ASH's credibility goes up in smoke
Friday, June 24, 2011 at 8:00
Simon Clark

Further to my earlier post, Minister's links with ASH questioned, Retail Newsagent has published this report:


The National Federation of Retail Newsagents is demanding a formal investigation by Prime Minister David Cameron into the conduct of the public health Minister in charge of the tobacco display ban.

National president Kieran McDonnell has written to No 10 with evidence he says calls into question the actions of Anne Milton and the relationship between government-funded charity ASH and the All Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking and Health and that could even scupper the ban at this late stage.

He writes that Ms Milton’s “inappropriate conduct necessitates a review of the legitimacy of the [display ban] legislation itself.”

The letter backs up questions from Torbay Liberal democrat MP Adrian Sanders to Secretary of State for Health Andrew Lansley, asking for his comments on Ms Milton’s acceptance of an award at an APPG Smoking and Health event and presenting one to the director of ASH.

Mr Sanders also seeks Mr Lansley’s response to the chairman’s comment at the event that ASH “do a great job in supporting MPs with lobbying their colleagues in Parliament”. ASH receives Whitehall cash on the proviso that it does not directly lobby the government.

In a reply to a Parliamentary question of MP Philip Davies, Ms Milton said: “Action on Smoking and Health has received funding from the government in the past…specifically to carry out defined projects. None of this funding was, or could be used, for lobbying purposes.”

Mr McDonnell said: “We have long suspected that ‘behind the scenes’ dealings have been going on. In the light of these recent statements, I regrettably now see proof of these suspicions, which is deeply offensive to our members, who have campaigned so hard to see the government fulfil its pre-election commitments to bring the debate back to the House of Commons for a free vote.”

Meanwhile, like many of you, I have been enjoying the rumpus over on Liberal VisionASH abuse of public money must end.

As the time of writing there are 107 comments. The author of the post, Angela Harbutt, dealt beautifully with one critic (Woollylib) but my favourite laugh-out-loud moment was her subsequent remark that:

Clearly I was getting over excited… it can happen to a girl you know.. Has a woman never said that to you before Mark?

Anyway, the really remarkable thing is the appearance – in the comments – of some leading anti-smoking zealots, among them Martin Dockrell of ASH (still waiting for your call, Martin), Linda Bauld of Bath University, and Robert West of Cancer Research UK.

It takes a lot to flush tobacco control activists out their comfort zone. Open debate is something they neither enjoy nor encourage. They much prefer their own company, often gathering in small anonymous rooms where they present one another with stomach-churning 'awards'.

I'm not sure they added much to the debate but it is interesting to note their mindset. Linda Bauld, for example, seems to think that the majority of the comments have been written by "representatives of the tobacco industry".

Likewise Robert West comments that "Some of the posts above have all the hallmarks of an orchestrated attack by the tobacco industry which is deeply concerned that the activities of ASH will damage their revenues".

Adding to the sense of paranoia, Martin Dockrell comments that "My views on front groups can be found in Tobacconomics".

Funny, isn't it, how anyone who disagrees with tobacco control's illiberal, paternalist agenda is immediately dismissed as a "front group" or a "representative" of Big Tobacco.

The idea that adults have minds and opinions of their own and like to use them to make informed choices about smoking (and eating and drinking and numerous other things) is anathema to tobacco control activists whose multi-million pound campaigns to rid the world of tobacco are carefully coordinated and orchestrated with military precision.

Anyone who goes off message (even previously respected scientists such as Enstrom and Kabat, for example, whose research, published in the British Medical Journal in 2003, demonstrated conclusively the weakness of the claim that passive smoking is a serious health risk) must be demonised as a lackey of Big T.

Anyway, there's more to be said about Linda Bauld and Martin Dockrell's Tobacconomics but I'll save that for another day.

For the moment it's good to see more people, including MPs in the House, questioning the credibility of ASH.

As Miranda's mother would say, "Such fun".

Update on Friday, June 24, 2011 at 8:18 by Registered CommenterSimon Clark

I have just noticed that Angela added a new post in the early hours of this morning: ASH … We Really Must Do This More Often.

This in turn links to a post by Dick Puddlecote, We Really Must Do This More Often.

This could run and run.

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