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« Snowdon on the Moral Maze | Main | Thatcherism lives! »

Display ban: tobacco control moves the goalposts - again

Last week a study commissioned by Ireland's Office for Tobacco Control and the Irish Cancer Society claimed that the removal of tobacco display has been successful in reducing the awareness of smoking among young people.

Allied to the results of a second study, Evaluation of the removal of point-of-sale tobacco displays in Ireland published in Tobacco Control, the British Medical Association felt confident enough to announce that as a result of the display ban "fewer young people believed smoking was widespread among their peers". This of course was a prelude for the BMA to urge the Government to implement Labour's legislation to ban tobacco display in UK shops.

Thankfully, the Democracy Institute's Patrick Basham and John Luik have saved me the trouble of writing about these studies at greater length. Much of what needs to be said is included in the excellent article they have written for Spiked in which they point out that:

Until very recently, tobacco-control advocates campaigned for a display ban because it would lead to reduced youth smoking, full stop. But the evidence from various jurisdictions that have implemented a display ban suggests that smoking prevalence, especially among adolescents, is at best unaffected by such a ban. Indeed, there is evidence in some places that display bans have coincided with an increase in smoking.

Consequently, ban advocates are quietly and subtly moving the empirical goalposts. They are replacing youth smoking levels as the test of success with a measurement of how many young people perceive that their peers are smoking and then propagating a lower score as ‘evidence’ of the display ban’s effectiveness. It is an intellectually dubious tactic, but left unchallenged it may do the trick, politically. Hence, the new Tobacco Control article by McNeill et al finds, ‘The proportion of youths believing more than a fifth of children their age smoked decreased from 62 per cent to 48 per cent’.

Commenting on the BMA's response, Basham and Luik write:

Curiously, the BMA’s press release chose not to highlight the very same article’s finding that: ‘There were no short-term significant changes in prevalence among youths or adults.’ In other words, no one in Ireland has stopped smoking because of the ban: the policy is a failure.

Full article HERE.

See also: Is Ireland the new Canada of tobacco control?

Reader Comments (6)

Imposing regulations that don't work.
That's standard practice for EU governments,

November 24, 2010 at 11:50 | Unregistered CommenterCW

These are the actual figures for youth smoking in Ireland supplied by the anti smoking Office of Tobacco Control. The first URL is smoking by age groups and you will see after the display ban in July 1st 2009 have stayed the same at 12% for 15-17 year olds. It even confirms it in the prose.

"However, the rates in the two oldest age groups, 55-64 and the 65+ year olds, and the youngest age group, 15-17 year olds, did not decline."

November 24, 2010 at 13:19 | Unregistered CommenterDave Atherton

All these so called research and studies are based on the good old "bullshit baffles brains" approach.

Fortunately for them, but not for us, it does not take a whole lot of bullshit to baffle politicians!

I wonder what counter bullshit would be required to turn them around to pro smoking?

November 24, 2010 at 13:30 | Unregistered CommenterLyn

Adults can make their minds up themselves, about what is a totally legal product. By changing to plain packaging they are making it more difficult to spot more the dangerous fake cigarettes.
The display ban will cause newsagents to close and more of us to get us hold of cigarettes by other means.

November 25, 2010 at 17:08 | Unregistered CommenterMatthew

... which WILL lead to a massive rise in youth smoking which won't be counted because they can't evaluate how many sales of black market tobacco there are or who is buying it.

They are putting tobacco control into the hands of criminals and they simply don't care because "officially" there will be less smokers and they can then brag about how their crap is working.

The black market is why they have no idea of exactly how many of us in the majority are really, really, really angry about this continuing persecution.

I'm off abroad tomorrow to buy mine legally while depriving the UK of my tax so that they cannot use my own money against me. I am not the only member of this new Resistance Movement - one positive way we can stop funding the anti-smoking industry

November 27, 2010 at 16:51 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

Have a great trip Pat.

You are right, you are not alone in this. I cannot remember now the last time I bought cigs in this country, it was that long ago. About the only advantage I can see of us being in the EU!

Of course, it would be difficult for the government to complain about the revenue loss when they apparently want us to give up smoking so would lose the revenue anyway, despite the efforts of some over zealous customs idiots.

November 27, 2010 at 21:36 | Unregistered CommenterLyn

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