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Lib Dem MP admits #PlainPacks failure

By Editor
March 25th, 2015 at 4:28 pm | 2 Comments | Posted in Government lobbying government

Lib Dem MP Paul Burstow made a remarkable confession in Parliament on Tuesday. Whether it was intentional or not, only he knows, but this is what he said

“I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to require the Secretary of State to undertake a programme of research into the costs and benefits of introducing an annual levy on sales to be paid by tobacco manufacturers, with the proceeds to be used to support tobacco control measures, to discourage young people from starting to smoke tobacco, to help existing tobacco smokers to stop smoking; and for connected purposes.”

Of course what he actually means is this

“Now that we have managed to get plain packaging of tobacco through Parliament, my fellow anti-smoking campaigning chums who have earned vast sums of taxpayers money from Tobacco Control in recent years are deeply worried. The Government may actually stop handing over taxpayers money to them. To put my good friends minds at rest, I wonder whether we could all agree to force the Secretary of State to find some more pointless, evidence-free drivel to put before you to keep them busy for a while longer.  The evidence-free drivel I have in mind is to “prove”  that an extra tobacco tax should be levied and handed over to my smoker-hating mates to see them through to their fat pensions. They have a whole raft of persecutions sitting on the drawing board that they can dust off. With a few £millions in the bank they can keep their jobs and their pensions dreaming up some more evidence-free drivel for you all to swallow. And have a load of cash left over to lobby you all at every twist and turn (that is what I meant by “connected purposes” btw) – which won’t break any lobbying rules because, ha ha, it won’t technically be taxpayers money.”

Well you can see his point. Handing over swathes of taxpayers cash to so-called “charities” to be used for lobbying the very government that handed over the money is coming to an end slowly but surely. If the likes of ASH can’t get it’s money from Government to lobby Government, they will have to convince medical research charities to fleece even more cash from their supporters who think their donations are going on a cure for cancer. So on the face of it, bringing in a law to take an extra slug of money from tobacco companies and handing it directly to the anti-smokers brigade would neatly side-step the horny issue of not using “taxpayers” money to keep them all in jobs and allow them to lobby Government (national and local) to their hearts content.

But wait just a minute. We were told that the introduction of plain packaging was the very thing we needed to “discourage young people from starting to smoke tobacco” and “help existing tobacco smokers to stop smoking”. Yet here we are, just days after the parliament voted to bring in plain packaging, witnessing the Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Smoking and Health himself admitting it will do no such thing! They don’t just need a few thousand to mop up the few remaining smokers, they need £millions a year to do the very thing they told everyone plain packaging would do! Oh dear.

The ever-vigilant Dick Puddlecote quotes one MP who spotted this tom-foolery immediately. Conservative MP for Shipley, Philip Davies was quick to his feet highlighting this very point…

“I particularly wanted to oppose the Bill because the right hon. Gentleman has done us all a great service. He has let the cat out of the bag. Of course, the Government have already accepted ASH’s campaigning on banning smoking in cars where there are children, which is completely unenforceable. They have also accepted the plain packaging of tobacco, which is completely idiotic. Of course, the Government accepted those policies because ASH told them that if they did so the amount of smoking in the country would plummet. We were told that if we introduced plain packaging it would be absolutely fantastic because all of a sudden cigarettes would not appeal to young people and children and that would close the gateway into tobacco use. The whole policy was based on that premise.

That policy has not even been implemented and already the right hon. Gentleman is saying, “Actually, that was all a load of tripe. It won’t make any difference whatsoever. What we need now is a levy on the tobacco industry so that we can do some research to find out why young people smoke and then try to stop them smoking”….

“The point is that this is just the latest campaign from ASH. Every time it advocates the introduction of another measure, it tells us that that is what the Government need to do to tackle tobacco, but as soon as it is implemented we are told that actually it was a load of old cobblers and now we need something else.”…

Quite [note in addition to smoking in cars with children ban, we have also seen the introduction of the cigarette vending machine ban, and the tobacco display ban in this parliament. They were also meant to discourage young people smoking and yet the effectiveness of these has also yet to be evaluated].  You can read more from the magnificent Mr Davies over on Dick Puddlecote’s blog. It is a joy to read.

Of course, both Labour and the Conservatives seem hell bent of spending any extra tobacco levy on reducing the national debt or paying for more nurses and doctors. It seems unlikely that IF the Treasury does get it’s hands on some extra cash from Tobacco that it will go to feathering the nests of anti-smoker campaigners.  All in all we should thank Paul Burstow for his public confession that plain packs is a “load of cobblers“.

As for ASH and its APPG on Smoking and Health, last month the Department for Communities and Local Government announced it was going to ensure that Government payments to external groups do not support activity that could influence or attempt to influence Parliament, government or political parties. It applies to any activity that could influence the awarding or renewal of contracts and grants or legislative or regulatory action.  Eric Pickles said that he hoped to roll this out across central government.  Let’s hope that Jeremy Hunt moves swiftly to ensure that this Government rule is stringently enforced over at the Department of Health and the many sub committees it funnels its cash into.

And given Burstow’s admission on plain packaging, here is hoping that the Liberal Democrats throw their full support behind this new anti-lobbying, anti-sock puppet measure.

To find out more on this issue read : “ASH In The Trough Edition”

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Plain Packs: Let’s get graphic…

By Editor
March 12th, 2015 at 11:58 am | Comments Off on Plain Packs: Let’s get graphic… | Posted in Personal Freedom, Uncategorized

367 parliamentarians (of all colours ) voted in favour of plain packaging yesterday. Be it on their conscience. Let’s look forward. What can we the average punter do?

Well, we can vote them out come May 7th – not just on the issue of plain packaging – but to send a message once and for all that we are frankly fed up with soulless zombies doing what the Whips tell them to do; tired of them playing party politics at our expense; treating adults like children; or worse, disregarding the evidence because “they know best”.

In many cases however that isn’t going to cut it. The ludicrous voting system in this country deprives most of us from expressing our anger at the ballot box, where all too often our vote simply won’t count.

So here is a neat alternative….


Get yourself a cool cigarette case at

The one above [from Smoke-screenz] was featured in a previous article. It was much-admired at a recent Forest event. The case in question was self-designed [you upload your own image to the website and hey presto you have pro choiceyour very own fashion statement]. Cases are made of hard plastic with a hinged flip top.The cases are a perfect snug fit for your cigarette pack, which you just slip inside. When you open the case lid, your pack lid will open with it. Easy access to your cigarettes. Takes seconds to slip out the old pack and replace with a new one. This very short [1 minute] video shows the process from start to finish.

Iwinstonf uploading an image is too much like hard work then simply buy one ready made. If cats, cricket, or zombies are your thing, they have a case for you. If you support Crystal Palace, the Gunners or Chelsea, they have one. If you want to shout out your patriotism; your support of freedom, or just love cute cuddly bears you are catered for. At £12.95 (inc postage) they cost, at most, the same as a couple of packets of cigarettes. They are superb value [they last forever] and look [and feel] very stylish.

Of course,  these boxes carry no health warnings “from the Government” – but politicians should be careful what they wish for when they start playing politics.

 What are they going to do? …Ban boxes next?




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EVENT: Stop the Nonsense

By Angela Harbutt
February 16th, 2015 at 3:18 pm | Comments Off on EVENT: Stop the Nonsense | Posted in Uncategorized

STOPthenonsense_RSVP_webJust in case you have not heard about this elsewhere, here is an must-not-miss event scheduled for next week. Plain speaking on plain packaging.

Tuesday 24th February at the IOD in London. RSVP to or click here for more information on the event.

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Ill-judged sideshow has little public support

By Angela Harbutt
February 12th, 2015 at 2:33 pm | Comments Off on Ill-judged sideshow has little public support | Posted in Uncategorized

hoopsWith Parliament formally dissolving on March 30th, the outgoing parliament will not be able to complete all of its work, resulting inevitably in many Government plans falling by the wayside. Of course, some will say this is a good thing – the less Government does the better!

But what, do you think, voters believe the priorities of the Government should be in the remaining days?

No need to wonder. Forest has commissioned an exclusive poll asking voters this very question.

Respected research company Populus asked more than 2,000 members of the public, on a scale of 0 to 10 where 0 = not important at all and 10 = very important, the level of importance they attach to completing outstanding pieces of legislation facing the remainder of this parliament.

Those ranking highest included: “controlling the UK’s borders and reducing immigration”; “tougher counter-terrorism and security laws”; “stopping human trafficking”; “improving access to affordable housing”; “making it easier for employers to take on apprentices”.

“Introducing plain packaging for cigarettes” was the lowest of any of the variables tested, with a mean importance rating of just 3.51. The closest variable, “regulating the future of the fracking sector”, scored 6.10.

It does make you wonder no Davewhat on earth possessed the Government to determine in the dying days of parliament to force in a vote on plain packaging, particularly as evidence from Australia shows the policy hasn’t worked, with teen smoking rates increasing by 36% from 2010 to 2013?

Of course the answer is “politics dear boy”. As Simon Clark, Director of Forest says

“Plain packaging legislation is an ill-judged sideshow and a distraction from the real challenges the government faces before the end of this parliament.”

I have written to my local MP, Jane Ellison, again, asking her to vote no at the upcoming vote. But given that she is the minister who has forced this bill into parliament I am not terribly optimistic that she has any intention to listening tlast chance saloono me or any other voter in this constituency. Indeed, given that the Government’s 2012 “public” consultation on plain packaging delivered a resounding NO!  to the whole idea – what are the chances that she will listen now? Here is hoping that voters will show Ellison and her ilk the same contempt that they have quite clearly shown the public come May 7th, and that some elected politicians will think twice before voting “aye” to this cynical and ill-conceived piece of politics.

Want to find out more?

For survey results and more from Forest click here.

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Plain ludicrous

By Angela Harbutt
February 11th, 2015 at 2:25 pm | Comments Off on Plain ludicrous | Posted in Uncategorized

Since December 1st 2012, plain packaging of cigarettes has been an ever-present feature of the Australian landscape. Given the wealth of data available from Australia on the impact of the experiment, you would think that Tobacco Control would be focusing all efforts on interpreting the results from there right now. After all, the “problem” identified by UK Public Health in the past 3 or 4 years has been that there is “no real life data” to use. So, they argue, they have had to rely on artificial scenarios and often quite ludicrous experiments to make their case.

Why then, one has to wonder, is University of Exeter wasting cash on “experiments” on plain packaging here in the UK where plain packaging has yet to be introduced? The most likely conclusion is either that they have way too much money to fritter away on building the reputations and stroking the egos of the “academics” down in the South West, or the data coming out from Australia is not as helpful as desired. Cue more UK “research”.

Unfortunately for those concerned, the latest piece of UK research is “one of the funniest studies in favour of plain packaging ever!”.

In the experiment, smokers had to choose between pressing a key that might earn cigarettes or a key that might earn chocolate. Just before participants made each choice, they were presented with either a picture of a branded cigarette pack, a picture of a plain cigarette pack, or nothing.

Hold the front page …

whereas branded packs increased the probability of participants making the cigarette choice by 10% compared to when nothing was presented, the plain packs did not“. The implication, they say, is that “plain packs are less effective at prompting smokers to purchase cigarettes compared to branded packs“. And so the conclusion… “These findings provide experimental* support for the idea* that introducing plain packaging might* reduce tobacco purchasing or consumption.” (*my emphasis)

Come on Exeter, this is lame even by Tobacco Control poor standards. What exactly did you predict would happen prior to the “experiment”? Surely the implication from this ham-fisted piece of research is that a dodgy looking can of cola consumers have never seen before and know nothing about, is less effective at prompting cola drinkers to purchase cola compared to a branded product with an established reputation such as Coca Cola. I call that commonsense and surprising that more people didn’t reject the dodgy looking packs of (unbranded) cigarettes more often.

Even the authors appear somewhat embarrassed by their latest experiment. Buried beneath the headlines of the “study”, is this telling statement “In the natural environment, smoking may be governed by a whole range of factors…” erm yes … “It is not clear to what extent plain packaging will reduce smoking when these other factors are at play.”

Well, it is an apology of sorts I suppose, although I still wonder if it never occurred to them that when offered up a rather alien-looking pack of cigarettes never seen in these fair aisles, a significant proportion of participants might (correctly) just decline the offer.

You really can’t spend years whinging about the lack of “real data” that is available, then, when you have it in abundance, continue to dream up ever-more ridiculous experiments here in the UK and expect to be taken seriously.

Want to find out more?

For more information on the authors of this desperate piece of “research”, read Dick Puddlecote’s entertaining post here.

You can read the author’s summary of their experiment here.

For a summary of how exactly that plain packaging experiment is going in Australia, read Christoper Snowdon’s post here.

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