Erm, Hello?

The letter is signed by 600 doctors, nurses and other NHS health professionals. Among them are Dr Nicholas Hopkins, consultant chest physician and chair of a specialist lung disease advisory group of the British Thoracic Society, Anna Gilmore, professor of public health in Bath and John Ashton, president of the UK Faculty of Public Health.

“Smoking related disease remains the main cause of preventable deaths in the UK, killing more than 100 000 people each year. t is therefore necessary and logical to end the marketing of cigarettes and tobacco products through packaging,” they write.

We actually have some evidence of the effets of plain packaging from Australia. No reduction in smoking and a rise in smuggled and counterfeit fags.

There is no evidence that the proposed policy works. Even, we have evidence that it is (mildly) counter-productive.

So why the insistence upon doing it?

18 comments on “Erm, Hello?

  1. like global warming and countless other things the solution is not the point, it is showing ‘how much you care’. This is all part of the emotion driven policy making of the modern ‘democratic’ era much of it being driven by the media , themselves consciously or unconsciously manipulated by lobby groups. Some of these are actively encouraging the useless solution (eg wind farm manufacturers) while others don’t care about the unintended consequences

  2. A cynic might say that it’s best to “show that you care” in a manner that doesn’t hurt your own income.

  3. I think it is less to do with “showing that we care” in this case, but rather that many otherwise intelligent people fail to consider what the second order effects of proposals might be.

    Clearly advertising works, so banning advertising (whether ciggie adverts with cool cowboys or just nice packaging) will be an obvious way to cut demand.

    However I suspect if you said to these guys: “Yes, assuming no other effects happen, but don’t you think that cigs in plain packaging will be a huge boon to counterfeiters and that this will more than counteract any reduction in demand from legitimate retail outlets.”

    You’d get an: “Oh, I hadn’t thought of that.”

  4. Because when it doesn’t work they will then be forced to call for banning smoking in cars. Then homes.
    Anyway, if they want plain packaging for alcohol then cigarettes need to come first.
    Then ‘unhealthy’ foods are next down the track.

  5. The only thing that you can be certain of after reading that letter is that there are far fewer deaths than the 100,000 a year stated.

    Now that doctors are seemingly convinced that second hand smoke is a killer, it doesn’t take much imagination to see how the statistics are falsified.

    We know that “alcohol related deaths” are a result of projecting the known harmful effects of alcohol on to symptoms exhibited by the deceased. So that if a dead person had high blood pressure, that is in part an alcohol related death.

    So if someone dies of pnuemonia, then it must have been realted to smoking. Easlly done if you believe in second hand (or in New York or LA, tertiary) smoking.

    Then we have the added clue of 5 figure rounding. Not 92,384 deaths. Oh no, it’s 100,000. Or more likely, those faked stats give 34,982, but they could underestimate the true level by as much as 50%, so let’s add 17,491 and then round up 52,473 to 5 significant places and hey presto! we have 100,000!

  6. Good example today of not considering second order effects.

    London taxi drivers on strike over Uber mini car app. Tens of thousands of people are suddenly made aware of this great new scheme that saves you money on taxis.

  7. What was observed was a substitution from more expensive, previously heavily marketed, branded cigarettes (Marlboros, Stuyvescants) to cheaper, less marketed cigarettes. This is consistent with tobacco becoming a commodity item and manufacturers competing largely on price.

    There was a slight increase in cigarette consumption. My guess is that the substitution effect (the move from expensive to cheap cigarettes) temporarily negated the income effect of higher taxes and that cigarette consumption will fall henceforth.

  8. They don’t give a fuck about health, if they did they would be demanding that ecigs were made as widely available as possible.

  9. Yes, the doctors do not understand that advertising and branding is to distinguish one brand from another, NOT to increase smoking. Then again, doctors taking time to understand something as grubby as advertising? Perish the thought!

    I think the can drivers’ protest is known as a ‘Streisand’ – taking an issue hardly anyone knows about and inadvertently blowing it up into a prominent, national sensation.

  10. The media does love a letter signed by ‘experts’. They never consider that behind it there may be vested interests, politics, lazy groupthink or a host of other factors. No, they are always dispassionate experts.

  11. Its simple – large numbers of well paid people’s continued wage packets rely on there being an never ending series of ‘campaigns’ against smoking. Once the smoking ban was achieved, got to move onto something else or the money might stop. So work on the ‘hiding cigarettes away from childrens eyes’ concept, Jeez, they fell for that quite quickly, better find something else, plain packaging, that’ll take a few years at least to get through. Then move onto bans in private cars, then bans in private houses that have the public in them (private accommodation that forms part of hotels, B&Bs, pubs, restaurants etc), then work up to the biggy, private houses with kids in.

    In all decades of rich remuneration. Oh, and the last thing they want is people actually stopping smoking voluntarily so better try and restrict e-cigs as much as possible as well. Can’t have them removing the need for anti-tobacco campaigners now can we?

  12. Shinsei1967
    June 11, 2014 at 8:47 am

    However I suspect if you said to these guys: “Yes, assuming no other effects happen, but don’t you think that cigs in plain packaging will be a huge boon to counterfeiters and that this will more than counteract any reduction in demand from legitimate retail outlets.”

    You’d get an: “Oh, I hadn’t thought of that.”

    Quickly followed by calls for a “war on cigarette counterfeiters” which will require more badly drafted laws and an increase in border guards, sorry Border Enforcement Officers or whatever they’re called, resulting in further reductions in our freedom and people like me getting stopped more often by the black clad men in fast ribs when we are sailing back from the Channel Islands.

    Even if what meddoc guesses at happens and smoking falls it is unlikely there will be a corresponding reduction in smoking related illnesses and deaths because of all the crap that will go in to those cheap counterfeits. We don’t have to guess that will happen because we’ve seen it happen as a consequence of the “war on drugs”.

  13. Would these ‘concerned’ doctors and nurses be from among the doctors and nurses who have chronically neglected their professional duties towards patients causing several thousand premature and unnecessary deaths in the World Class NHS, according to official reports, over the course of a decade?

    The phrase, ‘Physician go heal thyself’ comes to mind.

  14. I find it utterly chilling, that health service professionals can leap onto a moral bandwagon without applying any of the criteria they are supposed to apply to their clinical practice. I’m referring here to such considerations as “could this course of action cause harm?” and “is there a reasonable expectation that this course of action will be effective?”.

    Maybe in their clinical practice they don’t actually bother much about those criteria either.

  15. @Rob – “The media does love a letter signed by ‘experts’. They never consider that behind it there may be vested interests, politics, lazy groupthink or a host of other factors. ”

    – they, the media, are oh so very aware of all those things, they are the experts and control the media.

  16. @ Rob and johnnybonk
    EU Phare classified me as a “Senior Expert”
    Which implied that thjey6 had already devalued the meaning of “expert”

  17. Tim,

    I don’ t know that using Australia as “evidence” of “increase” in counterfeit and smuggling is all that relevant as it is pretty difficult to separate out the causation elements. Yes it is true that since plain packaging has been introduced there has been some increase in counterfeiting and smuggling, but you should also note that the cost of cigarettes in Australia is about $25 for a pack of 25 or about £15-18. On top of that at the same time they introduced plain packaging they also decreased the duty free allowance from a carton of 200 to two packs of 25. They did this without any advanced notice so tourists who arrived thinking that they duty free allowance was the same as everywhere else faced massive confiscation. I bet those seized packages ended up in the “smuggling” column for customs as it helps hit KPIs on etc etc.

    So while I agree that plain packaging is probably bollocks I think in the grand scheme of things it probably didn’t do much for smoking rates. It did give the industry a kick in the balls which is what they really wanted to do I suppose.

    The best way to stop smoking is to tax the crap out of them so no body can afford them and educate people about the evils of it.

    I don’t smoke cigarettes but like the occasional monte cristo but fuck they are expensive here, used to get them for about £8 but here more like $25

  18. “The best way to stop smoking is to tax the crap out of them so no body can afford them and educate people about the evils of it.”

    Its worked well for drugs afterall.

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