Following the publication of THIS Forest report on Wednesday, the director of the Institute of Economic Affairs Mark Littlewood has joined the clamour of voices calling for the Government to stop funding anti-smoking campaign groups.
Writing on the IEA blog, Littlewood comments:
No one can object to citizens establishing campaigning groups to draw attention to the potential health risks of tobacco consumption or to pharmaceutical companies aggressively lobbying to promote their alternative nicotine products, such as chewing gum and patches. But for taxpayers’ money to be given over to such causes is wholly unacceptable ...
The problem with taxpayer support of groups such as ASH is not just that it forces people to fund campaign groups they may disagree with, but that there is a danger that the public believe that such groups really are private and completely independent. There may be a debate to be had about what sort of role the Department of Health should play in encouraging or facilitating smoking cessation, but at least when you hear from a health minister you can be reasonably clear where they are coming from.
The government needs to be clear about limiting the scope of the public sector, not merely its size. Removing taxpayer-funded grants to groups such as ASH will not make a substantial impact on the deficit, but it would indicate that the government is opposed to using public funds to “load the dice” in areas of campaigning. The coalition should ensure that anti-tobacco groups are obliged to stand on their own two feet.
Full post HERE.
The Forest report - and Mark's comments - have also been noted by a blogger in New Zealand. See Government lobby thyself (Offsetting Behaviour).
Thanks to Dick Puddlecote for the link. DP notes that our call for an end to state aid for anti-tobacco groups has been joined not only by the Institute for Economic Affairs but also the Adam Smith Institute and the TaxPayers Alliance - not a bad little coalition! See:
See also my previous post for links to other (third party) posts on the subject of our report.