Tuesday 25 May 2010

Another ASH myth goes up in smoke

In October 2007, ASH published a document entitled Myths and Realities of Smokefree England. The ban had been in force for only 3 months and ASH wanted to portray 'the hospitality industry and pro smoking organisations' as fear-mongerers for predicting negative effects from the smoking ban. 

In retrospect, we can see that ASH were the ones making poor predictions. Amongst the 'myths' they listed were things like 'It will be bad for pubs', 'It will be bad for bingo' and 'Working men's clubs and shisha bars will close'. I have a bridge I'd like to sell anyone who seriously thinks none of this came to pass.

One of the other 'myths' was:

Myth: There will be heavy handed enforcement with undercover officers and covert filming.

'Heavy handed' is a subjective term, but it seems reasonable to apply it here, in the light of Nick Hogan being sentenced to 6 months imprisonment for flouting the ban. 

As for 'covert filming', ASH denied that it was ever on the cards and said:

Reality: What has happened in practice is that council officials have approached the situation as they said they would, in a reasonable manner applying a 'softly softly' approach with relatively few being issued. 

But, as reported in The Times and the News of the World, the reality has been rather different, with councils using anti-terrorism laws to spy on smokers.

Smokers and tramps join 8,000 council surveillance targets

Councils carried out more than 8,500 secret snooping operations on members of the public during the past two years,including spying on dog owners, fly tippers and loan sharks, according to a report published today.

Secret surveillance operations also took place against smokers, suspected benefit fraudsters, vagrants buying alcohol for under-18s and people repairing vehicles in the street.

Councils in North Norfolk, Chesterfield, Nuneaton & Bedworth, and Merton, southwest London, used Ripa powers to snoop on people suspected of lighting up in a no-smoking area.

Councils spy on dog owners, charity donors and smokers

The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) was passed nine years ago to fight terrorism. But access to these Big Brother weapons has gone to 653 bodies - with nearly 1,400 new spying missions EVERY DAY.

Dastardly criminals in the camera sights of these state-approved nosey parkers include:

SMOKERS who light up in the wrong place. Chesterfield, Falkirk, Merton, North Norfolk and Nuneaton & Bedworth councils have their beady eyes on you.

Myths and Realities of Smokefree England already has the makings of a fascinating historical document. With one or two possible exceptions that can be argued over, all of the so-called 'myths' have turned out to be true and all of ASH's 'realities' have turned out to be myths. And it took less than 3 years. 

With the review of the smoking ban coming up in July, one would hope that the chasm between what ASH said would happen and what actually happened might come under scrutiny. It should certainly make policy-makers question ASH's credibility when it comes to passing further laws. 

But since the Department of Health has all but admitted that the 'review' will be a sham and that the only serious question that will be posed is how far to extend the ban, ASH's track record will likely be ignored. 

Throughout June I'll be writing a series of articles contrasting ASH's 'myths' and 'realities' with the real situation for smokers, nonsmokers and businesses since the ban came in. Call it an unofficial review. Watch this space.


Anonymous said...

That's preposterous. No one is trying to keep smokers from smoking. That's your personal choice. I have friends who are smokers, and I don't nag them. We're just asking you to show some courtesy and step outside. That's all.

Oh. Sorry. I was temporarily caught in an anti-smoking time machine from a few years ago.

Mark Wadsworth said...

Maybe the Lib-Cons will cut off ASH's funding?

Anyways, the smoking ban has got bugger all to do with ASH and was not really decided on by our MPs either, so there's no point lambasting them, really, except for fun.

This one has got the fingerprints of the EU all over it - you don't think it's a coincidence that so many countries introduced a ban in such a short space of time? Or that smoking is still allowed in pubs in Switzerland?

Unknown said...

The EU fingerprint ,absoloutely as well as the WHO.
Problem is as usuall EU regs are adhered to by the British yet flouted and bent so to speak across the channel.
That's why we now have the most restrictive illiberal regulation in Western Europe.
Labour made this country into a laughing stock.

Jonathan Bagley said...

Mark, the principle of a smoking ban may not have come from ASH, but the Government was first quite happy to allow exemptions, just as there are now in most of Europe. I don't remember any EU presure at the time. Had ASH not existed, I think there would still be a good number of pubs, or at least "private" clubs where smokers could go.

Anonymous said...

The fat grease-pig Donaldson was the one who pushed for the total ban. Even the Nazis in the Labour party were wary of going all the way with the Ban. It was Donaldson who hectored and nagged and gave them the confidence to think it wouldn't be a complete disaster. Although of course, as it had Donaldson's oily pawprints all over it it was a complete fucking mess.

But now, 3 years on, they're actually proud of it! I heard someone on the Radio yesterday say it "Was the most far-reaching public health measure in years." Incredible. That said, clean water saved how many lives compared to the clean air created by the smoking ban? Oh yes, I forgot - no lives have been saved as a result of the smoking ban. Lying Bastards.

Mark Wadsworth said...

jonathan, it is very much an EU/WHO thing, I once looked it up, but it's all very subtly done so that they can say afterwards "a ban was only one of a range of options which we invited member states to consider" etc.

Frank Davis said...

This one has got the fingerprints of the EU all over it - you don't think it's a coincidence that so many countries introduced a ban in such a short space of time? Or that smoking is still allowed in pubs in Switzerland?

The coincidence is that all member countries of the WHO signed the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control around 2003. This called for member countries to impose restrictions of various sorts on smoking. And this is, to the best of my understanding, the reason why there are smoking bans being introduced not just in Europe but all over the world.

The EU hasn't had anything to do with it... yet. But last year the EU parliament voted through a tough UK-like smoking ban. It just hasn't completed its passage through the EU legislative process yet. When it does, a further layer of restrictions on smoking will be introduced (including prosecutions of high-profile offenders). It is at that point that it will become truthful to blame the EU.

Frank Davis said...

Chris Snowdon wrote: since the Department of Health has all but admitted that the 'review' will be a sham and that the only serious question that will be posed is how far to extend the ban..

But that was before there was a change of government, was it not? I remember reading that several months ago. With a new Lib-Con administration, isn't it at least possible that there will be a different approach? Or is it that the DoH is a law unto itself, and independent of government?

Christopher Snowdon said...

The UK smoking ban was primarily the work of ASH and the British Medical Association, with ASH co-ordinating the effort. The EU wasn't the main driver, as far as we know.

The DoH is a law unto itself but it's certainly possible that the LibCons could change the narrative. The problem is, as ever, that politicians generally don't know anything about tobacco control so will take advice from the 'experts' ie. ASH, the DoH, Quit etc.

Frank Davis said...

Do you not think that being signatories to the FCTC had something to do with it as well? That is, as far as I'm concerned, the real explanation of why smoking bans have been appearing all over the world - most of the world's countries signed up for it. In addition, it also explains why many of them have interpreted it in their own rather more relaxed ways than Britain did. (e.g. Spain)

I'm sure that the BMA and ASH and co were the main drivers within Britain. But surely it was only once Britain had become an FCTC signatory that these organisations were able to call upon the government to make good its promises to the WHO?

Christopher Snowdon said...


I might be wrong, but I don't see the FCTC having been a big player in this particular issue. If anything, I would say that bans in NYC and California had more influence on ASH, the BMA et al. And then Ireland, of course. The FCTC has undoubtedly influenced many other countries to pass bans, but I think the ASH coalition would have happened with or without the FCTC.

Unknown said...

While it's tempting to blame the EU for many things, to lay the responsibility for smoking bans at their door seems to me to be mistaken. For a start, Switzerland does have smoking bans, which vary from canton to canton. The one in Graubuenden (the largest canton, containing some of the most famous resorts like St.Moritz, Klosters and Davos) is as stringent as the UK one.

Secondly, some of the most OTT bans (including bans in parks and on beaches) are in the US, Canada and Australia, none of whom are anything to do with the EU.

Thirdly, smoking restrictions are currently far more relaxed in many EU countries, such as Germany, Spain and Belgium, than they are in the English-speaking world.

Overall, anti-smoking has been driven far more by English-speaking nations than by any others. From Godber's WHO blueprint, to the influence of people like Glantz, Repace, Banzhaf, Bloomberg, Jamrozik and Donaldson, and finally to the hand-wafting, fake-coughing tourists from the US and the UK who spend their time complaining about little wisps of smoke when abroad, these have been the main influences on anti-smoking. I don't doubt that there are many unelected Brussels beaurocrats who are more than happy to sign up to the cause, but I don't think it started with them.

timbone said...

Here is the beginning of para 2 of an article I wrote two years ago, "The Blanket Ban - how they did it"

"I have been reading a document entitled “Comprehensive Smokefree legislation in England: How advocacy won the day” by Deborah Arnott and Amanda Sandford of ASH, Martin Dockrell of Asthma UK and Ian Willmore of Friends of the Earth. Their opening paragraph states, and I quote, “To examine how a Government committed to a voluntary approach was forced to introduce comprehensive smokefree legislation”"

If I may, here is a link to the whole article - http://freedom2choose.info/news_viewer.php?id=695

Michael J. McFadden said...

Well done as always Chris! And while I'm not intimately familiar with what went down, my sense had always been that the USA money/influence as expressed in dominance of the triennial "Smoking OR Health" world conferences was behind the Irish/UK bans. I believe our crazies have generally had enormously more tax money to spend than their counterparts across the pond. Stanton Glantz tapped into it in a big way first back in the late 1980s with an earmarked tax in California that pumped tens of millions into a movement that had been struggling with tens of thousands, and then the MSA opened up a goldmine that the American Medical Association pegged at 880 million dollars for "Tobacco Control" just in the year 2001. And that's not even TOUCHING whatever extra is pumped in by BP's NicoGummyPatchyPeople and by the charities using "smoke threatened children" in all their fundraising efforts.

The EU and the FCTC will be tough players to beat in the decade ahead, but I don't think they were the cause of the original problem.

Michael J. McFadden
Author of "Dissecting Antismokers' Brains"

Mark Wadsworth said...

Bashing ASH = missing the point.