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Sunday
Jul312011

EC cries foul as citizens have their say

Late last year we invited you to sign an online petition.

It was set up so consumers could respond to the European Commission’s public consultation on the possible revision of the EC's Tobacco Products Directive.

Last week the EC published its long-awaited report on the consultation. It makes for interesting and sometimes hilarious reading.

The first thing to note is that the consultation generated over 85,000 responses, which is similar to the 96,000 responses that were generated for the British Government's 'Consultation on the future of tobacco control' in 2008.

According to the Department of Health at the time, "Responses overwhelmingly supported removing tobacco displays in shops, and tough action to restrict access to vending machines", which is true. Digging a little deeper, however, we quickly found out why.

Writing on this blog in December 2008 I pointed out that of the 96,515 responses the overwhelming majority (79,272) were generated by the publicly-funded tobacco control industry.

Did the DoH think fit to comment on this? Did they heck, and why would they? After all, the result of the consultation suited the government because it rubber-stamped its own policy. As I said at the time, this was not a public consultation, it was a public sector consultation.

Fast forward to the report on the EC consultation and there are two striking differences.

One, there is a huge majority against further tobacco control measures. Yes, you read that correctly. I quote from the report:

A significant majority of (citizen) respondents were against extending the scope of the Directive (ie further regulations).

A vast majority of (citizen) respondents ... were in favour of lifting the ban on snus.

A significant majority of (citizen) respondents disagreed with the regulation of ingredients at the EU level.

A significant majority of (citizen) respondents opposed limiting access to tobacco products.

To put this in perspective, the number of citizen respondents was 82,117 (or 96 per cent of the overall total). We are therefore talking about a massive majority against further tobacco controls.

Two, unlike the DoH which chose not to comment on the source of the 'citizen' responses (no doubt because the result in 2008 suited its agenda), the EC is far less reticent. For example:

It is to be noted that the responses to the consultation do not represent a survey of a diverse cross-section of society ...

While it is encouraging to see a great number of responses, it should also be noted that this volume appears to be a result, to a large extent, of several citizen mobilisation campaigns that took place in some Member States ...

Several different methods of mobilising and encouraging participation in the consultation process were utilized: from producing websites providing detailed information and guidance on how to participate ... to producing and distributing videos via YouTube about the need to limit changes to tobacco product regulation and tobacco control policy.

The actions and efforts of these campaigns and their ability to mobilise citizens seem to have affected the overall results of the public consultation.

As a result of this, the report argues that:

"It is difficult to draw firm conclusions from the outcome of the public consultation procedure".

Difficult to draw firm conclusions?!!

I beg to differ. I defy anyone to read this report without coming to the (remarkably easy) conclusion that:

  • Most EU governments support further tobacco controls. Ditto public health organisations and pharmaceutical companies.
  • A significant majority of EU citizens who will be directly affected by further tobacco controls are opposed to more tobacco regulation. Indeed, they would like some existing restrictions, like the EU-wide ban on snus, lifted.

The problem for the EC is this:

It is not the result they were expecting, hence the almost desperate need to point out that the largest number of responses were from Italy (36 per cent) and Poland (28 per cent) where there were two popular retailer-led campaigns. (The UK, btw, was third, with nine per cent, just ahead of Germany and Spain with eight per cent each.)

The implication is that the response to their own public consultation was not representative and they will focus instead on an earlier Eurobarometer survey, published in May 2010, in which "respondents .... were considerably more supportive of all proposed changes presented in the public consultation".

I would also hazard a guess that – to avoid similar embarrassment in future – EU member states will be encouraged to copy the example of the British Government in 2008 and large sums of public money will be given to tobacco control groups to ensure that such a result never happens again. We'll see.

To read – and enjoy – the full report click here.

Oh, and thanks to everyone who signed the Forest petition!

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Reader Comments (48)

The longer term implications for this maybe profound. I read one Euro article that smoking maybe a sign of defiance to the EU and everything it encapsulates, and is titled "The counterproductive war on smokers."

The Department of Health is a disgrace. Supposed to be neutral they are offering blatant spin and propaganda. Are they in breach of their remit?


http://www.presseurop.eu/en/content/article/418181-counterproductive-war-smokers

Sunday, July 31, 2011 at 12:06 | Unregistered CommenterDave Atherton

I guess it’s a sign of the positive power of the internet that they have to admit these results - despite their weasel words to try and make excuses for them and to conceal their disappointment - in that before internet use was so widespread they would probably have simply lied about the results, saying that the public were overwhelmingly in favour of further stringent restrictions on tobacco sale and usage, knowing full well that few, if any, people would bother to try and get hold of a copy of the full report by post in order to verify the stated results, and that even if they did the most they could probably do is write a letter or two to the newspapers, which would probably get ignored. Now, however, there is no excuse for not making all the details available at the press of a button.

I suppose their only option for the future is to fabricate false results and publish those instead. I wouldn’t put it past them, but clearly there’d always then be the chance of “whistleblower” type revelations which would bring the whole house of cards tumbling down.

“Oh, what tangled webs we weave ….”

Sunday, July 31, 2011 at 12:06 | Unregistered CommenterMisty

To be perfectly honest, why these bodies even bother to come up with reports and polls I do not know. If the findings do not show the result they are aiming for, they just do another one, and another one, altering the rather dubious facts and figures each time, until they do get the "right" results.

I read the results of an American poll yesterday, which wasn't about smoking, but seat belts, and whether they save lives or not, and why so many police forces do not wear them. Their "results" if you can call them such, were so hilarious that I almost laughed for a moment, until I realised that the majority of people will see the "result" that these people want them to see, and not the truth!

This American poll showed that out of all the car crashes involving the police in this particular state, where seat belts were not worn, 20% of the police officers died! Wow, you are supposed to say - what a terrible figure - imagine if they had been wearing their seat belts, they might not have died? But hold on - what about the 80% of police drivers, not wearing seat belts who did not die - surely that is the important figure?

If this one small insignificant American state can play around with their figures like this, and make a large percentage of the people believe in their fakery (is that a real word?) then just think what the corrupt anti-smoking lobby can do, and do indeed do, in this country?

When is somebody going to rip the Emperor's new clothes off and offer them up for sale on eBay?

Sunday, July 31, 2011 at 12:59 | Unregistered CommenterPeter Thurgood

RE: 96.515 responses were generated by the publicly -funded tobacco control industry (regarding removal of tobacco displays in shops )
I have just come across a yougov survey, done in march this year asking if you support the smoking ban in all public places.
http://today.yougov.co.uk/sites/today.yougov.co.uk/files/yg-archives-ash-totalsmokersnonsmokers-ht-ts-300611v2_0.pdf
The results show that 22% of smokers strongly support the ban.
A further 25% tend to support the ban and a further 15% neither support or oppose it.
The point here is that you can only voice your opinion if you are a member of yougov.
I and many others who are smokers and are on the yougov panel DONT get asked to do these particular surveys and I strongly suspect there,s a squad of Ash supporters roped in to skew the figures.

Sunday, July 31, 2011 at 13:13 | Unregistered Commentersheila

As I looked over that survey, three things struck me:

1) The wording pointedly avoided one of the main questions about the ban: whether it should include pubs. Antismokers know that if the public is given a choice of banning it in general workplaces while still allowing it in pubs that this is the choice they will make. Gallup polls in the US historically ran into this problem, showing clearly that the vast majority of the American public did not feel bans should be forced on bars. So this year, for the first time, and perhaps unique in the occurrence of Gallup polling history, they seem to have CHANGED their baseline question to remove mention of bars.

This is a BIG thing if indeed it holds true and I am not simply seeing a partial result. Gallup is generally seen as THE most impartial and trusted polling organization in America. If the antismoking industry has managed to corrupt Gallup it's news of major note -- news which is unlikely to be covered by the smaller public opinion organs they already heavily influence. If anyone knows more about this particular question I would be interested in hearing the information.

and

2) It struck me how relatively small and easily manipulable the survey pool of "smokers" was. Just a hundred or so activists guided by "private" email lists like GlobaLink to call themselves smokers and say "Even though I'm a smoker I support the ban!" would have moved that 22% figure by several points. It's doubtful this was a very strong effect since the 22%/78% smoker/non ratio is about what would be expected, but it was probably still there. Meanwhile, given the structure of the questions, it is quite likely that someone who generally approves of the ban on lorries, in hospitals, in schools, in food stores, etc etc, would be likely to choose "tend to support" or even "fully support" even if they thoroughly disapproved of the ban in pubs.

and

3) There's no indication of the setup for this survey. If I come to your door or call you up and say "I'm doing a survey for the Society To Protect Children From Cancer and we'd like to ask you some questions about protecting children with the UK smoking ban .... how do you THINK you're going to answer the questions that are asked? Are you really going to say things that make yourself sound like you hate little children and want to see them die from cancer?

While it's doubtful that the survey introduction employed any language quite that extreme, it's interesting that no note seems to be made of just what setup and language WAS employed.

And aside from the language there is the entire question of the neutrality of the people carrying out the survey questioning themselves, and the neutrality of those who gathered and tabulated the results. If BAT had run a survey and didn't set it up in an absolutely transparent and ironclad fortress of neutrality do you think anyone would take their results seriously? And if not, then why should these results, results that could be tainted not just by money but also by blind idealism, be taken with any degree of seriousness?

Considering those three points, just off the top of my head, I'd say there's a lot to question here. Surveys are used for two purposes: (1) to determine the truth, and (2) to sway public opinion. My guess is that any survey sponsored by EITHER Big Tobacco or a group like ASH is likely to have far more of element #2 active than element #1. And given the additional motivation of idealism, the belief that lying and fraud is somehow OK if it is being done "for the greater good," I think I'd end up trusting BAT's results more than ASH's. Buying science just with money isn't all that easy. Buying science with money AND with the promise that the proper results will be "for the betterment of mankind" is a lot easier.

Michael J. McFadden
Author of "Dissecting Antismokers' Brains"

Sunday, July 31, 2011 at 14:04 | Unregistered CommenterMichael J. McFadden

Sheila - I am a smoker and member of the YouGov panel - and have never been asked. I also requested that they show the results of recent polls.

I sent this email to them. 'info@yougov.com' on the 26/05/11.

‘Since YouGov is a member of the British Polling Council, you are obligated to show the wording of every question posed in its polls, something you didn’t do after carrying out polls for ASH UK on the success or otherwise of the smoking ban. Also being a member of YouGov I wasn’t asked to complete a survey.

However leaving that aside. Can you tell me where I can find details of the Poll conducted by YouGov for the introduction of a federal law in Germany with regard to smoking in public?

Thank you.’

I have never received a reply.

Sunday, July 31, 2011 at 14:35 | Unregistered CommenterJJ

As someone once said; "If voting changed anything they'd abolish it." Signing petitions is even more pointless. In a modern free society you are free to support what the authoritarian regime plans to do with or without your support.

Sunday, July 31, 2011 at 14:36 | Unregistered CommenterIan R Thorpe

While it is encouraging to see a great number of responses, it should also be noted that this volume appears to be a result, to a large extent, of several citizen mobilisation campaigns that took place in some Member States ...

Several different methods of mobilising and encouraging participation in the consultation process were utilized: from producing websites providing detailed information and guidance on how to participate ... to producing and distributing videos via YouTube

Precisely the same reasoning could be used to say that it would be "difficult to draw firm conclusions" about the results of, say, an EU election, if for example "citizen mobilisation campaigns" were unfairly mounted by newspapers, political parties, and the like, in order to influence the outcome.

Sunday, July 31, 2011 at 17:42 | Unregistered CommenterFrank Davis

It's not only the citizens of the EU that start to protest against further EU tobacco regulation. The Dutch MoH officially stated that Tobacco Regulation is a topic for the national states, not for the EU. And she said she had also said this to the EC during a meeting.

Sunday, July 31, 2011 at 18:27 | Unregistered CommenterWiel Maessen

'The powers that be' must be blind or thoroughly ignorant if they can't see the inverse correlation between increased Tobacco Control finance (in all its various guises) and the lack of reduction in smoking rates?
None of the legislation has been as effective as the general information campaign of the latter half of the 20th. Century.

Sunday, July 31, 2011 at 18:32 | Unregistered CommenterChris

Chris interesting point you referring to effective information campaign in the latter half of the 20th century. I think those campaigns were in some ways effective too.
But the likes of ASH have moved their main position from trying to help smokers quit, to the very unrealistic goal of eliminating tobacco use completely through denormalisation.
You cannot denormalise smoking without denormalising those of us that do it. By doing this they have created a huge divide in society between non smokers and those of us that smoke regularly the denormalised, social pariah, second class citizens that we are. With no indoor space in any public building where we can now truly relax, smoke and be ourselves.
We are being attacked in all number of ways, for our completely legal lifestyle choice. As a direct result of denormalisation campaigns
we are a persecuted minority.

Sunday, July 31, 2011 at 23:12 | Unregistered Commentermark

JJ - why don't you resend the email and ask them again? They should not get away that easy ... next time you should also ask for their answer to why you were not asked to make the survey.

In the end they will have to come up with an answer that might be interesting.

Sunday, July 31, 2011 at 23:56 | Unregistered CommenterKlaus K

I read the whole report. What struck me was that the 'fall back' situation was 'the status quo' - that is, a continuation and extension of smoking bans. Implicit, was that the extension of smoking bans should continue.

Why?

Because, in the report, appeared the statement that Governments have signed up to the WHO Framework Convention and legally committed themselves to imposing the restrictions described in the Framework Convention.

As an aside, I made a Freedom of Information request to discover who, in the Health Dept, signed the UK up to the Tobacco Convention. I was surprised to learn that it was the Foreign Office which signed us up. At that point, I threw my hands up into the air and stopped - how can it be that this fact was not already known? I mean that in the sense that: "What would a Foreign Office person know about the pros and cons of the enjoyment of tobacco?" Why was it not known who signed us up?

Am I cynical? YES I AM! The fact of the matter is that this consultation has been all about ephemera - minisculalities. For example, the legalisation of 'snus'. Remind me, who decided to illegalise 'snus'? How did that 'illegalisation' come about? Why should anyone have accepted this 'illegalisation'? WHO SAID SO!!!!!!

The consultation has, on the face of it, been genuinely handled. It seems to have been a genuine attempt to gain opinions. And yet..........the question arises: "What does opinion matter when the reality revolves around SCIENCE? Do you think that the American's would have sent a man to the moon if the design of the rocket had depended upon opinions?

With reference to the enjoyment of tobacco, as regards this exercise, the reality is that it is only in th minds of Eurocrats that group-think matters. The important thing is what individual smokers want. Non-smokers are irrelevant.

I don't know how to put this precisely - but there is a need to start again. Public Health is about things like the spread of diseases via the water supply and such. It is not about forcing individuals to comply with a set of regulations which they do not like. I refer, in particular, to regulations which require publicans and private clubs to conform to regulations which are based upon pseudo- science. That is the most important thing - the science is utter crap.

Monday, August 1, 2011 at 1:07 | Unregistered CommenterJunican

What? Acquiesce to the wishes of the 'little people', don't be ridiculous!

Monday, August 1, 2011 at 2:33 | Unregistered CommenterAndy

It will be interesting to see how they avoid acting according to the wishes of 90% of the respondents. I predict something like this:

"Here is an update on the forthcoming revised EU Tobacco Directive.

Although 90% of those who responded were citizens who asked us to leave the regulations alone, and to remove the ban on Snus, we believe it is in the best interests of European health to consider the views of the large number of citizens who did not respond to the consultation. They would almost certainly have asked for stricter regulations and the continuation of the Snus ban.

As there is a possibility that e-cigarettes may harm an EU citizen (modern statistical science indicates this would be Luigi Vercotti of Via Alba, Naples) we think it important to add electronic cigarettes (hereinafter called ENDS) to the Snus ban, thus preventing harm to Sr. Vercotti. We must also think of the children. Also, it is unpatriotic to support Snus and ENDS. [*]

Therefore Snus and ENDS will be banned and stricter regulations will be enforced on cigarettes. We know this is what the EU population really want."

* That last sentence would be removed by the Political Correctness Department, for the final print version. There are no countries in the EU, it is a federal State.

Monday, August 1, 2011 at 2:38 | Unregistered CommenterRoland Gate

How one interprets data (if that is what this is to be termed) that is subjective, certainly representative of opposing factions and only officially analysed by the creator of the study is beyond my comprehension. My view, from across the pond, is rather cynical. Bias and political correctness certainly impact upon what is reported. No decent peer reviewed journal would publish such a document, it would be sent back to the author with a request for the exclusion of personal input, the exclusion of commentaries on what would have been found if..., and that a vigorous attempt be made to reveal the data actually accumulated. This report is quite similar in its wording to the FDA's final solution. Transparency and inclusion of opinions from all sides of the debate, with rigorous and accurate scientific input to allow for an unbiased and faction influence free conclusion of what is the soundest means of harm reduction. Why does the EC, WHO and the FDA fear transparency and science? As a person in the medical field there is no doubt that smoking tobacco is a contributor to the deaths of many. Second hand smoke evidence is weak unless you saturate some poor rodent's cage with high smoke concentrations. Third hand tobacco exposure rather dubious. I am quite sure a fourth and fifth hand contamination will be available shortly. Possibly related to global warming or the harpooning of baby seals. The EC document read more like an apologist's rant than a presentation of findings. The entitled nature of these, "let no harm come to anyone from anything that might have risks to health" zealots is despicable. I feel thrust back into the middle ages expecting the inquisitor to knock on my door. Orwell and Huxley were quite astute- Big Brother is watching and ignorance is bliss. I expect to wake up one morning to the realization that this was all a Monty Python skit with a touch of Benny Hill. My conclusion:

I hope there is intelligent life in space cause there's bloody el none here down on Earth.

Monday, August 1, 2011 at 7:22 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Connell

JJ and anyone else who is interested. YouGov is a member of the British Polling Council and as such is obliged to publish the exact wording of the questions in its polls. The series of polls YouGov carried out for ASH UK on the English smoking ban do not appear in its archives. Write to the BPC. BTW, Kellner is listed as the YouGov contact for the BPC.

Monday, August 1, 2011 at 12:21 | Unregistered CommenterJon

@JJ

The CEO of YouGov is Stephan Shakespeare, here is his email address:

stephan.shakespeare@yougov.com

One presumes Peter Kellner's is peter.kellner@yougov.com

Monday, August 1, 2011 at 13:45 | Unregistered CommenterDave Atherton

Junican wrote: As an aside, I made a Freedom of Information request to discover who, in the Health Dept, signed the UK up to the Tobacco Convention. I was surprised to learn that it was the Foreign Office which signed us up.

That's very interesting. I hope that you are going to publish the full text on your new blog.

A number of questions arise, though. Is it that, when signing treaties with foreign countries (which is what the FTTC is) some bod from the FO needs to sign the thing? And was it on its own inititiative that the FO signed, or after requests from other parties (e.g. the DoH)? And whose signature is on the document?

Monday, August 1, 2011 at 13:52 | Unregistered CommenterFrank Davis

Thank you Jon & Dave. Another email on its way again.

Monday, August 1, 2011 at 14:18 | Unregistered CommenterJJ

YouGov is in bed with ASH and Kellner is married to Baroness Ashton therefore nothing it does can be trusted because it's polls on these two matters cannot be said to be completely impartial. The very fact it's name has "gov" in it indicates to me it works for Govt interests and not in the public interests. These people who were appointed to decide how our lives would be run - using the useful idiots to give them credence - need to be disbanded because I believe they are corrupt.

Tobacco Control is out of control. The people have demanded that it be put back in its place - we will be ignored because we live in a dictatorship that only has the appearance of a democracy.

Monday, August 1, 2011 at 14:22 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

jj I too am a menber of the YouGove panel. I just did a quick search on their site for smoking ban and came up with this

Monday, August 1, 2011 at 14:23 | Unregistered CommenterPeter Thurgood

From the horse's mouth..

Q420 Dr Stoate: [...] We understand ASH has done a number of surveys gauging public opinion. Can you tell us more about the results of your surveys?

Ms Arnott: It does depend a bit how you word it.

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm
200506/cmselect/cmhealth/485/5112404.htm

Monday, August 1, 2011 at 15:03 | Unregistered CommenterDavid

@ Peter, thanks for the link. Have just shared my opinion. Politely of course.

Monday, August 1, 2011 at 15:11 | Unregistered CommenterJJ

David: Only their questions are the right ones, then. Problem is we don't know what they were and have never seen the raw data. No demograph or weighting. Do we know they, actually, exist?

Monday, August 1, 2011 at 15:53 | Unregistered CommenterFrank

Can't help with that Frank. But I did complete a survey in March 09. The answers were required on a sliding scale from 'strongly agree' to 'strongly disagree'. Fair enough, I tended to strongly disagree with anything that suited their agenda. However, I was a bit stymied with one question that referenced the document 'Beyond Smoking Kills' (Peter Kellner had a hand in that of course).

Precise wording - (screen grabbed):

--------------------------------

Smokers are addicted to nicotine but it is the tar and toxins in the smoke - not the nicotine - that harms them (source http://www.ash.org.uk/beyondsmokingkills).

How strongly, if at all, do you agree or disagree with the following statements:

Smokers should be encouraged to use nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) at times when they should not smoke (e.g. in front of children)....

Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) should be available to smokers to help them cut down, even if they don't intend to quit....

----------------------------------------------------

As you can imagine I had a number of issues with the presumptive statement (ASH propaganda) and both questions, all three of which relate to Big Pharma interests (peddling useless/sometimes dangerous yet highly profitable drugs), with the first question telling me I should not smoke in front of children (whatever that means). But, in order to complete the survey, they had to be answered....

There were other questions seeking my opinions about ASH, so it was blatantly obvious to respondents who was paying for it. And, of course, referencing one of their own docs in order to load questions.

Monday, August 1, 2011 at 19:47 | Unregistered CommenterDavid

Ms Arnott admits it's how a survey is worded.
http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200506/cmselect/cmhealth/485/5112404.htm

Monday, August 1, 2011 at 22:13 | Unregistered Commenterchas

@ Frank Davis.

At your suggestion, Frank, I have copied the reply to my FoI request to the Bolton Smokers Club site. I trust that Simon will not mind if I post the URL:

boltonsmokersclub.wordpress.com/

In the body of the reply, there are leads to parliamentary discussions at the time. Feel free to investigate if anyone is interested.

Monday, August 1, 2011 at 23:10 | Unregistered CommenterJunican

@ Peter T

How odd, Peter! A perfect opportunity for ASH to create a 'groundswell of opinion'. I wonder if this is where ASH get their 'public in agreement' stuff from? I have left a little comment.

I am also a YouGov panelist. I am sure that I was not asked about my personal habits. I have had a couple of 'smoking related' topics - usually buried somewhere inside the topic. As, for example, a topic beginning "How often do you go to the cinema?" (or something like that) It is easy to see that there is no need to specifically 'bend' the survey - if zealots know where to look. In any case, since four fifths of the population are non-smokers, then the probability is that four fifths of people polled will be non-smokers. These people can therefore easily claim to be smokers, and reply accordingly. Any claims based upon these surveys are fraudulent, if made by 'Charities' - who should know better. Surveys can be manipulated in various ways, without transgressing the 'code'. I received a survey prompt from YouGov only the other day. I deleted it without completing it - fortunately, I have not emptied my deletion box for some time, and have been able to see it again. The invitation just says 'Survey'; the first page of the survey says, "Which if any of the following TV channels do you watch..........." I did not go further........too busy. The only way in which I can know what other matters are in the survey is to complete the whole thing. It is easy to see how 'word can be passed around'. There was a clear example of this on the Gov 'Red Tape' site not long ago. ASH were clearly aware that there was a topic coming up about the hospitality trade. The site was inundated with zealots calling for the implementation of plain packaging. The zealots became quite miffed when some of us (having been alerted by ? about it), started posting contrary ideas. Quite miffed, they were! Started hitting Dave Atherton with ad hom after ad hom.

No need for any law to be broken - just pass the word round to 'look at this....'.

I do not think that YouGov

Tuesday, August 2, 2011 at 0:13 | Unregistered CommenterJunican

Just as a matter of interest, here are the topics which appeared in the YouGov survey mentioned above:

TV channels, Weight loss, weight meetings, house purchases, opened bank accounts etc, income band, cammuting, newspapers read, activities now - like having baby, tablet computers, utility bills, coffee shops, various purchases.

Easy to hide a little question or two about smoking in there, doncha think?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011 at 0:28 | Unregistered CommenterJunican

Here is an interesting thing, Peter Thurgood. I have just posted about 20 comments on the YouGov site that you linked to. All of them appeared - at first. Now I observe that all except one have been deleted. The one not deleted was 'pro' ban - except that, read carefully, it was not (because it referred to a once-a-year event of taking children to pubs on their birthdays)Someone or something has deleted all my other comments.

Curiouser and curiouser!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011 at 3:01 | Unregistered CommenterJunican

I know this is speculation but from the above there is a strong possibility that very few, if any, of these 'surveys', per se, don't exist. They are mainly cobbled together from the odd, unrelated, question in the midst of another topic. This, of course, could explain the lack of normal data.

I also notice, in the link provided by David above, that no questions were asked regarding the veracity of the survey figures quoted, essentially by Arnott.

Well, well, well. So this is what Arnott meant by 'framing' a question. There's a thing! A complete bloody con. Who'd have thought it.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011 at 8:00 | Unregistered CommenterFrank

You are right Junican, I too posted several comments on the YouGov site regarding smoking - and as you say, after a short time they mysteriously disappear - apart from the pro-smoking comments that is!

OK so we know someone seems to be up to no-good here, but the real point is, what are we going to do about it? Any suggestions anyone?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011 at 8:23 | Unregistered CommenterPeter Thurgood

Regarding deleted messages and postings: If you go to iCyte.com you will find a utility that is VERY nice: it lets you basically take a "Wayback Machine" type copy of any webpage and saves it online at the iCyte.com site AND allows you to save it on your computer as well. It also allows for categorizing, tagging, some commenting, etc. AND it copies posts that have just been made and are still up on your screen either in the sending box or in the moderating queue or on a board proper before any visitations by Winston Smith (er... that's not OUR WS that I'm talking about of course, but Orwell's! LOL!) It's a fairly new service (2 years?) and is likely to be further improved (though I'm not sure what else would improve it... I'm pretty impressed with it.)

Only big drawback: it's a subscription service: $3? / month? But despite operating on a pocketchange budget here it's something I've found valuable enough to spring for. It also provides nice hard evidence of shadow-banning (That's a thing Topix, I believe the Argus-Leader, and some other boards do where they'll let the poster him/herself see their posts all nice and proper up there -- but no one else can see them!)

- MJM

Tuesday, August 2, 2011 at 9:02 | Unregistered CommenterMichael J. McFadden

Junican, a thought on your comments disappearing: It's possible that they have a policy against successive multiple comments from the same IP. And if somebody actually had to sit there and delete them all one by one, hey, I could see them being pissed enough about it to pick out the one comment that they probably thought you'd be least pleased with to leave up. :>

What I find interesting are the pos/neg numbers at the top for each of the different time periods and also the spotty "volume" numbers represented by the bars on graph. It's obviously not true that for 24 hrs, 48 hrs, 1 week, and 2 weeks that in EVERY ONE of those periods there seemed to be exactly the same number of positives and negatives.

- MJM

Tuesday, August 2, 2011 at 9:19 | Unregistered CommenterMichael J. McFadden

One way to check this out. Why not multiple post in favour of the ban from the same IP address, and see what happens?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011 at 11:30 | Unregistered CommenterJJ

This is the link to the UK's report on the FCTC covering the period 2007-2010. It is signed by Andrew Black form the Department of Health and is interesting reading (in parts).

http://www.who.int/fctc/reporting/uk_5y_final.pdf

Tuesday, August 2, 2011 at 12:29 | Unregistered CommenterEddie D

Thanks for the link Peter. Just signed up and, like others, have had comments posted then deleted. Have just tried one that is a negative comment but gave a positive 'rating' - see if that one stays!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011 at 13:38 | Unregistered CommenterLyn

No, it didn't

Tuesday, August 2, 2011 at 13:43 | Unregistered CommenterLyn

@ Eddie D

Thanks for that - just added it to my favs for later reading.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011 at 3:52 | Unregistered CommenterJunican

Has anyone had a comment posted on the TelYouGov site?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011 at 16:59 | Unregistered CommenterJJ

My understanding of the nuimbers on the YouGov page was incorrect. I now believe that the first number is the score for the time period involved while the second number represents the number of "votes" + or -. There is sitll one puzzle however, since the site seems to ask for an opinion in order to record a score count. Yet there have been many score counts accumulating with very few new opinions being shown.

- MJM

Wednesday, August 3, 2011 at 23:15 | Unregistered CommenterMichael J. McFadden

jj.
The site says that multiple comments are allowed - but they edge their bets. Quick repetitions are regarded as spam.I have posted at least 20 comments (some + some -). Only the latest one appears - previous ones are deleted.

The scoring system is outlined under FAQs. It is crazy.

Taking the totals at the top:

The big figure is a sort of percentage of of all the posts on the Smoking ban topic as a proportion of all the posts on all the topics! So, at the moment, the figure is 619. As far as I can understand, the figure of 619 means that comments and votes on the Smoking Ban topic are 6.19% of all the comments and votes being cast on ALL the topics! Crazy or what? YouGov say that this system allows people to see what subject or subjects are most 'popular' at any given time. Crazy.

The small figure (which is minus 88 at this time) is even more obscure. It is supposed to represent the difference between the proportion of votes 'for' the ban and the votes 'against' the ban - % of positive votes minus % of negative votes. Crazy. As far as I can see, the figure of -88 means this (it is really crazy):

Votes must be 'plus' (+) or minus (-). The TOTAL of + and - must be 100%. A figure of -88 means that the distribution of votes is 88% - and 12% +. That is, 88% is anti-ban and 12% is pro-ban.

What a clever way to obscure the facts!

But I am not certain. The example that they give in the FAQs contains an error (if my understanding is correct). Is that deliberate? Very strange. I have left a request for clarification on the Blog. But my post is subject to moderation and is not yet visible!

Oddly enough, a quick whizz through all the comments does not seem to support a 88% figure for anti-ban.

It is all very strange. I will keep after this since we do not want ASH claiming 'overwhelming support for the ban'.

Tricks, tricks, tricks. For heaven's sake! There is no need for all these clever manipulations of the figures! "Total votes X. Votes for the ban y. Votes against the ban z. % for/against the ban ?%. And if you want to give the votes on this topic as a percentage of votes on ALL topics, then simply give a figure!.

The mind boggles.

Thursday, August 4, 2011 at 0:43 | Unregistered CommenterJunican

Damn it! I have to revise what I said. The figure of minus 88 (-88) does not mean 88% against the ban (I Ithought I must be wrong!). It represents, as far as I can see, 8.8% against the ban. I have just looked at the figures again at this moment. The figure quoted is now minus (-) 138. That seems to mean that the number of votes against the ban is 13.8% greater than the number for the ban.

Strewth!........Having said that, if this continues (and we should make sure that it does), then it is prima facie evidence that the public DO NOT support the ban! We can turn the evidence totally against ASH!

Thursday, August 4, 2011 at 1:04 | Unregistered CommenterJunican

I think there's a problem with this "percentage of the whole" interpretation of that second number being volume.

Look at the figure for two weeks (84) and then look at the graph below showing the volume per day during those two weeks. Note that except for the tiny recent upsurge there was no activity.

BUT... if we look just a week or so further back we see a LOT of volume in that graph (the little yellow bars). SOOOOO.... therefore we would expect that the volume score for the MONTH should be a lot higher than 88.

Is it?

Nope. It's down around 50. Unless I'm missing something obvious here.

- MJM

Thursday, August 4, 2011 at 6:05 | Unregistered CommenterMichael J. McFadden

If that graph typifies YouGov number crunching should they be trusted to run and analyse ANY survey?

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