Sunday 29 August 2010

ASH Fire Up The Statmobile

With quangoes and high-profile public sector agencies dropping like nine pins due to government cuts, some have floated the idea that state-funded anti-smoking organisations might be a tad worried right now.

There has been a flurry of self-righteous indignation from our medical profession overlords, of course, but little so far from the likes of, say, ASH. Perhaps - considering their usual modus operandi of producing cleverly constructed 'statistics' to 'prove' whichever departure from sanity they are promoting at any time - they just haven't any defence for their utter uselessness right now, so are laying low.

Yes, there was a puff piece last month regurgitating their prior sleight of hand [pdf], but nothing to convince the coalition axemen that ASH themselves are vital or in any way popular.

You know what they need? Figures to show that the public really love them. Yes, that would do it. I dunno, maybe something like a survey directed at those most likely to give the correct responses (and mailed out on Thursday), for example?

"I am writing to ask you to take part in ASH’s public reputation survey, a tightly targeted piece of quantitative market research designed to help us understand perceptions of ASH and its effectiveness among people who are important to our work.

The research findings will be presented to the ASH Board of Trustees summarising the issues and challenges facing the organisation."
So who would these 'tightly targeted' people be? Perhaps question 1 of 20 addresses that (emphasis mine throughout).

What is your main connection to ASH? Tick more than one if appropriate.

- ASH staff
- ASH Board member

- PCT employee
- Academic
- Local authority employee
- Member of the Smokefree Action Coalition
- Member of general public/general interest
- Stop Smoking counsellor
- Other (please specify)
Yes, ASH staff and board members are being asked how the public view them. Along with those whose salary relies on government funding for anti-smoking initiatives, and the odd member of the public ... tightly targeted, of course.

Question 3 gets to the point.

How much would you agree or disagree with the following comments about ASH?

- insufficiently resourced
- factually credible
- influential
- reasonable
- effective networkers
- aggressive
- professional
- evidence based campaigners
- assertive
Now, when you're finally finished sniggering at some of those, can we move on to question 18?

Which of the following would you see as important priorities for ASH over the next five years (The most important - tick one only in this column. Important but not most important - tick as many as apply)

- Coordinating and leading the work of the Smokefree Action Coalition
- Working to ensure sustained funding for tobacco control
- Campaigning for continued government support for a comprehensive tobacco control strategy

- Supporting implementation of the Health Act legislation to prohibit tobacco displays at point of sale and sale of tobacco from vending machines
- Supporting local advocacy
- Revealing tobacco industry malpractice
- Maintaining a reputation for impartial advice
- Promoting tobacco control to the media
- Providing up to date information on tobacco issues
- Producing reports on key issues in tobacco control
- Responding to consultations on public health issues to ensure that tobacco is taken into account in the development of public policy
- Commissioning research to add to the evidence base for tobacco control (e.g. opinion polling, economic reports etc.)
- Supporting development and implementation of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control
- Supporting tobacco control implementation at EU level
- Other (please specify)
Yep, I reckon that with their selection of respondents, the mere mention of funding to those who are no doubt worried about their state-financed mortgages, and the exclusion of all but the most trusted members of the public, they may well be able to cobble together something to convince dullard MPs that ASH are more popular than Jesus and therefore indispensable.

Me? I find it satisfying that ASH are at last admitting that one of their main purposes is simply to justify their very existence.


Mark Wadsworth said...

Excellent, awesome. Question 1 would have been funny enough but the others were just icing on the cake.

Unknown said...

Haven't even read the text yet but the headline takes me to this song by The Beatles.

Makes sense to me DP!

Witterings from Witney said...

Yet another masterpiece of a post DP!

Unknown said...

Don't know went wrong there, here is the link I wanted.

Sunday bloody Sunday eh.

Anonymous said...

Please let ASH know they are now beginning to upset and annoy the
kind of people who are not given to
polite forms of complaint.
ASH does'nt figure high on the
blame list of bankrupt landlords.
broken club owners,out of work
doormen,unemployed bar staff,
skint entertainers and wet through
punters.That can easily be remedied

Upset,very upset.

All Seeing Eye said...

Unfortunately most of the quango cutting has been by the surprisingly effective Pickles. Lansley isn't being quite as ruthless so far so we're still waiting for good news here really.

Anonymous said...

Is there anyway you can make this questionnaire available to download. Perhaps if enough of your readers sent a completed copy back it could muck up their figures, or at the very least get them to spend a lot of time sorting the wheat from the chaff (so to speak). I'd also like to send a copy to my MP. Perhaps the Health Secretary would like to see of copy of what they're spending tax payers cash on?

One other thing, how is this survey any different to what the British Film Foundation did in lobbying for its existance (a fat lot of good it's done them)?

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Cameron’s terse little eight-word statement: “We will not be re-visiting the smoking ban,” may have disappointed many smokers, but I have long suspected that it had a positively panic-inducing effect upon anti-smoking campaigners across the land, because it signalled the beginning of the end of the anti-smoking gravy-train - the funding, the kudos, the respect and the power.

Everything I have heard or read since that day has had a slight air of wide-eyed desperation about it, which only seems to increase as time goes on. It’s months since I read or heard a smoking-related health story in the mainstream media. Even in the recent stories about the increase in oesophageal cancer (surely one which ASH and their friends would hitherto have leapt upon in joy as yet another “smoking-related illness”) smoking wasn't mentioned at all - although one of the Coalition’s new chums, Obesity, was. New smoking-related stories these days only ever seem to appear in medical journals or on on-line sites for medical professionals, i.e. they are now effectively reduced to “preaching to the converted,” because the rest of the world has grown fed up with the "same old same old," and simply isn’t listening any more.

If the anti-smoking movement wasn’t run by such vile people I’d almost feel sorry to see such a once-powerful group now only able to attract attention from a very small, limited group of close cronies, who have in any case been singing from the same song sheet all along. As it is, each and every new sad, self-justifying little article these days raises a wry smile in me, rather than a sense of dread and foreboding as they have done in previous years.

So, the latest tactic is yet another clearly-manipulated questionnaire, is it? Oh, how the mighty have fallen! Have they really not yet noticed that, quite simply, nobody is interested any more?

And in any case, what makes them think that the Coalition who, like all Governments, have already made their minds up what they want to do and what they don't - will listen to this "opinion poll" any more than they have any intention of taking notice of any other No 10 petitions, opinion studies - or even their own "Your Freedom" website?

Junican said...


For heaven's sake! Why don't you put a name onto your post? Just a name, like Fred, or something? Far easier to refer to your post, if you do.

Anyway, I normally regard myself as being reasonably astute, but I must admit that I did not see the implication of the statement from the coalition that the smoking ban would not be re-visited, means the 'raison d'etre' of ASH ET AL has ceased to exist. I like that thought very much.

It is a pity that Pickles is not involved in the Health scenario as such, but, my God!, is he not giving a good example?!

I have said again and again that the big gesture is to be expected (like putting up Vat), but, eventually, the only real effect that one can have on the future, is to remove the drain on the public finances of multiple SMALL drains.

What has struck me in the recent past is how many publicly funded organisations which are supposed to be TEACHING or RESEARCH organisations are wasting their time and their funds on studies and surveys which are not part of their remit. We need only think of Cancer Research UK and The Royal College of Physicians. CRUK is supposed to be RESEARCHING and the RCP is supposed to be TEACHING. Why are their 'professors' wasting public money on studies and surveys about smoking?

The STINK is exuding from the Health Dept - and that is true. Lansdale (is it Lansdale? - Health Sec) needs to get his finger out and chop a few heads off.

Anonymous said...


That's a good idea. How about it Dick?


Anonymous said...

Lansley needs to know what these lying deviants are up to. Who's going to tell him? FOREST? F2C?

Anonymous said...

Well ASH if they want to exist should be completely funded by private means.
No takers ?
Wonder why ?
For sale ,one miserable failure,one incompetent bigoted cabal.
They are finished without public money ,this simple logic should be enough to see why cutting the funding would be a good idea.

Anonymous said...

The time has come for all who
cry freedom to concentrate their
total united attention on, for
starters ASH
For one solid month , all who are willing and able to dig up and ressurect any morsel of info,
the funding,the lies,the pretence,
the sweeteners and any granule of
Get it into plain english,print it
big and ensure those who have suffered most at the hands of
ASH get the message
One sheet,both sides, one piece
easy to read ,simple to take in.

Put them on the rack and when and
if they crack find the next bunch of zealots,same again.
One at a time.

The Profane await a masterpiece


Anonymous said...

Is this for real - I thought you were joking ?

Joe Public said...

Fuel for Pickles's bonfire of the vanities?

Bill Sticker said...

Slightly OT, but in keeping (I think) with the aims of this blog; Study finds heavy or moderate drinkers live long than total abstainers.

Irony, eh?

Bill Sticker said...

Bummer. Should read; 'Live longer'.

Dick Puddlecote said...

Anon @ 12:43: Yes, it's a real survey.

As for piling in, there's not much point as the responses would be discarded. Besides, isn't it better to see what comes of it, if anything? Should be quite a laugh. :)

timbone said...

I think there is a distinct possibility that our present coalition have no intention of spending any more time or money on adding to the Public Health Act which came into force on 1st July 2007. Two thirds of the Tories voted against it. “We will not be re-visiting the smoking ban,” may not be music to the ears of disenfranchised smokers. What does that statement say however to the anti smoking fanatics?

Anonymous said...

What timbone says but, according to the Beeb this morning, it's to be made easier for local authorities to create new by-laws; ASH might well instruct its local divisions to focus on councils to introduce no-smoking in parks (they seem already to have responded to Camberon's Big Society by shifting focus to localism).


Frank Davis said...

I suppose the cheering sense I gain from this is that ASH actually do feel under some threat.

I was beginning to wonder whether Tobacco Control was more important than even nuclear deterrence.