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Bullshit Health Hell in a handcart

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.

8 replies on “Who’s behind the ban on cigarette displays?”

> Isn’t it a bit off for charities to donate their donations to *other* charities, no matter how much they have in common?

Yes, and it’s similarly off for the Government to give taxpayers’ money to chaity. The whole rationale for tax is that it’s to support things that private charity won’t. And think of the administrative waste. In order to give money to one cause, you’re going through two lots of bureaucracies instead of one.

This is why so many charities are making my do-not-donate list these days: O’Sullivan’s Law. It’s sad. But, from their point of view, it’s where the money is. Of course, it’s distorting the charity’s relationship with the public, too: they don’t give a damn if I donate voluntarily, because they can just ask the Government to give them my money whether I like it or not. And I think this change in incentives is increasingly reflected in the attitude of some charities to the public.

>>Yes, and it’s similarly off for the Government to give taxpayers’ money to chaity.

Yes, but we all know that the government do it and we can’t do anything about it. (If we change government this doesn’t seem to change) I didn’t know that Cancer Research funded ASH. Until very recently (due to a mixup with direct debits that I’ve not got round to fixing) I donated to them. ASH are a shower of twats (as are their FOREST counterparts) and I’m not going to voluntarily give them money. I doubt I’ll sort out the DD now.

I hate when charities send you their (very expensively produced) newsletters. I know exactly why I’m giving you money (or at least I thought I did until today) and don’t want you to spend it sending out newsletters to donors. (Even if someone is doing it for free/reduced cost – donate the money instead)

Depends. I get the newsletter from Diabetes UK, and it contains information about the latest medical advances and what’s actually been achieved. Since so many of their donors are diabetic, distributing that information is actually a valuable part of what they do. And, considering what we’re discussing here — that so many charities waste so much of their money — it makes sense to let donors know where their money’s going and what’s being achieved with it. But it depends on proportions. Some charities are now spending more than half their income on advertising.

Now I come to think of it, Diabetes UK even let you specify whether your donation is to go just on the scientific research or to both the research and the more general day-to-day helping diabetics. They’re a good charity.

>>I get the newsletter from Diabetes UK, and it contains information about the latest medical advances and what’s actually been achieved.

They’re probably an exception. Most ones that I’ve seen are more about how well their fundraising activities have gone or TV telethon-esque tear-jerk stories.

The other thing – In the last week I’ve had 3 plastic bags for putting clothes in. It’s not been an unusual week. How many people have *that* many spare clothes! It’s not even that it’s lots of different charities. It can’t be more than about 5. The number of plastic charity bags seems to go up while supermarkets give out less.

More to the point, there are clothing manufacturers in Africa being forced out of business by all the free clothes Westerners keep sending into their markets. And I don’t mean the African equivalent of Gap, whatever that is; I mean small businesses, men who had sustainable wealth-creating schemes and a few local employees. Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach him to fish and you feed him for life. But if he gets all uppity and starts fishing for his neighbours in return for money, you can give everyone else in his area free fish to keep him in his place.

> They’re probably an exception.

I often get the impression they are. Their magazine’s really good, actually. Arthur Smith writes a column for it. (He’s diabetic.)

While we’re on the subject of charities that actually spend the money on what they’re supposed to and do genuine good work without turning into an arm of the state, I should mention East Galway Animal Rescue, which is basically one dedicated woman looking after more dogs than you would have thought possible. Sarah can be guaranteed to spend any money you give her on dog food and dog medicine, plus she saves the dogs that every other dog “sanctuary” in the UK and Ireland would either refuse to go near or would have put down.

So if you have a “private company” created by Scottish Government decree which has five funders, all of which are individual branches of the Scottish government, and which exists solely to carry out Scottish Government policy; and if that company ends its remit almost a million quid in the hole with its mission unaccomplished, is that a widely covered national scandal? No, that’s an award-winning “Great Employer To Work For”, complete with Evening Times puff piece.

In some ways I envy the swearbloggers, because they can maintain a level of rage that I just can’t muster. I mouth off for a bit and then run out of batteries, mumbling “it’s all bloody pointless” into a stiff brandy :)

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