Monday 13 February 2012

Why are we paying for this? (part 1)

Dave Atherton has some news which contradicts an answer given in the House of Lords last April when we were told that ASH had not applied for government funding and there were no plans to give them any.

ASH did not make a grant application to the department’s Third Sector Investment Programme: Innovation, Excellence and Service Development Fund for 2011-12. The department currently has no other plans to provide ASH with funding in the next financial year.

Now, however, Lord Howe has told Mr Atherton:

At the time of Lord Howe’s statement, no decision has been made about whether to award a Section 64 grant to Action on Smoking and Health for 2011-2012. A grant of £150,000 has subsequently been awarded to ASH for work to support the delivery of some of the commitments in the Tobacco Control Plan for England, published last year.

And so taxpayers are once more compelled to fund a pressure group whose views may be at odds with their own. Ministers of Health have repeatedly denied that these grants are used to lobby, but ASH does not seem to do anything except lobby. A legalistic defence could perhaps be made by referring to 'advocacy' (which is permitted under law), but no one seems to be able to provide a convincing explanation of how advocacy for new laws differs from lobbying.

The coalition government has cut its spending on charities in the last two years. Many of these charities are political by nature and do not provide charitable services as the public generally understands the term. What they do would be illegal in countries like the USA, where lobby groups cannot be funded by the state.

What we have seen in Britain over the last fifteen years is a politicisation of 'civil society' and the rise of state-funded astro-turfing. Under the leadership of Suzi Leather, the Charities Commission has actively encouraged NGOs to campaign while the government has encouraged them to take statutory funding. It should be no surprise that this subverts and undermines democracy. That was surely the intention. When businesses do this, we call them what they are: front groups. A change of government at a time of austerity might have done something about this, but it seems that the Department of Health remains a law unto itself.


Tony Palazzolo said...


While its illegal to do it in the US, its done in the open. The local health department recieved a 7.6 million dollar grant for tobacco cessation. Nearly all of that has been aimed not at smoking cessation, but at removing exemptions from the smoking ban. They simply call it educating politicians, not lobbying.

Ivan D said...

I believe that the Department of Health is corrupt and unfit for purpose. It should be reformed from the top down. The obvious lies, the vindictive politics and the abject failures should by now have convinced any objective observer that the obsession with the public health industry has been a divisive disaster.

Only a fool throws good money after bad and continues to claim success in the face of manifest failure. Perhaps David Cameron could step forward and explain why we are still paying for ASH? I can find no detailed record of the alleged projects that we have been funding anywhere. Is it really that expensive to provide tea and sandwiches for Barron, Williams and their cronies?

Anonymous said...

Federal grant money to be used to lobby for tougher St. Louis smoking ban
Posted on March 9, 2011 by Pepe Lepew
This is interesting, and I’ve never heard of anything quite like this before. Health officials in St. Louis County, Missouri, are using $2 million in federal stimulus dollars to implement a public relations campaign to lobby the county council to impose a more strict smoking ban in the county.

It’s a county agency contacting with a PR firm, using federal money, to lobby its own county council.

That’s gotta drive libertarians insane. And it’s a lot of money — $2 million. I guess I wouldn’t find it so weird if it were a lot smaller dollar amount. What are they really going to spend $2 million on?

St. Louis County currently has a restaurant smoking ban, with exemptions for standalone bars and casinos. The county health agency will lobby for a comprehensive ban.

I see my old friend Bill Hannegan quoted in this story. He is a noted (and very busy) activist from the St. Louis area against smoking bans — one of the sane ones, though I rarely come remotely close to agreeing with him. I grudgingly have to agree with him on this one, though, this is really kind of an odd story.


And Chris theyve been doing it everywhere in america where these obamabuck stimulus grants were issued to local groups.

Anonymous said...

Chris the CDC and other federal agencies have been dooling out grant money to city, county, and other local governments that adopt smoking bans, not to mention to anti-smoking coalitions who push for stricter smoking bans. It's been happening in both the Saint Louis area, plus also in the Myrtle Beach area. I'll note that these aren't the only 2 areas of the country where these ban grants have been given to a smoking ban coalition.

Articles proving it's been happening(wasteful grant money being given to anti groups pushing for smoking bans, plus waving financial grants to communities that ultimately decide to ban smoking) in both parts of the country(grant money going to both Tobacco-Free Saint Louis in the Saint Louis area, and Smoke-Free Horry in the Myrtle Beach/Conway area):

The links are a bit old but they can be found easily.


Anonymous said...

Mr. Hannegan:

My response did not contain an, “honest admission that Tobacco Free St. Louis is engaged in lobbying prohibited of 501(c)(3) organizations.” Your assertion that it did is inaccurate. My exact quote was, “To my knowledge, the University and the activities being managed on our behalf by Ms. Lindsey are fully in compliance with the contract andall applicable federal laws and reporting requirements.”

You have confused activities that are legally permissible for 501(c)(3) organizations (such as education and advocacy) with lobbying. They are not the same. I would suggest you contact the IRS for a clarification on how they define each of these terms and activities.

Dolores J. Gunn, MDDirector, Saint Louis County Department of Health

Dr. Gunn,According to IRS rules "no organization may qualify for section 501(c)(3) status if a substantial part of its activities is attempting to influence legislation... An organization will be regarded as attempting to influence legislation if it contacts, or urges the public to contact, members or employees of a legislative body for the purpose of proposing, supporting, or opposing legislation, or if the organization advocates the adoption or rejection of legislation.",,id=163392,00.htmlClearly one of the main jobs assigned to Tobacco Free St. Louis was the altering of existing public smoking ordinances in St. Louis County. That sort of assignment is not permitted to 501(c)(3) organizations. The Health Department chose the wrong group for this task.Bill Hannegan

Go here it fets real interesting in this exchange:

Anonymous said...

Federal Government Continues Progress to Prevent Tobacco-Caused Disease While States Fall Tragically Short

"President Obama's administration has confronted the tobacco epidemic head-on," said Charles D. Connor, American Lung Association president and CEO.

dearieme said...

I've seen plenty of anti-smoking propaganda over the years, but the crispest summary of the risks was one I found in Le Fanu's book this weekend: if you smoke 25 or more cigarettes a day, your risk of lung cancer increases 25 times.

So we should kick out ASH and the other smoking pimps, and just keep plugging that simple message. Plus, of course, we should defend nonsmokers from the sting and stink of cigarette smoke.

Anonymous said...

Oh dear dearime, 25 times zip is still zip. Relative risk is an exercise in fraud. as for sting and stink, have you ever been in the home of a dog owner with children, yuk. See what we are talking about is personal preferences. I think dogs and kids smell really, really baaad, but not everyone agrees with me so I keep my opinions to myself and live how I please. May I suggest you do the same and stop trying to impose what is nothing more than personal preference on other people, people you don't know and have never met. Not just impose your views on those people, but impose them absolutely EVERYWHERE ALL OF THE TIME.
In short, get a life missus.

dearieme said...

Relative risk is indeed rather fraudulent when the base risk is trivial and the multiplier tiny, but you can't really believe that the risks of smoking are trivial, can you? If so, you are kidding yourself. (In contrast to passive smoking - that risk may well be trivial, apart perhaps from aggravating asthma.)

As for stinky dogs in your house: carry on, it's your house - you can smoke to your heart's content there too for all I care.

Anonymous said...

@dearieme - but we're not talking about active smoking...

You haven't quite got the dogs and kids analogy, have you?


Anonymous said...

@ Dearieme.

It is commendable that you see through ASH, but do you see through the ET AL? ASH is a front group for The Royal College of Physicians who pull ASH's strings, to say nothing of the many other NGO's who live off Tobacco Control.

I like Le Fanu - he shows common sense - and I would certainly not object to the Gov shouting its head off about these risks. What we object to is the application of propaganda and force.

As to stinks, people who object to stinks in particular places can very easily protect themselves by absenting themselves from those places - just as they have absented themselves from pubs since they became 'smokeless'.