Tuesday 1 November 2011

The ASH Bullshit Roadshow Is A Hit In Lancashire

I was amused to read The Moose deconstructing a woeful article in some Godforsaken northern rag, where scary numbers are offered as solid proof - dagnabbit - that smoking costs the local economy a fortune even after taking duty into account.

The problem with this is that the anti-smoking Brothers and Sisters Grimm have always struggled to make this financial fairy tale stick ... partly down to the fact that it's transparent bullshit, especially since taxes are many times the order of externality costs because of the bleating of anti-smokers themselves. So, the general approach has usually been to ignore duty altogether and just keep banging on about costs.

In fact, the only study which attempted to tackle this gaping hole in the tobacco control lie machine was one by Policy Exchange last year. You may remember it, but if not, let's recap.

It was written by a righteous berk called Henry Featherstone who shared top table with the ASH menagerie at their AGM (berk is to the left) ...

... and tweeted about his intention before writing it.

It was laughably poor - as I went into at length when it was published - and was promptly ignored as such by an overwhelming majority of the national media (yes, even the BBC). It was, however, destroyed by Policy Exchange's customary allies, and the berk left the think tank soon after, presumably for being exposed as a weapons grade fuck up.

ASH have gamely tried to perpetuate this nonsensical work of fiction from time to time, but it's not difficult to see past its limitations as I described last October when it turned up in some obscure health industry newsletter.

I comprehensively explained at the time precisely why his calculations were little better than those of a nose-picking 10 year old, and suspiciously like an advert for Champix/Varenicline and Pfizer who manufacture it.

The figures haven't changed, he still ignores savings on pensions, still reiterates sunk costs such as street cleaning, still hasn't tidied up the massive over-exaggeration of loss to GDP (apparently, Henry believes that smokers earn, on average, £725,000 per annum), is still unaware of the existence of the insurance industry, and still attaches no value on the enjoyment that renders smokers happy to pay a premium on their supplies, a general 'given' amongst free marketeers, surely.
Why is this relevant, I hear you ask? Well, the figures quoted in the Moose's referenced article do seem very similar.

All the same canards are there - sick days; unbelievably whopping figures for loss of productivity through smoke breaks and early death; the fable of death by passive smoking; idiotic rubbish clearance cost; and fires. Plus, there is the same lack of accounting for pension savings from the early deaths the same article portrays as being solely a cost, and a disregard of tobacco's multi-factorial contribution to Lancashire's economy.

It was also furnished by ASH, an aspect which didn't overly concern the dozy hack who rattled off the article before no doubt lolling back in his chair, flicking a rubber band and farting. It should have done, since this would appear to be merely our country's leading light in twisting fantasy into fact taking Henry Featherstone's creaking innumeracy on the road.

The assistant director for Lancashire Public Health Network, Paula Hawley-Evans, welcomed the tool.
No, she's not talking about Henry himself - she is probably unaware of his part in this - but instead some localised re-jigging of a national fable which the MSM rightly ignored.

One assumes it was fired off to lazy local health lobbyists and newsmongers nationwide, hoping that figures tailored to their area might generate a few column inches for a thoroughly debunked concept.

But who is this going to fool? It's such execrable garbage that one has to be an intellectual midget to believe it.

Health watchdog, councillor Ron O’Keeffe, said he was horrified by the figures.

The chairman of the borough’s health overview and scrutiny committee said: “The figures are atrocious and frightening."
Ah, of course. I forgot that local politicians are even more disastrously gullible than national ones.

Sadly for the country's hopes of exiting this recession soon, local business leaders aren't too bright either.

[Mike Damms, chief executive of the East Lancashire Chamber of Commerce, said:] " ... overall I agree with the sentiment of the report and we’re not surprised the cost is high as smoking-related illness is the predominant self-inflicted reason for absence from work.”
Yes. The epidemic of Monday morning sickies from excessive consumption of Mayfairs is almost unanimously accepted, didn't you know?

It's a sneaky ploy by ASH to take a nationally disregarded pile of junk - which they will certainly have had a hand in fabricating producing - and break it down into regionalised chunks for journos bored of lost cat stories to publish, for the unquestioning belief by low-grade politicians and the terminally local credulous.

Now, I wonder why regional newspapers are in such a mess? Couldn't have anything to do with their inability to sort fact from professionally disseminated vested interest garbage, could it?


manwiddicombe said...

Come on DP! Even you can agree that

“The figures are atrocious and frightening."

Well, you can definitely agree the former .....

Bucko said...

Thanks for the link.
The MPs and folk quoted in the article might be stupidly gullible, but fortunately all the people who commented on the story saw right through it.

That makes a change for the busybodies in the Lancashire Telegraph. I got in with the first comment and expected to get a right shoeing but they all agreed.

Michael J. McFadden said...

"It was also furnished by ASH, an aspect which didn't overly concern the dozy hack who rattled off the article before no doubt lolling back in his chair, flicking a rubber band and farting."

Always love your way with words Dick!


Anonymous said...

In PMQs today, Cast Iron Dave (remember the Great Repeal Bill ? No neither does he) refused to squash a potential smoking-in-car ban and even said he supports the current ban.
First it's no referendum, now this - he really is in the pocket of Brussels.
More votes lost, Dave