Friday, 2 May 2014

Public Health England

Public Health England has been in existence for just over a year and it has already fulfilled all my expectations. Within 24 hours of this half-a-billion-pound-a-year quango being formed in 2013 it had already started campaigning for minimum pricing and restrictions on food advertising. Almost incredibly, it has since been criticised by Labour MPs for not being enough of a sockpuppet for neo-prohibitionist interests.

The point of this organisation utterly escapes me. It seems to be another state-funded bee that can buzz around to contribute to what ASH famously called 'the swarm effect':

Networks of campaigners can be provided with key resources and a sense of direction without ever being told what to do. It's called the "swarm effect".

As you may have heard from Dick Puddlecote, the Daily Mail or the Independent, minutes from a Public Health England meeting show that their covert aim is to ban e-cigarettes in the same places that smoking is banned.

After e-cigarette users made their feelings known on Twitter and elsewhere, Public Health England backtracked from this proposal and now say that: "We have not called for a ban on e-cigarette use in public spaces."

The minutes of the meeting betray them, however, or they would if they hadn't been mysteriously taken offline (they were here yesterday). Furthermore, as Mr Puddlecote reveals, Public Health England has also been plotting all sorts of other neo-prohibitionist schemes such as "setting limits on the volume of tobacco that could be imported and sold" and "reducing the number and concentration of retail outlets".

It's no surprise to find that Public Health England came to such extremist conclusions when you consider the panel it assembled (below). There were no smokers, no e-cigarette users, no harm reductionists and—heaven forbid—nobody from the e-cigarette industry to give their view. Instead, there was Gerard Hastings, a fanatical socialist who thinks that "the corporation will crush you in the end".

One characteristic of modern prohibitionists is that they are too cowardly to put their full agenda before the public. They know that their agenda seems extreme to the public and they know that any liberal society will reject them if people could see the final goal. Instead, they attack liberties incrementally, slowly demonising the consumer and gradually restricting the supplier.

They like to fly policy kites to test how far they can go. If the public reacts badly, they quickly pull down the kite and move on to a less controversial policy as if nothing had happened. They did it with the smoking license idea (2008) and the total tobacco ban (2003). The important point to remember is that these kite-flying exercises were not mistakes, gaffes or experiments. They told us exactly where the prohibitionists intended to go. They told us exactly what they wanted to do.

And so when Public Health England talks about banning e-cigarettes in pubs, we know exactly where their head is at. We know what exactly they want to do. Taking the minutes off the internet and backtracking on Twitter is their way off hastily dragging the kite out of the sky to be sent up another day. It will return, don't worry about that.

If you want a more sensible view of e-cigarettes than that offered by the public health racket, see Matt Ridley in this week's Spectator.


Jack Dawson said...

I read those minutes before they were removed from public view. The blind zeal of the puritans was alarming, but I found even more disturbing the repeated idea that clear, simple messages should be promulgated. Presumably we, the poor, benighted peasantry, are unable to judge complicated matters for ourselves, not being as erudite as the ordained experts.

Sarah J said...

I also read the minutes, and the more expansive version available here:

What is clear from that is that these thoroughly offensive policy suggestions come from the position statement of Public Health Wales (and we all know what is now being proposed there). What is not clear is whether or not Public Health England intend to adopt them as well.

What struck me about the expanded minutes was the continual use of the words 'endgame' and 'denormalisation', both used in such a benign manner as to suggest that they see no issue at all with the stigmatisation of smokers being used as a weapon against the tobacco industry. They appear to be so horrified by the suggestion that personal vapourisers might reduce the impact of their chosen weapon (even though there is no evidence that they do, and a wealth of evidence that they don't) that they are prepared to forego the huge potential health advantages PVs offer by stigmatising the users of those too. Talk about losing sight of your very own reason for existence. Shame on Public Health Wales. Let's hope Public Health England see sense, and share some of it with the Welsh.

KC said...

The missing PDF file can still be viewed from the Google Cache at :


KC said...

I used google chrome to save that as a PDF, as well.

KC said...

It appears the document is still available at :

They probably just moved its location rather than removing it altogether.