Friday 1 July 2011

Direct from the ASH bunker

You may have heard about the recent meeting in Parliament to discuss amending the smoking ban. As word spreads that there is an easy way to accommodate smokers and nonsmokers without killing off thousands of pubs, ASH's latest press release is a masterpiece of denial and disinformation.

Four years on: More smokers support than oppose smokefree law - no evidence of adverse impact on hospitality trade

On the fourth anniversary of England's smokefree law, new figures show that public support for the measure remains high with 78% of the population in favour of the law. Significantly, almost half of all smokers (47%) support the law.

Or to put it another way, a significant minority of the public—millions of people—still oppose the ban four years after it was brought in and less than half of smokers support the law.

The very fact that a large number of people, especially including those who are most directly affected, oppose the ban is precisely the reason why it should be amended it so that everybody can be happy. Everybody, that is, except the lunatic fringe of the anti-smoking movement that is represented by ASH.

The survey complements an independent Government-commissioned review of the impact of the smokefree law which found no significant decrease in the number of people visiting pubs or restaurants before or after the legislation.

I'm going to start invoicing ASH for all the coffee soaked keyboards they've made me ruin with statements like this. If I remember correctly, the review in question was actually ditched by the Coalition when they came to power but the Department of Health produced it anyway because they had spent three years manufacturing the evidence to support a law they themselves had lobbied for. It was entirely written by Linda Bauld, a professional anti-smoker who is a member of the ASH Advisory Council, a member of the Smokefree South West Programme Board and a member of the International Network of Women Against Tobacco. It would be hard to imagine anyone less qualified to produce an "independent review". We shall come back to her in a moment.

These findings stand in stark contrast to the claims made by the 'Save Our Pubs' campaign - a tobacco industry funded font group...

You know what these font groups are like. They start off campaigning against the use of Times New Roman, the next thing you know they want a ban on Comic Sans.

...that the smokefree law is causing pubs to close. The real agenda behind this campaign is to amend the law to allow smoking in pubs 

Oh no, they've been rumbled! And they would have got away with it too, if they hadn't put 'Amend the Smoking Ban' on every single piece of campaign literature.

However, the pro-tobacco lobby's claims that the smoking ban has led to pub closures are unfounded. In 2007, the year England went smokefree, the number of licensed premises for "on sales" of alcohol actually increased by 5% and there has been a net increase in the number of people reporting going to pubs since the smokefree law came into effect.

It's actually quite sad how ASH cling to this factoid as if it was proof that pubs aren't closing in huge numbers. As everybody keeps trying to tell them, the number of on-licenses is completely unrelated to the number of pubs. A license is required to sell alcohol and there has been a steady rise in the number of licenses granted since the Licensing Act relaxed the licensing laws in 2005.

The number of pubs, on the other hand, has fallen year after year since 2007, when the smoking ban came in. Nobody—other than the terminally self-deluded—disputes that there has been a massive and unprecedented fall in the number of pub since 2007. It has been one of the most thoroughly reported business stories of the last few years. People have come up with alternative explanations for why the pub industry has crashed but only ASH deny that there has been a crash at all.

If ASH had the slightest interest in seeking the truth, they could easily have consulted figures from the British Beer and Pub Association which show that over 4,000 pubs have closed since the ban came in.

Or they could have looked at the survey from the British Institute of Innkeeping, which found:

  • The proportion of smoking customers dropped from 54% to 38%;
  • 66% reported that their smoking customers were staying for shorter periods;
  • 75% reported that smokers were visiting less frequently;
  • 47% of businesses had laid off staff, although 5% had recruited additional staff;
  • Income from drinks fell by 9.8%;
  • Income from gaming machines fell by 13.5%.

They didn't do any of this. Would it really hurt them to at least acknowledge that thousands of pubs have closed? Do they really have to deny everything?

But wait, what's this? Is Deborah Arnott about to hint at the truth?

Commenting on the findings, Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of ASH, said:

"Pubs, like all small businesses have been hard hit by the recession...

Nice try, but the recession didn't begin until late 2008 and it doesn't explain why Scotland and Ireland suffered a similar loss of pubs when they brought in their bans in 2004 and 2006. Since pub numbers declined at a similar level in different countries in different years, there really can be only one explanation for the phenomenon.

But the tobacco lobby group assertion that thousands of pubs in England and Wales are under threat of closure due to the smoking ban does not stand up to scrutiny.

Evidence or STFU. Pubs have closed and will continue to do so until their numbers have fallen to the level needed to satisfy the lowered demand for smoke-free venues. ASH's assertion—for that is all it is—contradicts every piece of evidence from Britain and abroad. It is at odds with what publicans, market analysts, customers, publicans and the stock market have said. It defies reason, common sense and the evidence of one's own eyes for ASH to continue with this charade. It's my view that the case has been proven beyond reasonable doubt. There simply is no other factor can can explain the data. However, even if you don't believe the evidence to be compelling, it is simply a lie to say that there is "no evidence of [an] adverse impact on the hospitality trade." There is plenty.

The British public are enjoying the benefits of smokefree drinking and dining and there is little appetite for a return to the bad old days of smoky pubs."

This a straw man argument. The Save Our Pubs campaign is calling for ventilated smoking rooms adjacent to the bar, not for "the bad old days of smoky pubs" (y'know, those bad old days when pubs weren't closing in their thousands). There has always been public support for a law that accommodates smokers and nonsmokers alike because the British, in general, are a tolerant and reasonable bunch. This makes ASH a profoundly unBritish organisation. As with all extremists, compromise and tolerance are their natural enemy, which is why ASH will fight tooth and nail to make sure that tools of denormalisation and social exclusion remain law.

There is one simple way of testing whether the smoking ban has been popular and successful—get rid of it. If people really don't want to go back to the days of smoky pubs, there is really no reason to have a law forcing pubs to be smokefree. Get rid of the law, let the market decide, and if pubs remain entirely nonsmoking we'll know that ASH were right all along. If, however, pubs decide to accommodate smokers once more, we'll know, if we hadn't realised already, that ASH cannot be trusted.

That, however, is not what is being proposed. All the Save Our Pubs campaign is doing is suggesting that if publicans want to, they should be able to have separate, ventilated smoking rooms on their own property. This would bring us in line with most of the other countries in the world which have smoking bans and would be such a small and reasonable exemption that only a zealot could oppose it.

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.

...which is run by Peter Kellner, who sits on the board of ASH. Does ASH have any evidence that is not directly or indirectly supplied by people who are members of their organisation?

And this brings me back to Linda Bauld's abomination. I didn't write about her effort when it came out because it didn't get much media coverage and everything in it had been debunked long before the document was published.

Imperial Tobacco, on the other hand, have now decided to tackle it. They've released a report (PDF) which shows very clearly how Bauld misrepresents the truth and ignores evidence that doesn't suit her case. Its conclusions are refreshingly forthright:

We have become used to the public health community and the anti-tobacco lobby groups churning out made-to-measure studies to suit their objectives.

Bauld’s review should be submitted to public scrutiny. Without such transparency how can
anyone have confidence in Government policy going forward?

The report is of interest because it comes directly from the tobacco industry, whose campaign of doubt regarding smoking and lung cancer in the twentieth century has been well documented. There is, then, good reason to treat what they say with scepticism. And on the opposing side, we have an anti-tobacco industry with a dreadful record of using misleading data and junk science in the twenty-first century. Each side have obvious partisan interests—one is financial, the other is ideological.

Who to trust? The answer, surely, is to trust no one and instead trust the evidence—a pretty good rule of thumb in general. You can make up your own mind. Imperial's report is here. The Bauld report is here. From where I'm sitting it looks like a slam-dunk for Imperial.

Of course, ASH et al. will keep squealing "tobacco industry, tobacco industry" as if this somehow changed the facts. In recent weeks, the anti-smokers' reliance on this ad hominem has reached fever pitch. An online squabble at Liberal Vision saw a number of tobacco control freaks emerge from the woodwork, apparently worried that ASH's image as a grass-roots charity is falling apart. Amongst those who added a comment was none other than Linda Bauld who said that ASH is...

"...a small organisation working to reduce death and disease from smoking, not demonise smokers or restrict liberties [sic], as the tobacco industry and its representatives (who have contributed the majority of the posts above) would have us believe."

This is a pretty explicit claim. Bauld is saying that the majority of comments on the Liberal Vision article were from tobacco industry representatives. How could she possibly know this? She can't and she doesn't. She has no evidence for this allegation and it is almost certainly untrue (I know a number of the people who posted and they are certainly not in the pay of tobacco companies). This is how she appears to operate: make a wild claim without any facts to back it up and hope it sticks. The scientific credibility of ASH has been in free fall for years, so we shouldn't be too surprised by any of this, but their increasing reliance on misguided ad hominems suggests an unhealthy paranoia and desperation as they try to defend the indefensible. If they had the facts on their side, they wouldn't have to resort to name-calling.

You can't blame Imperial Tobacco for sticking their oar in on this one. The anti-smokers have produced a document which is effectively one-stop shop for all the heart miracles, bogus studies and distorted facts that have characterised their defence of the smoking ban in the last four years. It positively begs for derision and that, quite rightly, is what it has received.


Pat Nurse MA said...

“Smoking just one cigarette in a car, even with the window open, creates a greater concentration of secondhand smoke than a whole evening’s smoking in a pub.
“This new research clearly illustrates that child passengers are exposed to dangerous levels of poisonous particles from smoke."

How about that one in the Lincolnite online newspaper from Smoke Free Lincs. When asked to produce this "new research" they could not. They don't even have to prove their lies anymore - they just say them and expect to be believed.

Anonymous said...

a small organisation working to reduce death and disease from smoking

Only a breast support system like Linda Bauld could come out with this sort of tripe. It's an enormnous industry, putting the fear of God into anyone seen with a cigarette. And it's where Bauld gets her daily bread.

Linda Bauld doesn't make widgets. She doesn't sell things in a shop and she doesn't collect your garbage. She doesn't serve you a beer, tend you when you are ill or accept your deposit at the bank. She does not farm your crops, drive your train or provide corporate finance. She doesn't do your accounts, sell you real estate or fix your car.

Instead, she looks for ways to interfere with other people. She is worse than the schemies on the eponymous documentary - at least some feel a little shame about their pitiful contribution to the world.

Simon Sherlock said...

"Instead, she looks for ways to interfere with other people"

Indeed. A non-productive, tax-sponging, anti-social degenerate of the first water.

Magnetic said...

“It was entirely written by Linda Bauld, a professional anti-smoker who is a member of the ASH Advisory Council, a member of the Smokefree South West Programme Board and a member of the International Network of Women Against Tobacco.”

Now, Chris, I get the feeling that you’re implying some untoward bias on the part of [dear] Linda? This is a serious implication. Indeed, it has to be remembered that [dear] Linda is a scholar (giggle), occupying a position in the Department of Social Management (aka Social Engineering, Social Kontrol, Department of Truth® ). [A Department of Social Management!! Where did this come from?] But, if we can’t trust an ideologically-aligned propagandist, operating in a Department of Social “Management” (wink, big wink), and fully supported by government, to give us the facts, then, really, who can we trust? What has become of society when the ranting and raving…. um…, sorry, “evidence review” of a well-paid Social “Manager” immediately attracts suspicion?

Just because [dear] Linda is a professional antismoker, a member of the ASH Advisory Council, a member of the Smokefree South West Programme Board, a member of the International Network of Women Against Tobacco, and a professional social engineer/manager/kontroller, this does not mean that [dear] Linda would in any way be biased in her appraisal….. an “evidence review”, if you will…. of smoking-related matters (Pfffftttt!!!!)

Chris, I think you’re being a tad harsh with [dear] Linda.

Need I remind you?
First they came for the antismokers (and I did nothing).
Then they came for the eugenicists (and I did nothing).
Then they came for the tyrants (and I did nothing).....

or something like that.

Magnetic said...

In recent weeks, the anti-smokers' reliance on this ad hominem has reached fever pitch.

The ad hom has been one of the primary tactics over the last three decades (see Godber/WHO Blueprint).

It can be a bit tricky. Bear with me and I’ll try to guide you through some of the “complex logic” (tee hee).

In the antismoker [fantasy] world, there’s “us/we” and “they/them”.

“Us/we” = righteous, true, good, pure, “fixer-uppers” of the world, e.g., eugenicists/antismokers/hangers-on.
“They/them” = evil, dishonest, horrid, i.e., tobacco industry.

“Us/we” is always right; “they/them” is always wrong.
the only ones that would question any “us/we” conduct/claims are “they/them”, i.e., the [evil] tobacco industry, shills of the [evil] tobacco industry, or [brain-dead] tobacco “addicts”. Those in their right mind would never question any [benevolent, infallible] “us/we” activity.

Many (i.e., journalists, politicians) were “won over” in the 1980s. Imagine being a journalist questioning antismoking claims only to be met with “then you must be a supporter of the [evil] tobacco industry – the merchants of death?” Unless a journalist/politician had considerable background knowledge, they would simply have to capitulate – as many did. Through this [pitiful] technique, the antismokers have been able/allowed to avoid coherent questioning for decades and inflict their inflammatory spin on populations around the world. Being accused of being a tobacco shill or addict is the quintessential put-down indicating that whatever the “accused” has to say is devoid of merit/meaning and not worthy of any respect/attention. The “accused” are just “liars”; what else could they be if they question “us/we”?

This logico el loco is also enshrined in the WHO FCTC.

Anonymous said...

I would rather be a tobacco advocate than a lying sniveling snake in the grass PROHIBITIONIST!

NAZISM best defines them!

Walt Cody said...

To prove the point about aunts and pols, here''s a direct behind-the-scenes quote c. 2000 from Stanton Glantz, head of ANR (Americans for Nonsmokers Rights) and the great mover and shaker in this part of the world:

"In each state one or two politicians seem to be
taking the lead in pushing the industry's position
(at least publicly).As soon as these politicians start floating trial balloons, they should be attacked publicly. If they can be bloodied, it could well scare the others off. Fear is a great motivator for politicians."

The quote comes from a defunct website that was called smokescreens.

Michael J. McFadden said...

Well done Chris! The part that got me over on the Liberal Vision board was where the ASHite characterized the organization as existing on a "shoestring budget" and then went on to talk about a single project on which they were spending 3 million pounds!

With those kind of shoestrings, I'd hate to see the shoes!


Anonymous said...

Instead, she looks for ways to interfere with other people

Sorry, I left a bit out. May I go on?

Instead, she looks for ways to interfere with other people - people she does not know. People she's never met and never will meet. People who expect some self-determination in their lives. People who want to enjoy the pleasures that please them. They must forced to conform, because they do not know what they are doing.

Linda Bauld's mission - her raison d'etre - is to stamp her own opinion on the way life should be lived on these people. Linda Bauld wants us all to be an amorphous, nondescript goo of humanity.

We are not the proles of 1984. We are all now members of the Outer Party, educated, monitored and corrected. We work to pay taxes so that we can be educated, monitored and corrected.

The people of ASH won't tell you what those years reclaimed for the 50% of smokers who purportedly succumb to their indulgence. The weariness of bone, the painful joints, the failing eyesight and the loss of teeth. The bank balance becomes eroded as time goes on, one's friends perish, you're increasingly bewildered by a world that's young and vibrant while you fade away.

You repeat yourself and can't remember little things that only just happened. Everybody is in a rush around you but you have nothing to do, nowhere to go. The stairs are almost unassailable now, and you'd rather go hungry than walk on snow.

You look at even the most impecunious 18-year old as though he'd won the Lottery. You can hardly hear your daughter on the 'phone, and she's impatient as you keep on repeating yourself. She's saying something about a home.

This, my friends, is the machine we serve. Counterintuitively, the medical profession likes us to be ill. Otherwise there's no money in it. The elephant in the room is that by far the sickest people aren't smokers or drinkers. They're old people.

Especially the ones who drink more than one unit per day.

Mr A said...

The good thing is, ASH are really shooting themselves in the foot with their lies about the "success" of the Ban. I know several people (non-smokers who have no interest in ASH or the tobacco industry - the whole thing just has no relevance to them) who have recently started saying, "God, that lot talk crap, don't they?"

ASH are seriously damaging their credibility (with those who don't know how they operate) with this line. ASH can spew out nonsense about third hand smoke and heart attack miracles and smoking in cars and it will just wash over most of my friends as they don't smoke, have no interest in the Scientific Method and they have kids to look after, bills to pay etc. But when they see ASH crop up and say, "Most smokers like the smoking ban" or "No pubs have closed because of the smoking ban", most of my friends, and I'm sure the millions of others like them just scoff. They can see the closed pubs on every street corner. They can see that those remaining pubs have fewer customers. They hear every rant about the ban that happens outside every pub, every night of the week, even now some 4 years later.

Frankly, a lot of my friends' eyes used to just glaze over when I started ranting about ASH and I suspect they thought I was only one step away from making a tin-foil hat for myself. Now, they not only listen, they believe every other ASH factoid I give them..... as they have seen ASH fabricate stats, and lie barefacedly on TV on an issue they know something about and can see with their own eyes.

So carry on the good work ASH. I'm sure their lying on this issue is what has increased the recent anti-ASH groundswell I have detected in the mainstream media recently (that and their calls for bans that even those who dislike smoking think go too far).

I genuinely think people are waking up to them.

Anonymous said...

The health fascists harp on about thousands of children going to hospital caused by passive smoking. No healthy child has ever been harmed by second hand smoke. Only children with 'underlying health problems' like asthma would be affected by cigarette smoke, and they would also be affected going near traffic fumes, chemicals and many other things.

handymanphil said...

Excellent response Chris for ASH are truly embarrassing themselves the further we go. Freedom2choose responded to commiserate the 4th anniversary of the dissection of the country and kindly sent this to ASH HQ!
The sad truth behind the Lies-4 years on. ... rs-on.html

Anonymous said...

If there was ever a document designed to illustrate how anti-tobacco has become more akin to a religious crusade than a campaign to improve the nation’s health then Bauld’s report is it. Read out loud, with suitable passion, it could pass muster as a sermon given by any hellfire-and-brimstone-style Evangelist in the States. Indeed, in the same way as they promise “Heaven on Earth” to those who “find Jesus,” Bauld’s report seems to imply that Heaven is already here – and it’s all thanks to the Smoking Ban. No-one has suffered, no-one is suffering, and no-one will suffer in the future, provided that Governments just stick with the smoking ban, push on with further anti-smoking measures and let the anti-smoking crusaders tell them what needs to be done to exorcise the Demon Tobacco in our midst. We are all sublimely happy with the ban - even those “doubting Thomases” who weren’t sure before it was imposed - now that we’ve "seen the light," and those few who have the temerity to state any displeasure with the Holy Ban do so simply because we are “lost souls” in thrall to Satan in the guise of Big Tobacco.

The report has to be seen to be believed (well, not literally, but you know what I mean). I scoured it – and I mean I really, really scoured it – for any indication, anywhere, no matter how vague or fluffily-worded, as to one little, teeny-weeny negative impact of the ban. But there is none. Nada. Zilch. Nothing. Bauld simply refuses (and I believe it to be deliberate, rather than mistaken or misinformed) to admit that anything could possibly be wrong about the ban. In fact, she is at pains to imply that, far from having the negative effects predicted by many, the ban has in fact had nothing but entirely positive effects in all possible areas of life.

Now, I don’t know about anyone else on here, but I can’t think of a single piece of legislation which hasn’t had at least some negative impact on someone else, somewhere. Even those pieces of legislation which people generally do approve of for the “greater good” are accepted in spite of this negative impact; certainly that negative impact isn’t denied or pretended not to exist. But not so the Smoking Ban – it’s been, in Bauld's view, like some sort of regulatory Mary Poppins - “practically perfect in every way.”

However, Bauld's inability to take an even slightly objective view of the ban's true effects, far from shoring up her case that the ban has been an overwhelming success in every respect, may ultimately do more damage to her chosen "cause" than for one minute she thinks it will. For this rose-tinted report must, surely, raise vague suspicions amongst even the greatest adherents of the Health Act that something’s “not right” about it - that behind all interminably positive statistics and jolly-hockey-sticks words, there hides an ever-so-slight ring of desperation and growing sense of panic. Why is admitting that there is anything negative about the ban so terrifying that not even the most fleeting of references can be made to it?

Read from start to finish, it’s a terrifying document, not just for its cheery, back-slapping, self-congratulatory manner but also for its cavalier disregard of the fact that there are – whether Bauld likes it or not – many, many people who have suffered to a greater or lesser extent because of the ban’s imposition. What’s even more terrifying is that those in power whom we have elected to (supposedly) represent all of us, will almost certainly, with few exceptions, be totally taken in by it.

Anonymous said...

A bit late in the day, by apposite for this post. I have just posted this on Dave Atherton's site:

“”Data from the Office for National Statistics shows a net increase in the number of people visiting pubs since the smoking ban. When England went smoke-free in 2007, the number of premises licensed for alcohol increased by 5 per cent, and it has continued to grow every year since.”"

That from Emily Duncan in the Independent 29th May 2011 “The unstoppable march of Big Tobacco”.

There was also another quote more recently by a rep of ASH on similar lines, and there have been others.

This thought struck me:

If it is true, as ASH says, that premises licences for alcohol are increasing and that the hospitality trade IN GENERAL is thriving, then it cannot be true that the recession is the reason for pub closures. What then is the reason for pub closures, consequent upon the smoking ban, if it is not the smoking ban?"""

that was my comment of DA's place.

"""Pubs, like all small businesses have been hard hit by the recession...""" From Arnott as you quote.

But, they cannot have it both ways. Is the hospitality industry thriving, as they say, or is it being hit by the recession, as they say? Both statements cannot be true at the same time.

I was struggling to find the latest quote along the same lines, but I have found it. It was on the ASH site. Here it is:

"""However, the pro-tobacco lobby’s claims that the smoking ban has led to pub closures are unfounded. In 2007, the year England went smokefree, the number of licensed premises for “on sales” of alcohol actually increased by 5% [4] and there has been a net increase in the number of people reporting going to pubs since the smokefree law came into effect. [5]"""

Essentially, it is the same statement of fact, but from ASH on 29th June 2011 and unattributed. Arnott, of course, comments:

""“Pubs, like all small businesses have been hard hit by the recession. But the tobacco lobby group assertion that thousands of pubs in England and Wales are under threat of closure due to the smoking ban does not stand up to scrutiny. The British public are enjoying the benefits of smokefree drinking and dining and there is little appetite for a return to the bad old days of smoky pubs.”""

I repeat:

If the recession is affecting small businesses, according to ASH, including pubs, how is it that the recession has had no effect upon pubs according to ASH?

Do we not have here a blatant contradiction BY Ash UPON Ash?

Michael J. McFadden said...

Two thoughts and a question

1) If it's true that "pubs, LIKE ALL SMALL BUSINESSES, have been hard hit by the recession" does that mean that cloe to ten percent of ALL small businesses in the UK have closed since the ban came in?


2) I noticed this description: "All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 10238 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 3rd to 15th March 2011 . The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all England adults (aged 18+).

This is truly amazing news! ASH and YouGov have developed a way to truly differentiate adults from children in online entries! It means that online purchases of tobacco products can now be made FULLY LEGAL again! There is no longer the chance that "children" will be ordering online! THANK YOU ASH! Ahhh... the wonders of modern technology...


3) My question: anyone got a link handy to the details of that survey, preferably the actual web pages where it was intro'd and carried out? It would be interesting to see what biases were inherent in the content/process. Or has someone already done all that analysis someplace?


Anonymous said...

Michael, ASH UK refuses to divulge the wordings of its YouGov surveys. YouGov, in contravention of its terms of membership of the British Polling Council, does not place the surveys in its archive. The YouGov representative on the BPC is Peter Kellner, founder of YouGov and Trustee of ASH UK.