Sunday 22 May 2016

The Harm Of Plain Packaging

Along with death and taxes, the one thing you can be certain about in this world - because tobacco controllers routinely lie - is that any anti-smoking policy promoted by tobacco control will be designed for a completely different purpose than the one they pretend it's about when they lobby politicians.

We saw this with the smoking ban where all the talk of protecting bar staff evaporated once the law had been passed; then it became how wonderful it will be to drive down smoking rates. It was nothing about health but all about denormalising and shaming smokers.

Likewise plain packaging. As I've mentioned before, once the law took effect in Australia, all mention of stopping children smoking disappeared in favour of how brilliant this would be for forcing smokers to quit (in fact, the stats on child smoking were deliberately ignored).

Anyone who has ever smoked knows plain packaging won't make a blind bit of difference to smoking uptake; and - as even ultra-local Puddlecoteville radio understands considering the breakfast show presenter was ridiculing the idea on the morning it was announced - that the policy is purely intended to attack the tobacco industry while irritating, shaming and bullying smokers.

Much to their chagrin, someone took to the 'public health' racket's favourite online source on Thursday to criticise this approach.
Why tobacco ‘plain packaging’ could have dangerous unintended consequences
“[P]lain packaging” has been found to create severe feelings of self-blame and disgust which, in turn, cause stigmatisation of smokers
On the one hand, these side effects are not justified because they are not outweighed by other benefits of the new plain packaging rules. The fact that smokers feel motivated to stop is hardly a net gain when they at the same time are subject to emotional harm, and their chances of quitting aren’t strongly improved. 
Worse, though, some studies demonstrate that certain groups of smokers react negatively to shock messages. For some, the feeling of blame and stigmatisation creates an emotional state of disempowerment, which reinforces the belief that it is impossible to stop smoking. In such cases, plain packaging does not only create emotional harm without sufficient justification, it is quite frankly counterproductive. 
Given the lack of behavioural evidence and the serious unintended consequences, the introduction of tobacco plain packaging in the UK is an ill-advised decision, which is most likely not to have a significant impact on one of our biggest public health challenges.
This, of course, is distilled heresy in tobacco control circles where only wild Borg-like enthusiasm is tolerated. One of the world's biggest plain packaging advocates couldn't resist popping up in the comments pretending that this was nonsense, along with other fruitcakes saying things like this.
I dispute whether there is an intention to cause shame - do you have any evidence of such an intention?
Well considering that making smokers ashamed of displaying their packs was celebrated by Aussie tobacco controllers as well as UK ones, I'd say so, wouldn't you?

I'd also suggest that tobacco control campaigns such as "If you smoke, you stink" kinda gave the game away, as did tobacco control industry grandees celebrating smokers being seen as malodourous; litterers; selfish and thoughtless; unattractive and undesirable housemates; uneducated; a social underclass; addicts; excessive users of public health services; and employer liabilities. So it's hardly surprising that government advisers have noticed the effects, all the while tobacco control liars pretend it isn't happening.

The author of the Conversation piece - Thomas Boysen Anker of the University of Glasgow - gamely and astutely countered criticism of his article in the comments, most notably with these observations.
[I]t is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the mandatory use of shock messages on plain packs causes stigmatisation of smokers. I know some studies see this as a positive outcome. To me it is emotional harm. 
[I]f you ask smokers, many feel ashamed of using plain packs because of the shocking health warnings. Intentionally causing feelings of shame is a form of stigmatisation. 
My issue is that - from a purely public health point of view - it is surprising that we invest massive time, effort and money into de-stigmatising mental health problems, homosexuality, etc., but readily accept stigmatisation of smokers. To me, that is an ethical problem.
Indeed it is!

Of course, the tobacco control industry couldn't care less about emotional - or even physical - harm to smokers, as Deborah Arnott proved by arguing in favour of the vile policy of banning smoking in mental health institutions in November. Possibly the most disgraceful smoker bullying you could ever imagine.

Yet the very same Arnott - sporting a straight face - apparently received a hearty round of applause at a Royal Society of Public Health 'debate' in April for saying that her organisation attacks smoking but not smokers!

It is quite ridiculous for any tobacco controller to say that the intention of their policies hasn't been to shame and stigmatise smokers; they know very well that is their deliberate intention. They even tacitly admit it with laughable justifications for outdoor bans being to remove filthy smokers from the view of children. It's not, and they are well aware of what the real reason is; it's to make smokers ashamed of being seen.

But let's take them at their word just for jolly.

Say they really do care about smokers and wouldn't even dream of heaping shame and stigmatisation on them (don't laugh). What does that say about how much they understand smokers? Well it pretty much means they haven't the first clue, doesn't it?

But then, why would they considering they refuse to listen to anything smokers ever say. Empathy, compassion and ethics can go hang when there are grant bucks to chase, eh?

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