In parts 1 and 2 of this Triblogology we looked at how ASH was created and how it changed from what was originally intended in 1971 to being a propaganda lobbying group, and we analysed its sources of income over the past five years.
Today we will look at what ASH’s methods and money (over 86% of its income was grants last year, including government grants and therefore our taxes) have achieved.
Policy and consequences
First, ASH achieved the enactment of the Health Act 2006: the total indoor smoking ban in England which started on 1st July 2007. This was achieved by a concerted political lobbying campaign on the back of disputed claims about second hand smoke and protecting the health of bar workers and other staff. ASH even said it was a myth that businesses would suffer.
Business won't suffer, honestly!
The consequences of this were stark, over 8,000 business losses costing over 100,000 jobs in exchange for not one single life saved! No one can deny that this ill-conceived legislation has played a huge part in the destruction of the hospitality industry. It is of course not the only factor (just as smoking is not the sole alleged causation of cancer, asthma or emphysema as much as ASH would want you to believe that it is so!).
It has also reduced civil liberties, the freedom of association for smokers, and has increased loneliness and depression amongst smokers and non-smokers alike (see our previous Loneliness blogs).
The division of a nation and promoting hatred
Secondly ASH has encouraged discrimination against a substantial minority group (smokers are estimated still to be about 25% of the UK adult population) via questionable research and polls, and by slick public relations. The “trial by press release” and “denormalisation” of smokers has resulted in some sickening comments by those who blindly believe ASH propaganda. At least two murders and several serious assaults including the rapes of a nurse and a student occurred because the current law places smokers at risk of attack by predators.
Here are some of the arguments and vile comments put forward by those who support ASH: some who follow this topic will have seen it before or even like myself experienced it firsthand, and some of you may not even be aware that it is happening in your name (after all, ASH claims to represent both non-smokers and smokers).
Anti-smoking propaganda has also had an effect in the world of computer gaming: a game called Sniper, where the targets are smokers!
ASH’s research, reports and polls
Thirdly, ASH uses research and polls to justify its propaganda. But all pollsters can affect the results by phrasing questions in a particular way that will give a client the answers needed, as Deborah Arnott admitted in her oral evidence to the The House of Commons Health Committee for its report on Smoking in Public Places.
How else can we explain the following?
A poll of 1,000 people in 2004 found that 73% of those polled supported banning smoking in all workplaces, including pubs and restaurants. The poll was conducted by BMRB on behalf of anti-smoking lobby ASH and Cancer Research UK.
However, a poll published in 2003 found that only 17% of people agreed that smoking should be banned in pubs, clubs and restaurants. The poll was also undertaken by BMRB, but this time for the TMA (Tobacco Manufacturers’ Association).
Of equal interest are the polls conducted for ASH by YouGov, whose president serves on ASH’s board of trustees.
The Department of Health gave ASH £191,000 for its Beyond Smoking Kills report (which also found a “high level of public support” for a range of tobacco control measures) and you can see here how the result of the consultation has been manipulated to favour the Department’s original proposals, which included a ban on display and a ban on cigarette vending machines.
Finally, for more than a decade ASH has supported medical intervention, including the use of a variety of pharmaceutical smoking cessation products, such as nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) and Zyban. In 2001 its then Director, Clive Bates, wrote to the CEO of GlaxoSmithKline:
“ASH was instrumental in securing greater government commitment to smoking cessation products in the NHS National Plan and we have helped with PR for both Zyban and Niquitin CQ.”
ASH also includes guidance on Chantix on its website: a drug about which many concerns have been expressed and which John Watson wrote about in detail on this blog last month.
Unfortunately, the majority of modern studies show that even with the help of a combination of support groups, counselling, nicotine replacement and drugs the quit rate is very low. The most optimistic results show that at the end of a year it is at best 7% - 8%, and by the end of four years this reduces even further to 5%. This is a failure rate of 95% .
ASH’s final solution, of course, as we noted in Part 1 of this ASH blog, is to push for WHO’s plans , which include vaccination to switch off nicotine receptors and cigarettes becoming available only on prescription. Of course, they still want tobacco to be sold so that anti-tobacco groups like ASH can continue to get almost £1million a year from tobacco taxes.
We have seen just how far ASH is willing to go to achieve its aims: cynical political lobbying, the cosy relationships between ASH and its grant givers, the bias in polls, the drip feeding of scare stories in the media and the frenzied reactions of those who support ASH and this draconian legislation.
It is not the first time the world has witnessed the attempted destruction of a minority group based on fear, junk science and the deliberate removal of civil liberties; it will not be the last. The question is: are you, the people, willing to allow it to happen today?
Tell me lies
Tell me sweet little lies
(Tell me lies, tell me, tell me lies)
Writing team for this Triblogology were:
Carol CattellGraphics and edits by John H Baker.