Thursday 9 June 2022

Send in the clowns - Javed Khan's tobacco review

Javed Khan published his 'independent review of tobacco control' today and it is far madder than anyone expected. It's titled 'Making smoking obsolete', but it is full of supply-side interventions, including incremental prohibition. He doesn't seem to realise that products become obsolete when demand dries up, not supply.
Khan has consulted with the worst extremists in the 'public health' industry and grabbed every half-baked idea that has ever been proposed, including raising the smoking age every year, painting cigarettes green and putting individual health warnings on them, banning films which show people using tobacco from being broadcast before 9pm and have warnings flash up on screen when they do, banning people who live in social housing from smoking in their own home, banning smoking outside and hiking the price of a pack of cigarettes up to around £20. 
There's also lots of stuff about looting smokers and giving the cash to people in 'public health'. In fact, that is the first item on his agenda. This has ASH's fingerprints all over it. See if you can spot the difference between Khan's plan and the plan put out by ASH's puppet All-Party group last year. There isn't one.

In a way, it's good that he's given a voice to the mentalists because the public will finally realise that they are dealing with swivel-eyed prohibitionists. On the other hand, it leaves the government in a bit of a bind because they will be expected to act on at least some of the recommendations. I don't think they anticipated Khan to go native so quickly and so completely.
There's fun to be had in the appendix of the report in which Khan hears from focus groups made up of actual smokers and discovers that they are quite happy and just want to be left alone. 

Attitudes to smoking

There is a notable lack of drive or even inclination to quit smoking among many. 

Participants considered smoking was an essential tool for dealing with life. 

Attitudes to quitting

Awareness of health risks is high but can be rationalised, justified or ignored.

Quitting: attitudes towards support services

Not top of their mind; much disinterest in quit support services; some rejection.

A main barrier is a lack of desire to quit; but some actively do not want to engage.

Policy ideas

Reaction muted and negative. In some instances, negativity linked to perceived increased difficulty to smoke.

Student smokers (who took up smoking at university)

Students are positive, upbeat about the future.

Notably, most are without care about their smoking. 

No urge or desire to quit.

Generally minimal concern about ability to quit when they want to; related lack of interest in support services.

Ethnic minority smokers

Generally aligned with other smokers regarding situations, behaviour, and attitudes to smoking.

LGBTQ+ smokers

Generally aligned with other smokers regarding situations, behaviour and attitudes to smoking.

Oh well, never mind. It doesn't matter what smokers think. They're not 'stakeholders'.
We know how 'public health' lobbying works by now. There is a very clear playbook. The moment the government gets within two miles of a policy, they portray it as inevitable that it will become law. When the government fails to implement it, they accuse it of being in thrall to tobacco industry lobbyists. 
Within hours of the report being published, the spinning had already begun. 
Downing Street accused of blocking plans to raise legal smoking age every year in bid to appease Tory right 
There weren't any plans to block, of course.
Labour has raised concerns over links between David Canzini, Downing Street’s powerful deputy chief of staff, and tobacco companies, and demanded to know what role he had had in any watering down of plans on the new smoking laws.
... Mr Canzini used to work for Sir Lynton Crosby’s lobbying firm CT Group, whose clients include tobacco firms.
So tedious, but you know this government will buckle sooner or later.
I put out a comment with the IEA earlier...
“Javed Khan has managed to gather the most crackpot ideas from the fringes of nanny state extremism and compiled them in a single document. The idea of raising the smoking age every year would mean treating the adults of the future as if they were children forever. In years to come, perhaps we will see furtive 40 year olds hanging around outside shops looking for 41 year olds to buy them cigarettes.  

“Other bizarre proposals include painting cigarettes green, putting health warnings on individual sticks and banning people from smoking in their own home. He wants to ban films which show people using tobacco from being broadcast before 9pm and have warnings flash up on screen when they do. 

“His plan to ban smoking in beer gardens will be the final nail in the coffin of the pub industry, while his idea of hiking the price of cigarettes by 30 per cent overnight will be warmly welcomed by Britain’s tobacco smugglers who are already doing a roaring trade.

“It is easy to laugh at some of these proposals and Mr Khan should be thanked for providing some entertainment in these difficult times, but there is a non-trivial risk that a future government will be silly enough to implement them. Before filing this report in the bin, the government should make it clear that adults have the right to smoke and that efforts to reduce the smoking rate will not come at the expense of civil liberties.”
I'm also quoted in the Sun...

Christopher Snowdon, an author and head of lifestyle economics at the Institute of Economic Affairs, called the report "absolutely insane".

"I don't why the Government asked this guy to carry out a review," he blasted.

"He has gathered the most crackpot ideas from the lunatic fringe of the nanny state lobby and compiled them in a single document.

"It's an embarrassment."

Prof David Nutt isn't happy with it either:
"The ever-tightening ban on cigarette sales will simply feed an ever-growing black market. The Government is repeating the mistakes America made a century ago in its Prohibition of alcohol. The report points out that the UK is geographically “vulnerable” to illicit trade by criminal gangs. With the advent of free ports, this whole approach doesn’t make a lot of sense.” 
“The review contains muddled thinking, with proposals that make political impact rather than having any health impact or value."  
“It would be far, far better for the Government to focus on helping hardened smokers of all ages to switch to reduced risk products. That is how Scandinavia has beaten smoking. It has allowed its nicotine users to switch to snus which every scientist knows is vastly safer than smoking. For decades they have been reaping the health dividend from a product that doesn’t even cause oral cancer. That’s why Switzerland and the USA have authorised snus. But our Government continues to ban the world’s most successful alternative to smoking." 
Khan rejects snus in his report. He largely dismisses heated tobacco too.
Why did the government ask this guy to do the job again?

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