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Is there a scandal brewing or just a big fat lie?

July 13th, 2012 Posted in Government, health by

Serious questions are being asked today about Andrew Lansley’s stance on the consultation on the standardised (plain) packaging of tobacco.

Before the consultation was announced Health Secretary Andrew Lansley told the Times (13th Apri 2012l)  that the government did not work with tobacco companies as it wanted them to have “no business” in the UK. That set a few warning bells ringing.

Just a few days later, however, announcing the start of the consultation, his stance seemed to be more moderate. Andrew Lansley was insisting that his mind was “open” over proposals to strip cigarette packets of branding as a consultation on the plans was launched.

It is therefore surprising to find that the publicly funded pro-plain packs web site is claiming the Secretary of State is indeed, now at least, a supporter of plain packaging.

It is not clear when he became a supporter of plain packaging, but as this is a government funded body claiming it, I assume that is true? I am currently running the Hands of Our Packs campaign, opposing the introduction of plain packaging (no government money). I can’t imagine claiming that any Minister, health or otherwise, is against plain packaging, without checking with them first – no matter how many additional signatures it might draw into the campaign.

So I think that Andrew Lansley has some explaining to do? If he doesn’t then the campaign asserting that he has already made his mind up certainly does -particularly considering the source of its funding. It is all starting to look very curious indeed.

Angela Harbutt heads up the campaign Hands Off Our Packs. The campaign is funded by Forest – Freedom Organsiation for the Right to Enjoy Smoking Tobacco.

UPDATE:

A letter has now been sent to the Department of Health requesting a response to the following questions:

1. Is it appropriate for the Secretary of State for Health to be listed as a supporter of plain packs (by a campaign that receives public money) in the middle of a public consultation on the issue and before the DoH has published its report on the consultation?

2. What action will the DoH (or the Secretary of State) take on this matter?

Let’s see what the Department of Health has to say.

It is also interesting to note that two of the authors (including the lead investigator) of the Department of Health’s (emphasis own) “independent academic review of the existing evidence” relating to plain packaging are also listed on the plain packs protect web site as “supporters” of plain packs. The authors – Gerard Hastings and Linda Bauld are identified by the cmapign as being not quite so “independent” in their thinking as one might have hoped.

For more information and further updates go to the  “TAKING LIBERTIES” web site where the story is unfolding..

16 Responses to “Is there a scandal brewing or just a big fat lie?”

  1. Kevin T Says:

    Will someone explain to me the purpose of this? Heroin has been sold in plain packs for decades and this has done little to reduce its popularity.


  2. A Jennison Says:

    Why can’t the government just sod off out of our lives and let us make our own decisions in life.

    Personally, I think smoking is insane but it isn’t for me to make that decision for anyone else.


  3. therealguyfaux Says:

    @ A Jennison: Once you accept that the State should pay for the health care of everyone, it is a small step logically to require that the State make all sorts of rules concerning practices that will increase health hazards. Insurance companies do it all the time by charging higher premiums for people they believe are at greater risk. The State doesn’t have that luxury, less from desire than from practical administrative and political considerations, so they do it at one remove– they make life tougher, not on the smoker (outside of no-smoking zones), but on “Big Tobacco,” which, as we all know, is (cue the organ music) “EVIL! boohahahaha!” They do this in hopes that by driving up the cost of doing business, the price will go up and the average smoker will eventually want to give it up as too expensive. One wonders if the health care costs attributable to smoking thus being diminished and eliminated eventually, the healthier longer-lived populace would be more productive in producing tax revenue during their working years to offset the additional cost of old age pensions that would ensue. In case I am not clear, let me say it plainly: Many proposals sound good but as a practical matter are not properly costed, if we assume the State actually should be involved in the first place.


  4. Angela Harbutt Says:

    @ therealguy
    Thanks for commenting. Just a couple of points. I am not sure that I do think that the state should “pay for the healthcare of everyone”.. but put that aside for a moment.

    The NHS costs of smoking are, according to ASH (http://www.ash.org.uk/files/documents/ASH_95.pd) £2.7billion. Tax revenue from tobacco in 2010-2011 was £11.1 billion (according to ASH – same reference as above). It is probably a little higher revenue take than that but lets stick to the ASH figures (May 2012). That means that smokers are actually subsidising the NHS. If you accept that smokers die earlier and therefore are less of a drain on pensions and, given that everyone dies of something, (many ailments eg Dementia with considerably longer care costs)- smokers are anything but a “drain” on public resources.

    There are also actual costs involved with plain packaging that the Department of Health has yet to cost (see the Regulatory Policy Committee review of the DOH Impact Assessment). The Department of Health has thus far ignored the costs to business, the exchequer and public health of the expected increase in counterfeiting as a result of plain packaging. The heavy metals in fake cigs were described by Panorama as a “health time bomb”.. Then we have the likelihood that plain packs will be the tipping point on small shops who depend on tobacco to sustain their business.. as well as lower tax take as counterfeit sales soar and legitimate sales fall. Respected brand experts have also pointed out that with out branding the market will become commoditised – so there will be a price war – that is not a threat from the tobacco companies – but from market academics and brand experts. A price war will also lead to lower profits to tobacco companies and less revenue to the treasury.

    Then we have the impact on inward investment of IP owners thinking that investment in the UK is unsafe right now as the govt seeks to strip IP rights from legitimate companies when by the admission of the Governments own evidence review of the available research – there is no evidence that plain packaging will reduce the uptake of smoking. Disproportionate action from Govt will not be received well from those looking to bring their business to the UK.

    These are just a few of the economic arguments, let alone the question about whether governments have any place telling us what colours we can look at, or indeed where plain packaging will end – alcohol? fatty foods? sugar ? soft drinks? confectionary etc

    All in all it is a bad policy proposal, even if it is well intentioned.


  5. SadButMadLad Says:

    @therealguyfaux, so the state is going to ban skydiving (a number of people die from it), horse riding (more people die from accidents with horses than die from class C drug overdoses), rock climbing, bungee jumping, kayaking, etc. All sports which people enjoy doing and do so knowing full well the risks involved. Some people don’t know the full risks and still do stupid things like climbing mountains when the weather is bad and have to be rescued.

    Same with smoking. It gives pleasure to many people. It has health risks, but who wants to live forever?

    The reason the state picks up the bill is because it can spread the cost over the whole population. That’s what it is basically doing with the whole NHS. It’s a insurance scheme. Private insurance companies do it a different way as they don’t have access to the same numbers of people. So they charge different premiums for different groups. So skiing has a higher insurance cost than tiddly-winks.


  6. A Jennison Says:

    Therealguy,

    I do not accept that the state should take my money under threat of violence (ie imprisonment) to provide me with the health care it deems acceptable.

    The fact it then thinks it OK to use that fact to force me to live my life how it thinks is acceptable is even worse.

    Quite apart from that, Angela Harbutt makes some excellent points about the extra amount smokers pay in tax and you seem to forget that though smokers do suffer worse health, they also die younger, thus relieving the Health Service of years of care and the cost of treating the diseases of longevity.

    However, the main principle is that the government should interfere in my choices as little as possible. Whether it be smoking, drinking, horse riding, sky diving or anything else.


  7. Jock Sparrow Says:

    The argument that there are other pursuits which cause deaths therefore we should ban them as well as smoking is utterly spurious.
    Nobody got cancer from passive kayaking.
    The dangers of second-hand bungee jumping are unrecorded.

    The ban on smoking in public places saw a drop within a year of its implementation for acute coronary events, purely due to a decrease in the exposure in 2nd hand smoke. Facts, not propaganda.

    I will fight for personal freedoms furiously, but let’s not ignore facts in our pursuit of individual rights. It demeans the whole endeavour.


  8. A Jennison Says:

    Jock Sparrow,

    I was responding to arguments given by people. You say the argument is spurious but you continue it. Deaths from bungee jumping/kayaking/rugby/mountain climbing would all fall if they were banned.

    That said, I would point out that the relative risks of lung cancer associated with passive smoking are less than the relative risks of lung cancer from drinking whole milk.

    They are insignificant.

    The argument that measures to curb smoking improve health is not a reason to take away freedom of choice.


  9. Fredrik Eich Says:

    “The ban on smoking in public places saw a drop within a year of its implementation for acute coronary events, purely due to a decrease in the exposure in 2nd hand smoke. ”

    Jock Sparrow,
    I have yet to see a trend break for hospital admissions any where post smoking bans, in fact the largest ever study done to date showed no difference in places that had smoking bans compared to ones that did not.
    I shall dig it up if you want.
    Dr Siegel has been blogging about this subject for years

    http://tobaccoanalysis.blogspot.co.uk/search?q=AMI

    Others would argue the smoking ban is about “cultural change”, for example Dr Linda Bauld has opined that:

    “I hope that in 10 years’ time we will be much closer to the situation where smoking is no longer as socially acceptable. That’s what this [smoking] ban is about – cultural change.” – Dr Linda Bauld, April 2007.

    Dr Bauld was tasked by the DoH to assess the impact of the ban on the hospitality industry and concluded that there was “no clear adverse impact on the hospitality industry”.

    http://www.bath.ac.uk/news/insider/pdf/apr07.pdf


  10. Jock Sparrow Says:

    Individuals taking part in sporting activities do so knowing the risks to themselves and the other participants. Banning walking across the road would also lead to fewer deaths.

    A child in a smoky house has no such expression of freedom. No choice.

    Cherry picking your health statistics does you no favours. Correlation & causation are different phenomena. Banning smoking in public places saved lives.

    To state otherwise diminishes you.


  11. A Jennison Says:

    Of course, the attacks on smoking are about cultural change.The point is whether it is up to the government to enforce such social engineering.

    Jock Sparrow is right about the child in the smokey house. But many things parents do influence the health of their children in minute ways. How often they take them in their car, what they feed them or give them to drink.

    Indeed correlation is not causation. And banning smoking in public places is not banning advertising on packets of cigarettes.

    Is anything acceptable if it saves lives? However intrusive and however much it infringes on personal freedom?


  12. Fredrik Eich Says:

    Jock,
    It is not cherry picking.
    Smoking bans have no measurable effect on hospital admissions.
    Show me your evidence.


  13. Jock Sparrow Says:

    http://summaries.cochrane.org/CD005992/does-legislation-to-ban-smoking-reduce-exposure-to-secondhand-smoke-and-smoking-behaviour

    There has been an increase in the number of countries and states implementing smoking policies which ban or restrict smoking in public places and workplaces. The main reason is to protect nonsmokers from the harmful health effects of exposure to secondhand smoke. Another reason is to provide a supportive environment for people who want to quit smoking. Fifty studies were included in this review. Legislative bans reduced exposure to secondhand smoke. There was no change in exposure to secondhand smoke in private cars after implementing legislative smoking bans. There was no change in self-reported SHS exposure in the home. There are fewer data measuring smoking prevalence and smoking behaviour with either no change or a downward trend reported. There is some evidence that the health of those affected by the smoking ban improved as a result of its implementation, most impressively in relation to heart attacks in hospitals.


  14. Fredrik Eich Says:

    Jock,
    Clearly smoking bans reduce exposure to tobacco smoke.
    I wanted you to provide me with evidence that smoking bans have an immediate effect on hospital admissions. You could have looked at the link I provided for you to Dr Siegels blog.
    Dr Siegel supports smoking bans but has always contested the notion that smoking bans cause an immediate drop in heart attacks because smoking bans do not cause a drop in heart attacks – it is clearly not true, it is not borne out by the evidence.


  15. Sarah J Says:

    Fredriek

    Loving the fact that you are quoting Dr Bauld- she is one of the UK’s biggest smoke-haters. No one seriously believes her studies except the the civil servants in the department of health. I note that she and Gerard Hastings were two of the “independent” reviewers of the “evidence” on plain packaging for the Govt. And…. They are both cited as supporters of “plain packs” on the plainpacksprotect web site… http://www.plainpacksprotect.co.uk/supporters.aspx

    Well if you want to stack an evidence review then put vested interests with total prejudice against smoking in charge of the “independent evidence review”

    Does the Dept of Health think we are all that stupid ?


  16. ellender Says:

    I am currently running the Hands of Our Packs campaign, opposing the introduction of plain packaging (no government money).

    Angela Harbutt heads up the campaign Hands Off Our Packs.

    of / off Are these 2 different campaigns?


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