Friday, 18 February 2011

How thick do ASH think we are?

From Brand Republic:

ASH blames adspend freeze for failures to quit smoking

The number of people who successfully give up smoking has dropped by a third since the Government halted its anti-smoking advertising.

New Department of Health figures are the first to reveal the impact of the Coalition's decision to freeze adspend as part of the £6 billion of cuts it announced last May.

Between January and March last year, the Government spent £861,000 on its anti-smoking campaign and 124,792 people successfully quit the habit with the help of the NHS.

When the budget dropped to just £26,000 between April and June, the number who gave up fell to 85,749. There was a further drop in the next three months to 76,504, when no ads appeared - 38 per cent down on the first three months of the year.

There was a similar reduction of 34 per cent in the number of smokers who set a date for kicking the habit over the same period.

Martin Dockrell, the director of policy and research at Action on Smoking and Health, said: "It has been a false economy. Mass-media campaigns are very cost- effective in terms of life years gained. They quickly reduce the pressure on the NHS."

Look Martin, I know you don't credit the British public with much intelligence but we're not complete morons. The quit-rate peaked between January and March because giving up smoking has been the #1 New Years Resolution since Methuselah was a bairn.

This is so obvious that it barely merits confirmation, but just to be sure, let's check with the NHS:

With regard to monthly quit attempts made, numbers were highest in January (note: the start of the year is the most popular time for people to attempt to quit, e.g. New Year’s resolution), followed by March, then February.

Yup, thought so. The first quarter is the busiest time of the year for smoking cessation services with or without the government spending vast sums of money. And the reason the government spends the most money on smoking cessation in January is because that's when there's most demand for it. Inevitably, the quit rate tapers off in the second quarter and then again in the third quarter.

It's not rocket science and it happens every year.

If we look at the figures from 2009, we can see this quite clearly:

Number of successful quitters in 2009:  2010 figures in brackets (NHS England)

January-March 2009: 120,935 (124,792)

April-June: 89,358 (85,749)

July-September: 79,842 (76,504)

2009, you may recall, was a time when the government was spending money like a sailor on shore leave. Lo and behold, there was a big peak in the first three months of the year, then the numbers dropped in the second quarter and there was a further drop in the third quarter. In fact, we can see that the numbers "dropped by a third" between the first and third quarter, just as they did when not a single penny was spent advertising these services.

So what we have here is a natural experiment. Despite drastically reduced budgets—down to £0.00 in the third quarter of 2010—the quit rate was almost identical to what it had been when Gordon Brown was engaging in his scorched earth policy with the public finances.

This is good news for the taxpayer, because it tells us that we can save money on quit-smoking adverts without reducing the number of people quitting. So thank you Martin Dockrell for bringing this to our attention. All the government needs to do now is stop funding of ASH—whose policies have been consistently ineffective in reducing the smoking rate—and we can really start celebrating.

(I'm pleased to see that no newspaper has felt moved to cover this 'story'. Perhaps bullshit fatigue is finally setting in when it comes to ASH.)


Dick Puddlecote said...

Am I allowed to say that Martin Dockrell is, ahem, a bit of a liar on this blog? ;)

F***W*T TW****R said...

Never believe vested interests. Spin doctoring at It's most amateur. Buffoon.

Pat Nurse MA said...

How about this one Dick :))

Mark Wadsworth said...

Well spotted!

Anonymous said...

I remember some forty years or so ago the TSB, for which I worked, putting out a TV advert. In this advert, there were a couple of factual errors. In a meeting of Managers, we were told that these errors were put in deliberately so as to make the ads memorable. The errors would quickly be forgotten while the overall impression of 'good bank' would remain.

I cannot help but feel that this 'con trick' still exists, and, indeed, has been expertly developed.

Dockrell is not stupid. He knows very well that what he says is nonsense, but by saying it, he attracts our attention. Subliminally, we begin to accept the message which he wants us to accept - GUILT. His numerical claims may be rubbish, but, by talking about them, we subliminally accept that smaller numbers might be true. We do not say that the whole thing is crap!

Would I be wrong in saying that all of ASH's (and, ultimately, the WHO’s) statements are calculated to achieve the effect that they want in this way?

Let us look at the report by Martin Beckford, Health Correspondent, in the DT today (page 12). He reports on a WHO report. One ‘fact’ that he highlights: ‘...deaths from liver cirrhosis have risen in recent years and that one in 15 men in the country is an alcoholic'.

I have drawn attention to The Office of Nat Statistics ‘Causes of Death in 2009’ publication several times, but no one seems to realise how important that document is. It lists some 98 causes (among which there are unlisted variations) and breaks the figures down into age groups in ten year tranches.

Here is the URL:

The WHO specifically mentioned ‘liver cirrhosis’. Let us look at the ACTUAL FACTS regarding deaths from ‘liver disease’ (not just cirrhosis) in 2009 in England and Wales:

Liver disease

Up to age 24.........27
35-44................980 (rounded from now on)
85 +.................260

Total................7330 approx

We must remember that the total number of deaths in Eng & Wales in 2009 was just under 500 000.

The above FACTS show, in my opinion, that the WHO report is a simple ‘con trick’ which they know cannot be proved to be wrong in detail. The WHO used to be a good organisation which did good work in indentifying serious health problems in the 3rd world and directing aid in those directions. It seems to me to be true that this organisation has been taken over by charlatans and politicians.

I read about the Cincinnati town which refused to accept the smoking ban. Their argument was very simple – those townspeople who smoke are just as equal as those who don’t. Proprietors of bars and cafes can decide for themselves.

This same argument applies in relation to alcohol. WHO statistics are lying con tricks, but they do not matter one jot anyway.

The Smoking and Drinking Community has two arguments which overcome the liars.

One, death stats show their lies to be what they are, and
Two, what has it got to do with them anyway?

Public Health has to do with clean water supply, etc, not the choices of individual citizens.

Christopher Snowdon said...


I think you're over thinking with regards to Dockrell. He's just a cynical little piggy (who can't tell correlation from causation) lobbying for more money for the other little piggies.

I spotted the 1 in 15 reference in the DT article but that claim never appears in WHO report itself so I don't know where he got it from.

Anonymous said...

I don't agree with you, Snowdon. Have you seen the stuff over at DP's place about the vet who says that we are killing our pets by smoking in their presence? These idiotically nonsensical reports appear too regularly (in the sense of 'organised') for it to be accidental. These ploys have been well known since time immemorial. We have seen the Canadian script, and that is only for the minions. It is reasonable to say that a script exists for the higher echelons as well.

"We've got the politicians in out pockets; the general public is terrified; we have mothers on side; now all we need is pet owners and we've cracked it".

Tex Lumbago said...

No one smokes in Australia anymore. Why? - Australia’s only Fair Dinkum Internet Newspaper.

10 years of

Chris Oakley said...

Great spot Chris. I wonder how much utter garbage Dockrell puts out that most of us never get to see? I suspect quite a lot because we do pay him to produce this junk.

I am actually a little disappointed that the mainstream press have not covered this along with your analysis. I can only suppose that they have no interest in exposing Dockrell for the deceitful unprincipled charlatan that he is.

Sadly, even if government does see sense and pulls the plug on pressure groups such as ASH, it is highly likely that otherwise respectable charities will step in to fill the financial gap.

Mr A said...

Sorry for the off-topic post but some fun.

Remember how ten years ago thousands put down their religion as Jedi? Well, we have a new census coming up, so let's put down our religion as "smoker." Tobacco Control are leading an inquisition. Let's just highlight that fact.

Whether you want to just deny them the information that they demand from you by force or you just want to raise this issue in public once again and remind them that it is not going away, let's have some fun.
Spread the word.

Anonymous said...

Good idea. You might consider putting:
“Smoker” – currently under persecution.

PJA said...

There was one (sort of) mention in the press.....

(Daily Mash, natch). If only......

Anonymous said...

Mr A, I'd also thought of this.I am definitely going to put my religion down as smoker. I suggest that we should follow each comment we make online with the phrase,
"Religion to be entered on census: Smoker"

Anonymous said...

Notice they never talk about the number of remaining smokers. That is because thes quitters are either fraudulently declared by those who make money from it, or those who start again after a few weeks.
22%, 22%, 22%,............

Religion to be entered on census:Smoker.

David C said...

Once again it's left to blogs to demonstrate what rubbish gets put out by the dictadura.
Well done Chris.

Alexa Van Klemp said...

Money talks as usual. In the end all companies and organisations are run by people, like you or me, and all people have weaknesses, unfortunately. I say we boycott them!
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