God help me, I have now read the Department of Health's report on the Consultation on the future of tobacco control. According to the DH website, "Over 96,000 responses were received ... the largest ever response to a consultation of this kind. Responses overwhelmingly supported removing tobacco displays in shops, and tough action to restrict access to vending machines. Since the ban on tobacco advertising, retail displays in shops are the main way in which tobacco products are marketed to children."
Is there really "huge public support" for further tobacco controls, as the antis consistently claim? I wonder. Of the 96,515 responses, the overwhelming majority were pre-written postcards or e-mail campaigns. Note where they came from:
I'm pleased that Forest was able to generate over 2000 responses (in just under three weeks), but as you can see this figure was dwarfed by that of the publicly-funded anti-smoking industry which managed to conjure up 79,272 respondents - 49,507 from Smokefree Northwest, 8,128 from Smokefree North East, and a further 10,757 from something called D-MYST.
FACT: Smokefree Northwest is led by the Department of Health’s Regional Tobacco Policy Manager based at Government Office for the North West at Piccadilly, Manchester.
FACT: Smoke Free North East (aka Fresh) is funded by the region's primary care trusts and is linked to an alliance of health, public sector and community organisations.
FACT: D-MYST is SmokeFree Liverpool’s youth organisation (ie yet another public-funded initiative).
Factor in the £191k that the Department of Health gave ASH for its ‘Beyond Smoking Kills’ report (which, surprise, surprise, found a ‘high level of public support’ for a range of tobacco control measures) and you don't have to be a genius to see how the result of the consultation has been manipulated to favour the DH's proposals which included a ban on display and a ban on vending machines.
In fact, this wasn't a public consultation at all. It was a public sector consultation!!
The incredible thing is - for all their resources (including manpower and public money), the antis still failed to get the full package of controls their energetic, high-profile lobbying demanded. They must be gutted.
PS. There's a short piece on this subject in The Times today. Click HERE.
MPs will be debating the Health Bill in the House of Commons shortly after midday today. The debate should feature some comments about the tobacco display ban. This will be interesting, if only to find out which politicians (and parties) are prepared to stand up and oppose the government's proposal.