, by boasting about how totalitarian ASH are in attacking law-abiding members of the public consuming a legal product.
"‘Denormalisation’ is a clumsy word but it captures the reality of what has happened:"
No, denormalisation is a fascist word, and ASH are fascists for thinking it is a decent thing to encourage. Their hideous fans may be ecstatic at the new environment where it is now almost government-approved to shit on smokers, but it doesn't make it right. It just tells us that ASH are indecent and exactly the kind of people we should ostracise from society well before smokers.

In the absence of a tobacco control plan to tailor their future plans towards, then, their report also sees ASH detail what they would like to do in the next ten years, again backed up by their pet pollster.
"In the ten years since 2007, smoking prevalence in the adult population in England fell from 21% to 15.5%. This is a major achievement but smoking remains a huge burden on the health of the nation: 6.3 million adults still smoke in England. The following proposals for further action are supported by a majority of the public: 
- licensing the sale of tobacco products, supported by 76% of respondents in 2017;
- banning smoking in all cars, supported by 62% of respondents in 2017;
- charging tobacco companies a levy to fund stop smoking services and preventive work with young people, supported by 71% of respondents in 2017."
You'll note that there is no proposal for relaxing the rules on e-cigs which ASH demanded. Only more coercion and bullying. Attacking small businesses; attacking smokers; attacking industry. Absolutely nothing to enhance the free market option which has been the defining success of the past decade, a success which ASH tried their very best to strangle at birth and continue to subtlely undermine.

They, instead, focus on the old, failed, policies of bullying and coercion.
"There is a strong case for licensing the sale of tobacco products in order that local authorities and the police can act swiftly against those who abuse current regulations, especially in relation to underage sales."
They already have powers. All a licensing scheme will do is give powers to the authorities to act without any proof of wrongdoing. As fascist an idea as you can possibly imagine. This would be yet another burden on small retailers, many of whom could go out of business as a result, and it will undoubtedly force others to stop selling tobacco because of the increased overhead. It is a fundamentally nasty idea designed solely to use the bullying of small businesses to restrict supply of a legal product to smokers. No fewer packs will be sold, but it will suit large supermarkets down to the ground.

Having destroyed local communities by taking away their pubs, now ASH want to handicap or destroy their local shops too, and for no health benefit whatsoever.

Side note: ASH have already done the same by supporting article 20 of the TPD which imposes huge costs on vaping businesses. Dressed up as caring for 'the children', their legislation against e-cigs is exactly the same as they are proposing with tobacco licences and they know very well that some e-cigs businesses have gone to the wall because of it, so they will know very well that this proposal will kill off some corner shops too. But they simply don't care.

They also have no care whatsoever about personal liberties.
"A ban on smoking in all cars would address this universal risk while also eliminating the risks caused by the distraction of smoking while driving."
So finally they admit that it wasn't about 'the children' after all.

More bullying, and a complete disregard for personal property rights. If someone pays £20k for a car it should be up to them what happens in it, not ASH. This was another appalling piece of sophistry from ASH, the ban on smoking was never about children, and they only now admit it once they feel their salaries are threatened. What vile people they really are!
"Public support for a ban on smoking in all cars has grown since the policy was first presented to respondents of the ASH Smokefree England survey in 2009. Then, overall support stood at 45%. Ten years later, this had increased to 62%"
This just says to me that 62% of those YouGov surveyed are repulsive, interfering snobs, but ASH are actually proud of it! They have, as I have maintained for a decade now, managed to turn the country from a largely tolerant one, into one which now believes it is legitimate to tell other people what they can and can't do in their own fucking car. ASH has always catered to the most disgusting in society, and this signals that they will continue to do so in the future. Basically, if you're an anti-social hateful bigot, ASH has got your back.

Lastly, the attack on industry.
"The [polluter pays] levy is a relatively new idea and was only tested out in the 2017 ASH Smokefree England survey. Respondents were asked whether they would support or oppose a measure ‘requiring tobacco manufacturers to pay a levy or licence fee to Government for measures to help smokers quit and prevent young people from taking up smoking’. Overall, 71% of respondents in England supported this measure."
It was tested out in the 2017 poll because ASH had already demanded this levy and were knocked back by the government in 2015. So now they are trying to play the emotional blackmail card by asking a question with "tobacco companies" and "young people" in juxtaposition.

However, there are very good reasons why the idea of a levy is desperate barrel-scraping from ASH. Firstly, it's impossible to extract money out of tobacco companies which are not based in the UK, and secondly those that are would be financially hampered so much that they'd be tempted to move elsewhere. Government would be bonkers to risk losing two of the country's top performing FTSE companies in the middle of an austerity debate when they are under pressure to find funding. Besides, why would they need to? The 2015 budget commentary described why it isn't even remotely necessary anyway.
"Analysis of the responses shows that the impact of a tobacco levy on the tobacco market would be similar to a duty rise, with tobacco manufacturers and importers passing the levy onto consumer prices," the government said in its budget. 
"As tobacco duties have already increased this year and will continue to increase by more than inflation each year in this parliament, the government has decided not to introduce a levy on manufacturers and importers."
Of course, ASH want this money not for altruistic reasons. Rather it is their second attempt at pathetically holding out a begging bowl. Like a tax-gobbling Mr Creosote, they want the levy as they hope it will raise money for them and their mates, irrespective of whether it is good money well spent or not.
"Over the past three years there have been major cuts to English local authority budgets for stop smoking services and tobacco control work. Budgets for stop smoking services, which offer smokers their best chance to quit, were cut in three fifths (59%) of local authorities in 2016/17, following cuts in two fifths (39%) of local authorities the year before. In some areas, specialist stop smoking services have been decommissioned altogether. These budget cuts are principally due to reductions in the public health grant and to wider central government cuts to local authority budgets"
Quite rightly so! Because the use of stop smoking services has plummeted due to the e-cigs phenomenon which ASH would prefer to pretend wasn't happening. If ASH actually cared about health, the answer is not to steal from the tobacco industry to prop up increasingly irrelevant stop smoking services, but to instead acknowledge that the public is changing and are more likely to visit a vape shop than a soulless smoking cessation clinic. That would mean reallocating attention and resources to the promotion of vaping, but then ASH and their pals don't get paid for that, so it's not even on the table.
"An additional levy on the tobacco industry, based on market share, would ensure that smokers who want to quit can access the best means available to do so."
Except that ASH don't mention the best means available to do so in their entire 27 page report. I mean, not even once! E-cigs and vaping are completely ignored, both in the impact they have had on smoking prevalence, and in the impact they could have in the next ten years.

Instead, ASH declare that the decline in smoking prevalence has been a "major achievement" and imply that it is all due to their previous policies. And why wouldn't they? The last thing they want to admit in a begging letter to MPs is the fact that it has been a free market initiative driving the rapid recent decline in smoking rather than the tired, prohibitionist approach which they can get paid for.

ASH are effectively appropriating praise for something which had very little to do with them and it is a disgrace that they are doing so. I disagree entirely with commentators who say that we should be happy tobacco control don't recognise the role of vaping in the decline in prevalence, because - like it or not - it is the tobacco control industry who policy-makers and the public listen to. Go to any comments section and try posting valid science on tobacco issues and you will generally get a reply including a link to CRUK, BHF or any of a number of other disingenuous organisations.

By ignoring e-cigs, ASH are tacitly denying the huge impact vaping has had, and claiming credit for the efforts of a vast number of e-cig advocates up and down the country. Far from being glad they don't acknowledge vaping having a role, we should be absolutely furious about it. They will, for example, be over the moon with tweets such as this suggesting that the ban is entirely responsible for 1.9m fewer smokers (despite there being 1.5 million former smokers now exclusively using e-cigs in the same period)

This is just part of a joint effort by the tobacco control industry this week to airbrush e-cigs out of the public record. Cancer Research UK also quoted the 1.9 million figure without mentioning e-cigarettes or vaping, and Lord Rennard - another of ASH's poodle politicians - claimed "the lowest level on record" of smoking in the UK was a "huge achievement" in the Queen's Speech debate, again completely failing to reference e-cigs at all.

For many people, e-cigs are considered just another form of smoking, ASH are happy for that misconception to continue as long as MPs - who this report will be sent to - continue to feather their nest with taxpayer cash. ASH are putting personal gain above endorsing what is actually working. They are an organisation which has never had any care about health, only their own bank balances.

It is quite staggering that - on the tenth anniversary of the smoking ban - ASH chose to beg for more cash to implement even more pointless coercion and social vandalism, instead of assessing objectively what has been working over the past 10 years and what has not.

They have wreaked a trail of bile and intolerance throughout the country in the past decade, and far from reducing the punishment meted out to everyday people as the smoking rate declines, they have become ever more shrill and socially violent in their pursuit of funding. As results become naturally more meagre due to the lesser numbers of smokers to preach at, their respect for property rights, freedom of choice and truth has exponentially declined. They should be ashamed of themselves or even jailed for the appalling things they have done to society, yet still seem to believe that they are entitled to more of our cash to continue being obnoxious.

We can only hope that this latest report - probably the longest begging letter in history - will be roundly ignored by MPs. 


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