Friday 24 March 2017

Tobacco Control fail

The 2016 Tobacco Control Scale (TCS) was published yesterday. The TCS pats governments on the back for capitulating to the whims of the anti-smoking lobby, regardless of whether the policies actually work.

Charting each country's score against smoking rates show that obedience to 'public health' diktats is no guarantee of lower smoking rates, even if forcing people to stop smoking were ethically justifiable - which it isn't. As with previous TCSs, there is no statistically significant association between tobacco control scores and smoking prevalence (the r-squared is 0.08, if you're statistically minded).

I've used smoking prevalence data from the OECD and the WHO circa 2015 for this graph. As I mentioned recently, Sweden's smoking rate has since fallen to nine per cent. The Swedes get a fairly mediocre score in the TCS because they don't ban all tobacco advertising, don't have a display ban, don't have plain packaging, don't have especially high tobacco taxes, don't spend much money on anti-smoking campaigns and don't have a 'comprehensive' smoking ban. Above all, they don't ban snus - and that is the reason they have the lowest smoking rate of any developed country. Naughty Swedes.

It says a lot about the tobacco control racket that Sweden gets the same score as Turkey. Turkey was the blue-eyed boy of the anti-smoking movement when the TCS was published in 2013. It introduced a draconian smoking ban in 2008 and has graphic warnings on cigarette packs covering 65% of the surface area. It bans nearly all tobacco advertising and it prohibits the sale of e-cigarettes.

In 2013, WHO director-general Margaret Chan delivered a speech in which she drooled over the fact that Turkey 'has some of the most stringent tobacco control measures in the world' and claimed that 'Turkey’s success in tobacco control has stunned many observers'. The WHO has a penchant for authoritarian regimes, but Chan was particularly awestruck by the Turks.

I am most pleased to mark World No Tobacco Day in Turkey, a country that is a model of success in tobacco control and an inspiration for the world...

Moreover this country was the first in the world to achieve all six MPOWER demand-reduction measures for tobacco control at the highest possible level of achievement. No other country in the world has done this...

I thank the Turkish government for collaborating so closely with WHO... Turkey is the only country in the world to receive three WHO awards for achievements in tobacco control...

It is a model for other countries to follow, and it is a source of great encouragement...

Thank you, Turkey, for being such a shining, and inspiring, model of success. Tobacco control works.

I could quote more of this hubris but you get the picture. Suffice to say, things did not go quite so well in the real world:

From 2008 to 2011, tobacco consumption in Turkey fell to less than 100 billion cigarettes per year. In 2015, the figure stood at 125 billion, including contraband cigarettes and loose tobacco, according to Elif Dagli from the Turkish Thorax Society’s Tobacco Control Working Group. The smoking rate rose from 39% to 42% among men, and from 12% to 13% among women. The real alarm, however, concerns the young. Compared to the 2003-2012 period, the consumption of cigarettes and other tobacco products in the 13-15 age group increased by 51% and 88%, respectively, Dagli said.

 Trebles all round!

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