Sunday 1 July 2012

The smoking ban is wonderful, says the BBC

On the fifth anniversary of the English smoking ban it is fitting that the two media outlets which did the most to campaign for the ban have published pieces saying how marvellous it's been. The Guardian produced theirs yesterday and today the Beeb has got in on the action.

The BBC's article begins with some outrageous whoppers from Amanda Sandford of the state-funded 'charity' ASH:

"When it started people wondered why we'd waited so long to do it."

I don't remember anyone saying that, but then I didn't work at ASH headquarters at the time.

"Non-smokers always found it unpleasant breathing in other people's smoke."

Some do, some don't. In my experience, most don't care.

"It is one of the most important public health acts in the last century."

A ridiculous statement that reveals an appalling ignorance of medical science and health legislation since 1912. The smoking ban did not lead to a fall in the smoking rate, nor did it help reduce any of the maladies that are claimed to be linked to secondhand smoke. It was always a question of preference rather than health, combined with a failed attempt to coerce smokers into quitting. At best, it pleased some of those nonsmokers who don't like the smell of tobacco smoke, but it has displeased many nonsmokers—such as the Pub Curmudgeon—who lament the closure of thousands of boozers.

The ban was popular with British adults when it was implemented - and a recent poll of more than 12,000 people found that 78% of adults still support it.

Fine. Let's have a smoking ban in 78% of pubs then. Landlords would kill for a smoking license.

We then move onto Linda Bauld of the state-funded Tobacco Control Research Group who wangled the job of assessing the smoking ban for the Department of Health despite having no relevant qualifications in the fields of health, economics or statistics (she is a professor of socio-management, whatever that is).

Prof Bauld's report concluded: "The law has had a significant impact."

"Results show benefits for health, changes in attitudes and behaviour and no clear adverse impact on the hospitality industry."

No clear adverse impact on the hospitality industry. Truly, these people have no shame.

The BBC then parrots the usual tripe about heart attack miracles (discussed in the previous post). All ancient history, but there is one new piece of sophistry added into the mix. The article concedes that "there is no evidence as yet that smokers have given up smoking in huge numbers because of the legislation", but...

While overall levels of smoking among adults in Great Britain remained constant at 21% between 2007 and 2009, the north east of England saw a different trend.

There, the smokefree ban proved to be a trigger for some adults to quit with the largest drop in smoking in England - from 29% in 2005 to 27% in 2007 and down to 21% by 2011.

What's this - the 'Newcastle miracle'? By what magical process was the smoking ban a "trigger" to quit in that region of the country, but not elsewhere?

Now, I'm no Carol Vorderman, but if the national smoking rate did not fall between 2007 and 2009 (and it didn't) and the north east smoking rate fell substantially, then the smoking rate in some other parts of the country must have risen. Are we to assume that in these places the smoking ban acted as a "trigger" for people to start smoking? I think we should be told.

Or is this just another example of the type of cherry-picking and post hoc ergo propter hoc logic that has defined all attempts at rationalising the most draconian, counterproductive and illiberal piece of legislation in living memory?


How did I miss this from the Guardian (via Tim Worstall)? The slippery slope argument made explicitly and shamelessly. After applauding the smoking ban, the newspaper looks to the future...

But the next campaign for better public health is in a different league. Alcohol and obesity – what we eat and how much we drink – these are the stuff of our very souls. From warning of the public implications of personal actions to changing the actions themselves, The campaigners have to cross a boundary more contentious than any they have overcome before. They have to tackle problems linked with poverty without swelling the populist clamour against the poor. They have to frame a debate about the health implications of overeating and problem drinking that doesn't dwell only on a cost-benefit analysis on behalf of the NHS. And they have to do it when most people think Whitehall, far from knowing best, knows little of real life at all. So the complexities of public health are being devolved to local government and the food and drinks industries' own sense of responsibility. It will not be enough. And it must not take 60 years to get it right.

As the first person to comment on the editorial says...

So all the people warning first they'll come for your fags, then they'll come for your booze weren't wrong.

One more time for the world...

We did try to warn you.


Curmudgeon said...

Ta for the mention - I've commented on it here. And if anyone wants to see the results in graphic form, take a look here.

DaveA said...

This paper is from the North East Public health Authority which seems a front for Smoke Free North East.

From the graph smoking rates in 2005 pre ban were 29% and declined to 22% in 2007 when the smoking ban began. Which it is about today.

So reductions happened pre ban not post ban.

bomboleo said...

(she is a professor of socio-management, whatever that is).

Socio-management?? Sounds very much like social engineering.

bomboleo said...

The Public Health Triangle (a là Bermuda Triangle)....... Facts are known to enter the Triangle, never to be heard of again.

bomboleo said...

The most frequently placed order with Public Health Media Network?
A whopper with the lot, thanks!

Anonymous said...

Well you would have expected this from the Biased Broadcasting Company - totally shameful!

Anonymous said...

The tobacco template will be followed closely with only minor amendments. First, breweries and big fast food chains will be attacked and forced to mend their ways, all supported by a plentiful supply of junk studies. Secondly, loads of adverts showing drunks staggering about the streets and lots of stories about lardarses dying. Thirdly, and following closely on the propaganda blitz, several surveys of 'popular' opinion. Fourthly, punitive taxes on small outlets. Etc,Etc.

As regards the North East miracle, isn't there quite a large port in that region not a long way from the continent?

bomboleo said...

An excerpt from an antismoking “advocacy toolkit” (from a Canadian toolkit, but will be very similar around the world). These “toolkits” sport very few, if any, facts. It highlights the tricks/tactics used to contrive appearances – from flooding comments boards with inflammatory rhetoric, to conducting their own “polls”, to giving the appearance of wholesale public support for smoking bans - to manipulate the public and politicians/law-makers:

"For the next few months, strive to ensure there are positive media stories, letters to the editor, etc., that tout how well the bylaw changes are working. There will no doubt be a backlash from smokers in the beginning until they get used to the changes.

In the meantime, you have to counter their negative comments in the media, in comment sections of online news pieces and blogs, on radio call-in shows, etc.
Your job is to make politicians continue to believe that they did the right thing."
It is not unheard of for councillors to backtrack on their decision and water down legislation.”
(p. 48)

Even if a smoking ban has produced catastrophe, the role of the antismoking activist is to assure the public and law-makers in particular that the ban is a “resounding success”, that even smokers are ecstatic about being further marginalized. It is all activism of the worst kind.

Antismoking activists are – demonstrably – destructive pathological liars. Those that have been given obscene amounts of funding have become professional liars, i.e., propagandists.

Rob said...

"The populist clamour against the poor". Eh? The clamour against the poor is from middle-class Guardianistas wanting to stop them drinking and eating what they want.

Tim Almond said...

As the ONS say about their statistics, Care should be taken in interpreting the results for regional variation in any one year because sample sizes in some regions are small, making them subject to relatively high levels of sampling error

The North East figures are problem of a small sample which reduces the accuracy. If you take the range from 1998 to 2008, the numbers aren't really much better in the North East than nationally, falling from 29 to 21 instead of 28 to 21.

What I think happened with the national figures and with larger regions (South East has a 3 times larger sample) is that the decline is smoother, while in the North East, the numbers stayed higher for longer and then suddenly fell.

(ONS General Lifestyle Survey 2007).

All rather shameful, really. How any university allows their name to be connected to groups that abuse statistics like that, I don't know.

Anonymous said...

Just a shame that the first comment also included;

"Seriously you need to know when to stop. Yes the booze industry should be curtailed but you can't stop me making my own booze and drinking it. "

That's pretty good going; recognising something as illiberal and condoning it at the same time, and yet going on to suggest they'll make their own.

Jonathan Bagley said...

Smoking was at 23% in 2007, not 27%. There is little point in trying to debate with the anti tobacco industry. It's just lie piled upon lie, funded from our taxes. Forming smoking clubs and smoking is the only realistic option.

Anonymous said...

Chris Snowdon mistakenly focusses on past-month smoking rates in attempting to measure the impact of the smokefree workplace law.

A more accurate, reliable and objective measure would be secondhand smoke exposure levels among nonsmokers and per capita cigarette consumption, both of which have declined.

Christopher Snowdon said...

The article referred to "overall levels of smoking among adults in Great Britain" so that's what I discussed.

Why do pricks like you always post anonymously? Something to hide?

Jonathan Bagley said...

It is now impossible to measure per capita cigarette consumption as a large proportion of tobacco purchases are not recorded.
Measuring secondhand smoke exposure levels is also impossible. It is also pointless. Four hours a day in a bar with smokers has been measured as the equivalent of 10 cigarettes a year. The highest claim I have come across from the anti tobacco industry, presumably from all day passive smoking, is 3 cigarettes a week. Assuming a linear relationship between between smoking and lung cancer risk, one cigarette a week for a lifetime would increase the probability of lung cancer by around 1 in 5000. Spending one fewer hour a day in a smoky atmosphere would reduce the probability by the order of about 1 in 60,000, which isn't something rational human beings would bother themselves about.
Chris, I would be grateful if you didn't give the prick a right to reply until he provides you with his real name.

Unknown said...

I switched to electronic cigarette a few months back, before it was really frustrating for me to face smoking bans but now i can freely smoke ecigs everywhere.

Unknown said...

Is there any research which can show how many people in this world purchase cigarettes and approximately how much they spend on it, i am sure the numbers will be huge, smoking bans will take a lot of time to reduce the tobacco utilization.

Unknown said...

It sure is wonderful, this is why more and more people are trying to quit or switching to alternatives like electronic cigarette, which is not only safer for you but also good for the environment.