Wednesday 4 January 2012


Three anti-smoking organisations have commissioned a group of academics to write a report which amounts to a begging letter for continued state funding. It talks about tobacco control "investment" (a word it uses fifteen times) and tries to persuade our impecunious political masters that spending taxpayer's cash on wowserism and junk science will save the country money.

To this end, they lean heavily on the much-mocked Policy Exchange report of 2010 which attempted to show that smokers were a burden on the economy. Unfortunately, all it really showed was that the Policy Exchange can't distinguish between private costs and public costs, financial costs and intangible costs, and externalities and internalities. Nor does it understand that savings need to be weighted against costs in cost-benefit analyses. And, for good measure, it is ignorant of the body of research showing that smokers more than pay their weigh in economic terms.

Never mind though, eh? All policy-makers really need to know when considering whether to throw more taxpayers' money at Tobacco Free Futures, Smokefree South West and Smokefree North East (for it is they) is on page 5:

Furthermore, whilst there has been a downward trend in smoking prevalence over several decades, this appears to have stagnated since 2007.

What happened prior to 2007 to bring down the smoking rate? Not a great deal by the standards of the anti-tobacco extremists—education, awareness, taxation and a ban on tobacco advertising.

What happened from 2007 onwards? One of the world's most draconian smoking bans (2007). Graphic health warnings (2008). Adverts showing fish hooks severing the faces of smokers (2007, below). Massive tax rises (20% increase since January 2010). Counterfeit cigarettes openly sold in the street (2010). Nutters demanding outdoor smoking bans (2011).

Since 2007, the UK has sat proudly atop of the 'Tobacco Control Scale' league table. Like Ireland, Britain did everything the anti-smoking 'experts' said we should. What has been the reward? Stagnation.

Denormalisation, division and extremism is not working. The primary goal of reducing smoking prevalence is not being achieved. The unintended consequences have been socially and economically disastrous. The neurotics and fanatics have been running the show for too long. The coalition should hold tobacco control accountable for this dismal record of failure and return to sensible smoking cessation programmes, believable educational campaigns and treating people like grown ups.


Anonymous said...

Smoking Rates vs Actual number of smokers

Due to an increase in the adult population, the smoking rate may decline while the actual number of smokers stays about the same.

America in 1965
Adult smoking rate = 44%
number of smokers = 50 million

America in 2010
Adult smoking rate = 20%(down 50%)
number of smokers = 46 million

Never has been so much money been spent to accomplish so little!!!

Gary K.

Jonathan Bagley said...

I've saved a copy in case the link somehow gets "broken". In my opinion it makes rather too many assumptions to be given much weight and there might be issues with the claims regarding health care costs of smokers relative to non smokers. My new year resolution is not to make anonymous comments online - hence no more "man in the pub after five pints" criticism.

Anonymous said...

They do lie about the magnitude of the social cost of smoking.

Anti smoker experts state that smoking costs the American society $97 billion in lost productivity per year.

Lost Productivity

Poor management planning and control = $880 billion

Worker interruptions = $588 billion

Employees wasting time on the job = $544 billion

Workers who don’t feel “engaged” in their work = $350 billion

Employers who don’t adapt to the needs of working parents = $300 billion

Traffic crashes = $230 billion

Illiteracy = $225 billion

Heart disease due to death and disability = $152 billion

Presenteeism = $150 billion

Hangovers = $148 billion

Crime = $130 billion

Poor power quality and reliability = $120 billion

Untreated and mistreated mental illnesses = $105 billion

Poor web designing = $100 billion

Roadway congestion = $100 billion

Stress-related ailments = $100 billion

Gary K.

Christopher Snowdon said...


1. Are you saying that reducing smoking prevalence is irrelevant because the population has increased? If the population had stayed the same, would the 44% to 20% drop somehow be more impressive?

2. According to your figures, the adult population of the USA in 1965 was about 110 million and it is now 230 million. Source please.

Anonymous said...

A 50% reduction in rates sounds a lot more impressive than a 7% drop in the actual number of adult smokers!!!

Especially considering the 45 year time period and the billions of dollars spent.

Tables 3 & 4

Gary K.

Anonymous said...

American Lung Assoc data linked above indicates there were about 118 million adults in America in 1965.

42.4% = 50.1 million adults

100% = 118 million adults

Gary K.

Anonymous said...

I could only read about half of that report. But perhaps I'll try again tomorrow...
It seems to be the old story, doesn't it? "We have failed so far, but give us more money and we will succeed...a bit. The more money you give us, the more we will succeed" (although 'the bit' goes smaller and smaller as the money spent goes greater and greater). 'Diminishing returns' is the phrase, I think.

It is hard to see any way forward other than to let the anti-smoking campaign run its course. Only when politicians realise that they are throwing good money after bad will the funding of ASH ET AL dry up.

Smoking bans cannot go on for ever. This is because there is a limit to the number of people who can be fined for 'allowing' smoking. That limit has already been reached. A nice little 'legal action' from ANY PERSON WHO HAS SUFFERED LOSSES AS A RESULT OF THE BAN, against ASH (for issuing misleading surveys and studies), and claims for compensation will effectively cause the demise of ASH.

As I have said before, one wealthy individual, who is prepared to fund a challenge, could bring the whole edifice tumbling down.