Sunday 7 February 2016

Why It's Right To Rejoice At Smokefree South West's Demise

Following Friday's fantastic news that Smokefree South West have lost their funding and are to close in six months, it seems there are many tobacco controllers who are rather piqued that some of us are delighted.

Apparently, it's considered bad form in tobacco control circles for anyone to express such a view. I've seen it variously described as "unpleasant", "unnecessary", and "spiteful" amongst other adjectives. For example:

I find the chutzpah being exhibited there quite staggering!

This is an industry which has routinely trampled on smokers for decades. Their jubilation and triumphalism when the smoking ban was installed was vile and vomit-inducing. I don't remember any concern for smokers at the time; there was no consoling arm for people whose social lives they had destroyed on the back of a lie they fabricated.

They didn't say "we're really sorry smokers, we realise this is unfair on you but it's something we feel we have to do". No, Health Secretary of the time Alan Johnson almost punched the air in delight announcing it; Cancer Research UK sent out newsletters to all its donors "rejoicing" in the news; and Deborah Arnott described how smokers had been "exiled to the outdoors". ASH then published a report boasting about how they had connived, cheated and bullied government into abandoning manifesto commitments to accommodate smokers.

They also didn't care one jot about the tens of thousands of businesses and hundreds of thousands of jobs they destroyed. In the particular case of Smokefree South West we can now see exactly why they didn't care about the carnage they caused pubs in their area, seeing as they recently morphed into Public Health Action to bully drinkers too. For them, pubs closing was a feature of the ban, not a bug.

Smokefree South West were part of all that, and very proud of it they were too.

Fully signed up to the policy of denormalising smokers, they have never cared that their approach has been described as turning smokers "into lepers".
Government anti-smoking policies, the report said, can generate hostility against those seen as a threat. 
‘The history of public health is scarred by policies which, pursued in the name of health protection and promotion, have served to intensify public vilification and state-sanctioned discrimination against already disadvantaged groups."
Their policies encouraged some of the most disgusting people in society to spit their bile at law-abiding citizens, and even as recently as last year they were still doing the same, describing outdoor smoking bans that they had demanded in Bristol as "exciting".

I don't see anything in any of the above which suggests Smokefree South West recognised that they were being "unkind"; no acknowledgement that they were making many people's lives "a wee bit worse"; no contrition that their policies cheerlead the most anti-social in society into "hating and hurting people". No, they couldn't have cared less.

Their attitude to e-cigs was also woeful. While composing the press release for the Bristol outdoor bans - as recently as February 2015, remember - they included a case study which attempted to smear e-cigs too. Smokefree South West was also one of only two respondents to a consultation which resulted in an outdoor ban on smoking and vaping in the grounds of North Devon hospitals, leading to a headline in the local press declaring "e-cigarettes not welcome".

That local news item was released just a few days after Smokefree South West had held a meeting with e-cigs advocates but decided to invite representatives from pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson along too. Just six weeks later, these ads started appearing all over the London Underground.

Needless to say, those lovely, cuddly, caring, sharing people at Smokefree South West - who we are supposed to feel sorry for - didn't bother to reply.

This, of course, after Smokefree South West had expressed their abject disappointment that the MHRA hadn't demanded that e-cigs should be immediately banned until licensed as medicines back in 2013, before they had even the first clue about what they were. Had they bothered to talk to vapers back then? No. Did they care what they would do to vapers with such a policy? Also no. So why the fuck should anyone care about them?

What's more, as Snowdon points out, it's all their own fault anyway.
This 100% state-funded lobby group has burned millions of pounds of our money in recent years to harass and demonise smokers. Dishonest to the last, its final act before it had its ill-gotten gains withdrawn was to retweet a lie from one of its fellow state-funded sock puppets.
Indeed they have wasted our money. In 2012, they spunked nearly half a million pounds of government grants, not on helping smokers to quit, but on lobbying government in favour of the tobacco control industry's self-perpetuation policy of plain packaging.

They also wasted government grants on tobacco control's smear site Tobacco Tactics, throwing £135k of your money down the drain on an ideological white elephant which is so inept as to be laughable.

In an era of austerity, such wilfully irresponsible waste of state funding is quite obviously going to attract the attention of politicians who are looking to make savings to cut the deficit. Just this weekend we have seen the government move to stop such blatantly wasteful spending in the future too, and I'm sure Smokefree South West's casual treatment of scarce government resources would have featured in the thinking behind that decision.

If Smokefree South West employees are hurting at losing their jobs, perhaps they should blame the person in charge of the organisation, seeing as they were so myopic as to think their tax-funded gravy train would last forever with them taking the right royal piss. After all, these wastes of taxpayer cash are all since the economy collapsed in 2008, so what on Earth were they thinking?

Well, I'll tell you. They had bought into the tobacco control industry's war on tobacco companies and denormalising smokers lock stock and barrel, launching themselves into it with gusto. Their own side - including those bemoaning the poor treatment of Smokefree South West above - often talk about this "war", so if you position yourself to be at war with a group of people how can you  possibly complain when the other side celebrates winning the odd skirmish?

So I'll say it again. I'm absolutely thrilled that Smokefree South West's days will soon be over, they brought it on themselves by being arrogant and stupid at administering taxpayers' money and not giving a tuppeny toss about the people their policies would negatively affect. Bravo to those who have stopped their obnoxious and wasteful practices, the south west is well rid of them.

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