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« England's World Cup bid distances itself from free press | Main | Why ASH should be at the fag end of government grants »

Forget the law, ASH is a fake charity and here's why

A couple of weeks ago, following the publication of a Forest report about the use of public money to fund anti-smoking quangos and charities such ASH (and a subsequent piece by Rod Liddle in the Sunday Times), there was a mildly heated discussion about the issue HERE.

True to his word, one of the protagonists, Blad Tolstoy, has written a document that tackles "some common misconceptions about charities" including ASH, and an interesting document it is too. Click HERE.

That said, I really don't agree with Blad's criticism of the label "fake charity". I accept the argument that it won't "stand up to legal scrutiny" but it's a useful tool nevertheless because it differentiates between those charities that genuinely try to help people and those that seek to denormalise them, as ASH does.

Last week I was quoted in a retail trade magazine. "Tobacco control groups are no longer interested in educating people about the health risks of smoking," I said. "Their strategy is to denormalise and stigmatise adults who consume a legal product."

Today the tobacco control lobby is more interested in coercing people to quit smoking, with groups such as ASH using every "confidence trick" in the book to achieve their goal of a "smokefree" (sic) world.

Illiberal smoking bans, display bans, claims that smokers are harming (and even killing) those around them - this has nothing to do with health and everything to do with denormalising not only a legal product but the consumers of that product.

Thanks to charities like ASH, many people's social lives have been ruined, businesses have closed and jobs have been lost. I fail to see what's "charitable" about that and for that reason alone I am happy to call ASH a fake charity.

But there's another reason (and it has nothing to do with the millions of pounds of public money that ASH has received, which neatly avoids the need to do any traditional fundraising).

For years the tobacco control industry has been winning the war of words with unscientific yet emotive terms such as "passive smoking", "secondhand smoke" and so on. Language, as anyone knows, plays an important role in what I call PR and others call the battle for hearts and minds. If that means using some emotive terms of our own, then so be it.

Ultimately, though, the war on tobacco is a battle of ideas that won't be won or lost by debating or challenging ASH's charitable status. It's a side issue and a fairly unimportant one. I won't be losing any sleep over it and I suggest that you don't either.

References (1)

References allow you to track sources for this article, as well as articles that were written in response to this article.
  • Response
    If I had a sponsored 24 hour smoke-a-thon for CRUK with promises of cash for every cig I chain smoke in 24 hours would CRUK take my money?

Reader Comments (16)

I think there is a distinction to be made here. There are charities which get funded by the government who then go out and funtion as a charity in doing good works for the third world or the local poor. That is ok by me.

Then there 'fake charities' who are merely dressed as charities for taxation and public image purposes. Their main raison d'etre is political advocacy and lobbying and hence not per se a charity. I think Blad is right to draw on the differences.

Yes, ASH alone will not be beaten by their fake charity status alone but by simply getting a wider audience for all their mistruths and spin. The minute they are debated and the facts are known they are dead in the water.

November 15, 2010 at 13:47 | Unregistered CommenterDave Atherton

Blad, I salute you. In my previous post I said:

"So you charity lawyers - stop bleating from the sidelines and get involved to protect real charities and launch action against ASH. Because at the moment I'm with Rod - and I'm sure many others are too."

You have got involved. But I also do agree with Simon when he says that the 'fake charity' moniker is acceptable as it does clearly does make a point about what ASH is doing, compared to , say, Help the Aged. (I was going to use the RSPCA as an example, but they were involved with getting the Hunting Ban passed).

I think everyone can see on a commonsense level those charities that do excellent work in helping those who need society's help and those who are engaging in social engineering or political lobbying.

I hope Blad's document gets widely read. I bet the 28 (28!!) people who work for ASH Scotland are reading it. I hope they reflect that there wouldn't be these attacks on them if they hadn't succesfully blindsided the politicians into accepting a smoking ban which extended to pubs. If we smokers could smoke in a pub, thats where I would be now - happily ignorant of ASH's staffing levels and government handouts. But as it is... I've got time on my hands.

November 15, 2010 at 14:07 | Unregistered CommenterMark Butcher

On the 'passive smoking side' - I had a look at the sources of the stat used for one of the most common claims...

"More than 17000 children under the age of 5 are admitted to hospital every year because of the effects of passive smoking"

And wrote it up here:-

The justificaiton for the figure (which seems to be the basis of all passive-smoking activism) is based on minute samples, spurious reasoning and plain misuse of statistics.

Every penny spent on bogus issues is a penny not spent on real issues -- these bogus stats have cost lives elsewhere in the system.

November 15, 2010 at 15:23 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Perrin

"Every penny spent on bogus issues is a penny not spent on real issues -- these bogus stats have cost lives elsewhere in the system."

Well said ,paul, which is why the fake charities like ASH should be prosecuted. they are wasting time, money and lives. This funding must stop! We need to begin respecting charities again. At present, I respect none.

November 15, 2010 at 15:36 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

Hi Paul I hope you are well.

I have written about the RCP before and their junk science.

The RCP have put on their front page the "evidence" and worryingly it seems as porous as a sieve. They offer no new peer reviewed studies and seem only to express opinions and a very creative calculator. The less affluent you are the more likely you are to smoke (15% vs 30%), but also the more likely to live in less hygienic surroundings. Smoking could be more of a marker of relative poverty.

Firstly middle ear infection has a very small non statistical inverse relationship between smoking and incidence. I.e. the more second hand smoke the less likely you are to contract middle ear infection. Asthma incidence in a smoking home again has a non significant raised risk of 1.25.

Meningitis is bacterial or viral infection and just cannot be put down to smoking. If you look at some of the most deprived estates in this country with heroin needles, rats, rubbish, excrement etc it is far easier to put meningitis down to infection from the environment, the same for wheeze and lower respiratory tract infections. So in conclusion it is junk science and the RCP is guilty of venal publication bias.

Nocotine is now proven to suppress asthma. "The results unequivocally show that, even after multiple allergen sensitizations, nicotine dramatically suppresses inflammatory/allergic parameters in the lung including the following: eosinophilic/lymphocytic emigration; mRNA and/or protein expression of the Th2 cytokines/chemokines IL-4, IL-5, IL-13, IL-25, and eotaxin; leukotriene C4; and total as well as allergen-specific IgE.",5,Socioeconomic status

November 15, 2010 at 15:40 | Unregistered CommenterDave Atherton

Very interesting. Today I had a response from the Charity Commission about an appeal I made on the dismissal of my complaint about ASH.

Apparently the reason for inaction is:

"The charity's objects - to preserve and protect health and to advance education - are good charitable purposes and the panel found no reason to doubt that these purposes were being fulfilled by the charity for the public benefit. "

So my concerns were not sufficient reason to create doubt about the public benefit intent of ASH.

With no requirement to be transparent, honest, accountable or democratic I'm pretty much of the opinion now that the public has zero protection at all from charities and the Charity Commission is obsolete.

November 15, 2010 at 16:27 | Unregistered CommenterKate

In a nutshell kate. If they really were charities we would not need protecting FROM therm. They would protect us. ASH does not. It treats each individual smoker/consumer as if we are multi-billion pound tobacco company execs. The truth is, ASH has lost sight of who it was designed to help and what its aims were.

It has moved from education to eradication by any means possible and it will not stop until every single smoker is criminalised while NRT is sold over the counter like sweets.

November 15, 2010 at 19:43 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

That''s the essential point, Pat, charities are REQUIRED to benefit the public. Unfortunately enforcing that requirement is another matter if the Charity Commission won't show any interest in upholding the law.

Another thing that I'm wondering about regarding charitable status is that the trustees must be volunteers but many of the trustees of ASH appear to have vested interests in the competing pharmaceutical industry. They seem to all be professional tobacco control people which might indicate they are simply running a 'fake' charity front to generate income for themselves?

November 15, 2010 at 20:53 | Unregistered CommenterKate

Paul Perrin, thank goodness someone else is aware of the RCP Smoking and the Young "17000 children" scam. I've been banging on about it for ages, but nobody seems to be interested in it - even though it's one of the clearest cases where a ludicrous estimate has been based on a microscopic piece of outdated evidence (this was the 70s, where everybody smoked, FFS! How can the figure have stayed the same between then and now?) and then elevated into a ubiquitous and unquestioned "fact".

I can only assume that the reason nobody dares to challenge this heap of claptrap, lies, garbage and drivel is because it concerns the chiiiildren- if it was presented as serious evidence in any other area, it would have been demolished long ago.

November 15, 2010 at 21:49 | Unregistered CommenterRick S

Message for Pat, Pat could you please make it easier to comment on your blog instead of having to have a Google or whatever acc, im sure you would have loads more replies to some of your excellent posts if you did, respect and keep up the good work.

November 15, 2010 at 22:24 | Unregistered CommenterSMOKER

Thanks Smoker. I think I've sorted the problem.

November 16, 2010 at 0:21 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

SMOKER with the greatest respect, I would say that over 80% of blogs are google. It takes 2 minutes to open a google account.

November 16, 2010 at 0:37 | Unregistered Commentertimbone


Since Blad quoted extensively from my comment, I trust that you will not mind me saying a few words.

Blad had given us an excellent description of ‘charitable status’. It helps us all understand better what we are contending with.

I have no objection to Blad quoting me at all, but there is one minor matter which I wish to clear up ‘for the record’, so to speak.

In my comment, I said (words to the effect), “I read somewhere that ASH was set up by the Royal College of Physicians (1960s?) .......... Here is the process: RCP want to do a survey, RCP ask ASH to organise it. ASH ask the Gov for funds .... etc”

Blad askes the question, “Is Junican’s process, as described, correct?” Well, frankly, I have no idea. I read lots and lots of stuff and I make connections. I use my little brain to put two and two together. Sometimes I get five, but that is to be expected when one’s access to information is not full.

Here is an example.

The Effects of Increasing Tobacco Taxation:
A Cost Benefit and
Public Finances Analysis
A report prepared for ASH by Landman Economics
Written by Howard Reed

The above study is one quoted by ASH Scotland in its submission to the Cross Party Parliamentary Committee. Note ‘PREPARED FOR ASH’. At the end of the document appears this:

The development of the model used in this report was funded by British Heart Foundation and Cancer Research UK. So, Landman Economics prepared a report for ASH wherein the ‘model’ (whatever that may mean) was funded by BHF and CRUK.

So, is it not reasonable to conclude that, since ASH Scotland is such a small organisation (and it is, despite having 27/28 ‘positions’), that it is acting ON BEHALF OF CRUK and BHF? Who else can it be acting for? And, further, if one reads these submissions to the committee, one notes masses and masses of ‘references’. Who in ASH Scotland is capable of evaluating these references?

I think that it is reasonable to say that ASH Scotland is simply a ‘go-between’ organisation. If CRUK and BHF were funding ‘the model’, why did they not commission the report themselves?

One last thing. One often sees, on You Gov and other places, surveys and studies commissioned by ‘Tobacco Control’. As far as I can see, there is no ORGANISATION called Tobacco Control. Tobacco Control is an IDEA; An ‘idea’ which belongs to The Dept of Health. The British Medical Journal has an off-shoot publication called ‘Tobacco Control’, but it is just a journal.

Here is another very curious fact that I have discovered:

The UK Centre for Tobacco Control Studies is a network of nine universities in the UK working in the field of tobacco control and are involved in:
• Original research
• Policy development
• Advocacy
• Teaching and training

Nine universities! But these nine are only part of a greater group. The greater group comprises five other organizations which are loosely health related. Is it any wonder that we are inundated with tobacco studies? AND WHAT IS THE COST?

Simon’s article was about the word ‘fake’ as referred to Charities. Blad has shown us that, legally, there is nothing wrong with ASH’s status as a charity. But we use the word ‘fake’ not in the sense of ‘un-legal’ or ‘fraudulent’. We use the word to mean ‘morally dishonest’.

But as Simon pointed out, the legal status of ASH as a charity is not important. What is important is that they are disseminating PROPAGANDA.

November 16, 2010 at 2:27 | Unregistered CommenterJunican

Set out below is part of a page from The Charity Commission, stating their definitions of a charity, and what it can and cannot do under the terms of a charity. There are a number of holes that I have seen in relevance to the work carried out by ASH; all debatable of course, but all, in my opinion, worth taking forward.


The Charity Commission/Charities Act 2006 definition of charitable purposes

no organisation can be charitable if:
its purposes are illegal or could be said to further illegal purposes; or
it is set up for the personal benefit of:
a. its trustees;
b. its employees (other than in the case of relieving need – for example, there would normally be no reason why a firm or business should not operate a benevolent fund for its staff); or
c. other specific individuals; or
it is created for the specific purpose of carrying out political or propagandist activities; or
its purposes are against the public interest.


The following are the points which I think are debatable.

1. (its purposes are illegal or could be said to further illegal purposes).

By constantly calling for higher taxes on tobacco products and driving sales underground, this will, without a doubt further the illegal sales of counterfeit and stolen products. The absolute proof of this, if needed, is what happened in the USA during the 1920s and 1930s, when the same situation occurred with alcohol.

2. (it is created for the specific purpose of carrying out political or propagandist activities; or
its purposes are against the public interest)

It could well be argued that ASH are carrying out 'political activities', as they receive the greater part of the income direct from Government, and produce all their reports and 'findings' direct to Government.

As for ASH's 'propagandist activities' there can be no getting away from this on their part, as the word Propaganda means a form of communication that is aimed at influencing the attitude of a community toward some cause or position. As opposed to impartially providing information, propaganda, in its most basic sense, presents information primarily to influence an audience. Propaganda often presents facts selectively (thus possibly lying by omission) to encourage a particular synthesis, or uses loaded messages to produce an emotional rather than rational response to the information presented. The desired result is a change of the attitude toward the subject in the target audience to further a political agenda. Propaganda can be used as a form of political warfare. (These are not my words, but Wikipedia's definition).

Lastly, (if its purposes are against the public interest)

At the present time, when our country is in crisis mode with cuts being made everywhere, and every penny is needed, surely ASH are acting against public interest by cutting valuable income in the form of taxes, as well as closing down thousands of businesses and putting thousands out of work.

November 16, 2010 at 17:33 | Unregistered CommenterPeter Thurgood

My view is that charitable status is the only thing paying the wages for ASH and if they are forced to serve the public to justify that status then it can only get them off our backs which is a good thing.

I guess if enough people raise concerns with the Charity Commission about the harm ASH is causing with the denormalisation, stigma, social inequalities and victimisation (particularly of vulnerable people) then they might enforce the law. On the other hand, they might not and legal action may be the only way to secure protection.

As a side issue, has anyone considered how much tobacco control strategies raises the cost of mental health problems?

November 16, 2010 at 20:41 | Unregistered CommenterKate

Sorry to post late on this thread but been otherwise occupied. I'm glad some of you found my paper useful and, at least, it has promoted some good debate and focussed people's minds more keenly on the issues. This, in turn, means that the arguments against ASH and co will sharpen up - as they have on this thread.

The three issues -acting against public benefit, bringing the good name of charity into disrepute and breaching trust - are some of the most crucial for criticising charities, because it is in these arenas that one may make the case for what is not morally acceptable behaviour.

Thanks for not minding me quoting you Junican. There was absolutely no offence intended. Your comments were just so useful as they covered so much ground.

November 22, 2010 at 12:18 | Unregistered CommenterBlad Tolstoy

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