Who’s behind the ban on cigarette displays?

An interesting – and typically angry – post on Devil’s Kitchen by the Filthy Smoker takes a hard look at the new ban on cigarette displays.

The extraordinary support for the Department of Health (DOH)’s recommendations can only be explained by looking at the “stakeholders” who got involved. Of the 96,000 responses, only a handful came from private individuals. The rest came from block-voting by state-funded pressure groups and charities.

…Sure enough, SmokeFree NorthWest – with 49,507 votes – is entirely funded by the DoH. Direct Movement by the Youth Smokefree Team – with 10,757 votes – is entirely funded by SmokeFree Liverpool who are entirely funded by the DoH). SmokeFree NorthEast – with 8,128 votes – is entirely funded by…yes, the DoH.

…If you’re on the gravy train, you get a voice. If you’re not, forget it. Not so much a public consultation as a public sector consulation.

It’s particularly interesting to see the breakdown of ASH’s (Action on Smoking and Health) income in its 2007 accounts:

Department of Health: £210,400

Wales Assembly Government: £110,000

Supporting charities: £185,228

Donations & legacies received: £11,143

As the Filthy Smoker puts it:

Incidentally, take another look at that last figure. That is the full amount that was voluntarily given to this ‘charity’ in a whole year. To give you a frame of reference, the Cat’s Protection League received over £30 million in private donations in the same year. The fucking Donkey Sanctuary was given over £20 million.

ASH – one of the most powerful charities in the UK – made eleven grand. If they were left to fend for themselves they wouldn’t have the money to rent an office. They would be hard pushed to send out a solitary press release, let alone change the law of the fucking land every five minutes.

He also points out that the “supporting charities” whose donations are nearly 18 times higher than those from the public are Cancer Research and the British Heart Foundation. Isn’t it a bit off for charities to donate their donations to *other* charities, no matter how much they have in common?

What’s interesting about this isn’t whether or not people support cigarette displays; it’s the process that’s led to the ban. To paraphrase the description on Devil’s Kitchen:

* The DoH decides what it wants to do.

* The DoH runs a public consultation but doesn’t tell the public.

* The DoH does tell the DoH-funded pressure groups that support what it wants to do.

* The pressure groups respond in their thousands, supporting the DoH’s plans.

* The DoH gets the law it wants and can say with a straight face that the overwhelming majority of respondents support the law.

It’s like something Douglas Adams would have written, isn’t it?

If the filthy smoker is correct, and I have no reason to assume he isn’t, then something stinks much worse than cigarettes here.



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