It's well known that Ms. Deborah Arnott is the Chief Executive of Action on Smoking and Health in England, however what's not as well known is she's also paid by Cancer Research UK (01) as one of their "researchers" to ensure:
"Support for ASH's full programme of work to eliminate the harm caused by tobacco. This involves working collaboratively to ensure that effective tobacco control remains well funded by Government, prioritised by the public health community, promoted by the media and supported by the general public."
And Deborah's work is funded by one of the many arms-length committees set up by Cancer Research UK. This one goes by the name of "The Tobacco Advisory Group" and the Chairperson on that committee is none other than Linda Bauld, backed up by several others, many of whom are all household names in the tobacco control business (02).
One of the things Deborah - in her capacity as "researcher" for CRUK - is required to do is ensure the continued existence and use of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking and Health. The prime reason for that is of course that crucial issue of "ensuring tobacco control remains well funded by Government".
It's currently funded to the amount of £200,000,000 - however ASH feels that's nowhere near enough to:
- Reduce smoking in the adult population to 13% by 2020 and 9% by 2025
- Reduce smoking in the routine and manual socio-economic group to 21% by 2020 and 16% by 2025
- Reduce smoking among pregnant women to 8% by 2020 and 5% by 2025
- Reduce regular and occasional smoking among 15-year-olds to 9% per cent by 2020 and 2% by 2025
and they'd like the government to think outside the box:
because there's a range of alternative nicotine products available, there is now a good case for removing the exemptions in the legislation for prisons, theatrical performances and merchant shipping. The case for extending existing legislation on smoking in cars carrying children to all cars should also be considered, given the impact of smoking in cars on the health of vulnerable adults, the road safety risks, and the likely challenges of enforcing a law limited to cars carrying children. As smoke-free outdoor spaces are growing in popularity, especially where children play, it is also timely to review the ways in which children can be better protected from the normative influence of smoking in outdoor public spaces. The adoption of smoke-free homes will remain a voluntary issue but is worth monitoring as the adoption of smoke-free environments beyond the home has consistently resulted in wider adoption of smoke-free homes (03).
So they acknowledge that the legislation about banning smoking in cars with kids is unenforceable and - as expected - they're asking this government to introduce a ban on smoking in all cars. The reasons they give are rather weak because road safety risks have never been - nor are - an issue with smoking. And "vulnerable adults" is far too nebulous to "be supported by the general public". Yes they do mean every enclosed vehicle, whether there's a passenger or not and yes it does include sidecars attached to motorcycles.
Elsewhere they explain that the ban they propose for merchant ships will include all vessels, whether for commerce or pleasure, company or privately owned. Inshore, within our 200 mile territorial limits or even cruising canals. Naturally that will include trawlers and in time, North Sea oil rigs.
Oh and they don't much like seeing smoking in films or television, so what they'd like the government to do is legislate to "require short anti-smoking films to be shown before films and programmes that portray smoking and can be seen by children and young people, including those viewed in cinemas, on TV and on pay to-view Internet". And they don't stop there, they want further engagement with policy makers to consider ways to reduce exposure to images of smoking in other media including the Internet, music videos and computer games.
In the above pdf they wanted the government to place a levy on tobacco companies and increase the tobacco duty escalator on cigarettes and rolling tobacco to help finance tobacco control with an additional £500,000,000 taking the total amount to £700,000,000 so they can do more of what they believe has been successful and:
Provide expert support and encouragement to low and middle income countries to help implement the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control and its Guidelines.
Interesting idea; the "expert support" would of course come from the British "experts" and financed by all tobacco companies that sell into the British market. Sounds wonderful if you've made tobacco control your career! Presumably the Seychelles, Barbados and such would go to the most senior, with the miserable, corrupt, third world dumps going to new entrants. Neat.
Improve national statistics to ensure that timely and robust data are available on smoking prevalence including data on all socio-economic groups, people with long-term conditions, people with mental health problems, minority ethnic groups, the LGBT population and other disadvantaged groups.
Put another way, the information they get at the moment is piss-poor however, if they get their hands on truck loads of cash, they'll be able to pay people to do very long questionnaires, starting with the various arms of the NHS. Why they should need this information is not made clear, nor is there any obvious need for it, after all even the Inland Revenue works fine without collecting very personal data on each of us. There's also this issue of cyber security because the NHS systems are eminently hackable and the computers at ASH are protected by faith alone. I note they put into print their belief that ethnic minorities as well lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are "disadvantaged". Some, maybe all, might disagree.
Improve national data on mortality by requiring smoking history to be recorded on death certificates when it is judged to have been a significant contributory factor.
Again they're currently working with pathetic statistics. The phrase they like to use of "100,000 who die of smoking each year" comes from this place (way down at the foot of the page) (04) and what that actually states is "In 2013, 17 per cent (78,200) of all deaths of adults aged 35 and over were estimated to be caused by smoking compared to 19 per cent (95,300) in 2003". So they're quoting the 2003 data and the word "estimated" is excluded.
So they want to do this to establish "death by smoking" as a cause of death. Doubtless the rules will be very flexible and there may even be a cash incentive to encourage those responsible for the Death Certificate to grill GP's as well as immediate relatives to determine if the deceased smoked at any time in his/her life, or if they were exposed to second hand smoke for lengthy periods.
They've never been able to convince a jury anywhere in Britain that smoking causes anything. If they get the all-clear for this then it's game-on for every kind of mischief that will in turn impact on many things, including our access to finance, insurance and health care.
Anyway at that time they were banding about the figure of an additional £500 million to do this, plus blanket all media outlets with no-smoking messages and just generally slinging the cash around in ways that increase their power and influence - at home and overseas.
And they repeated most of what they said in their submission to the Chancellor, via Justine Greening MP, in July 2015 for the 2016 budget (05). However in this one they came out and stated that e-cigarettes should not be taxed:
ASH estimates that in Spring 2015 around 2.6 million smokers were current users of electronic cigarettes, of whom about 60% continue to smoke. Over the last three years, when electronic cigarette use expanded most rapidly, tobacco tax receipts held up. Electronic cigarettes have, however, overtaken nicotine replacement therapy sold over the counter as the most frequently used aid in helping smokers quit and are estimated to have contributed 0.05 percentage points to the quit rate over the last year, amounting to a total of about 20,000 additional ex-smokers.
If electronic cigarettes were to be taxed as tobacco products this could reduce the price incentive to smokers to switch from the most harmful product, smoked tobacco, to significantly less harmful products, that is to say, electronic cigarettes. A third of electronic cigarette users cite price as a relevant factor in their decision to use these products. This would not be to the benefit of public health.
So what they're saying is e-fags work rather well, they're lots better at getting people to quit and they outsell pharma based products because of that. They also seem to be aware that e-fags are hugely difficult to tax, very easy to get into this country and they might as well go with the flow and make a half reasoned case to stop the Chancellor upsetting the one thing that's genuinely helping knock the numbers down. What you may have noted is their estimate that, all on their own, e-fags "are estimated to have contributed 0.05 percentage points to the quit rate over the last year".
At this point I see they've stated a ratio by which rolling tobacco should be taxed the same as manufactured cigarettes. In this pdf they state it is 0.7g, meaning a 12.5g pouch of tobacco would cost the same as 17 cigarettes. That's at number 29 on page 6 of the pdf.
Another point worth noting is this business of popularity, so at number 16 we see:
However, even if the industry did pass on the full cost of any levy, the public would support such a levy if it were spent on tobacco control measures. Indeed 78% of the adult population, including a majority of smokers, would support a levy that raised an additional £500 million if money raised were to be used to discourage youth uptake and help smokers to quit.
That's taking deception to a whole new level because they cite "West R. Public support for a tobacco levy. Smoking Toolkit Study. 2006." as the basis for that claim. While they have valid links to most of their references, there is no link to West's Smoking Toolkit Study. You may recall that in 2006 the smoking ban had not been introduced in England, Blair was the PM, Brown the Chancellor - and the phrase "Fake Charity" had not been coined. It was a very different time, we still got interest on our deposits and the majority still had some element of trust in experts. That's all but disappeared... thankfully.
This suggests they've been unable to improve, or even get close to the 78% level of support they claim to have seen in 2006 - and that study almost certainly did not mention that a fair chunk of the money would be used to increase their power and influence in the UK and overseas countries. That's in part why web access is not available. Or it's their usual contrived "poll" that wouldn't stand up to any worthwhile scrutiny except to a politician who, in this case, is Justine Greening MP.
One thing Greening ain't is some dumb blond; she's a smart cookie who's going places fast - and I suspect has people around her who pull their weight. It's the sort of thing any clued up individual within the Treasury would notice, even if it is buried in an avalanche of hyperbole and inflammatory tripe.
However the government found it could not place a levy on tobacco companies, so no additional £500 million. So ASH wheeled out one of their key mouthpieces, a certain Mr Bob Blackman MP (Con), who happens to be on the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking and Health, (one of the things Deborah's got to do for Cancer Research UK "ensure that effective tobacco control remains well funded by Government" - and it's through this lot that they get it) and got Bob to go public on the need to increase the tobacco control budget by a paltry £100 million to a still insignificant £300 million a year (06) and once again they repeated this in Westminster Hall, again using our Bob, photographed clutching an ASH letter-headed paper (07).
And they followed up with a pdf that's heavy on pie-in-the-sky tables and juvenile claims designed to impress those working on the 2016 budget (08), whilst also chastising Treasury for reducing the tobacco control budget in 2015 by a claimed 6.2%. However they do get with the program and have reduced the size of this pdf to 9 pages with slightly less flowery language like "tobacco epidemic" and so on.
Boil it all down and what they really want is:
1) Increase the tobacco duty escalator for manufactured cigarettes from 2% to 5%.
2) Increase the escalator for rolling tobacco from 2% to 15% until it reaches the same price as manufactured cigarettes based on a ratio of 0.75g of tobacco for each tab. (Translated that means until 12.5g of rolling tobacco costs as much as 16 cigarettes). That's toward the end of page 4 in the pdf.
3) Increase the price of pipe tobacco so that too hits the same target (because some rolling tobacco is blended for cigarettes but marketed as pipe tobacco).
4) Lots of people are making/saving pots by importing whole leaf tobacco, then shredding it themselves. ASH want whole leaf taxed at the same rate as rolling tobacco on arrival in this country.
4) They only want the extra £100 million for five years (at which time they'll ask for more - though they don't come out and say that, nor that they hope the government they'll be dealing with will be Labour).
There are a few points I'd like to pick up on:
· There's a disparity between their calculation of how much tobacco is used to roll a cigarette. It was 0.7g (17 fags) in their briefing for Justine Greening MP, now it's 0.75g (16 fags). In both cases they cite the same reference. "Gallus et al. Roll-your-own cigarettes in Europe: use, weight and implications for fiscal policies. European Journal of Cancer Prevention, 2014". And again there's no link to the so called study. Oh and that was published in the European Journal of Cancer Prevention, so it's bound to be impartial and trustworthy! However for such an important issue you might think they'd be a lot less sloppy. You'd be wrong, they really couldn't give a flying fart, because what they really want is:
· This ratio differs substantially from a study conducted in New Zealand where they concluded that smokers only use 0.5g of tobacco in their rollups (09).
· A study was conducted in Britain in 1997 and funded by the Department of Health. They concluded that smokers were using an average of 0.5g of tobacco in their tabs (10). It's a half decent study because it acknowledged that the price of rolling tobacco in the UK almost certainly resulted in smokers using less tobacco than their European counterparts - and they pointed out that the Dutch and German authorities have a ratio of 1g of tobacco per tab for their rollup calculations (cited under links 26 and 14 in the study).
So ASH is very likely to amend their ratio in the future, meaning we'll have to pay the same price as the folks in NZ. So 12.5g of rolling tobacco will cost the same as 25 cigarettes.
And all this money (£1,500,000 over five years) is designed to increase our quit rate by a further 0.57% each year. So if we pop back to what they said about e-fags, it seems the government would achieve a similar figure if they used the money to buy every single smoker a vaping kit and unlimited refills.
Alternatively there's a petition out there begging the government to provide the Meningitis B vaccine to all kids up to age 11 on demand (11). The sole reason why the NHS can't do this is cost. And the cost of immunizing the 700,000 who currently get it at birth is.... £300,000,000. So there you have a perfect example of people who need medication - to save children from a very nasty death - being denied that treatment because "tobacco control" is siphoning funds to build vanity empires.
We'll only have to wait until budget day - the 16th March 2016 - to find out if ASH and their sponsors get what they wish.
18 March 2016
The Treasury has to consider both the inflationary effects of any dramatic increase in taxes and the likely impact on their revenue stream, given that some people will stop smoking UK Duty Paid tobacco. This document is at pains to explain that the Chancellor did announce in 2014 that the tobacco duty escalator will remain at 2% for the life of this parliament, however they state that the 5% increase in duty on rolling tobacco is applicable only for this year (12).
Junican has compiled an excellent post on the 2016 budget together with a transcript of what Osborne said on the 16th (13).
The good news is pipe tobacco continues to attract a lower rate of duty and there has been no move to comply with ASH's demand that it be taxed at the same rate as rolling tobacco. Furthermore any increase in revenues - if there are any - will be go to central funding. There is no undertaking to earmark anything for tobacco control.
This leaves ASH with their carefully embedded plants in the House of Lords and their tame MP's in the House of Commons to continue to push for further restrictions on where we can be seen to smoke during daylight hours.