I have just been reading the summary of responses to the consultation on proposed tobacco control regulations for England, which was published this week. (You can download it HERE.) The seven-page Forest response was submitted on Monday 4 January (the closing date). At 16:23 we received an email that read:
Thank you for responding to the 'Consultation on proposed tobacco control regulations in England (under the Heath Bill 2009)' ...
Tobacco Consultation Team
Department of Health
The following day we received a second, identical, acknowledgement so there is little doubt that our submission was received - and before the deadline.
Odd, then, that the summary document contains a list of organisations that responded to the consultation and Forest isn't listed. (I've read it several times and, no, we're not there.)
In fact, we're not mentioned anywhere in the document. In contrast, quotes from ASH are prominent throughout - to the extent that three of the four comments attributed to ASH are highlighted in green to make them stand out!!
Perhaps the DH was upset by the tone of our submission which concluded with this observation:
We note that the introduction to the consultation on proposed tobacco control regulations states that: “In 2008 the Department of Health published the Consultation on the future of tobacco control which received almost 100,000 responses and prompted further debate on what measures need to be taken to move toward a tobacco-free future.”
What the document does not make clear is that, of the 96,515 responses, the overwhelming majority were pre-written postcards or e-mail campaigns organised by publicly-funded anti-smoking groups, notably Smokefree Northwest (which was responsible for 49,507 respondents), Smokefree North East (8,128) and D-MYST, SmokeFree Liverpool’s youth organisation (10,757).
In total, 79,272 of the 96,515 responses were generated by anti-smoking organisations, most of them funded with public money, a classic example of a government consultation being manipulated to suit government policy.
With this in mind, we look forward to seeing a breakdown of responses to the proposed tobacco control regulations in England (under the Health Bill 2009). It should be at least as interesting as the regulations themselves.
I note that in the introduction to the summary of responses, it reads:
The Department of Health wishes to thank all respondents for taking the time to send us their contributions to this consultation.
Frankly, I don't know why we bother.