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« Too early to gauge effectiveness of plain packs admit Aussie officials | Main | Revealed: given special access to public health minister, what the APPG on Smoking and Health said in private meeting during plain packs consultation »

Clock ticking over Chief Medical Officer's response to "early evidence" claim

The headline 'Clock ticking over tobacco packs' appeared in several newspapers last week.

According to the Daily Express:

Almost 80,000 children have taken up smoking while health officials have considered whether or not to introduce plain packs for cigarettes, campaigners have said.

The Smokefree Action Coalition said that in the six months the officials have been considering the responses to the consultation, 78,500 children have taken up smoking - an estimated 430 every day.

The coalition, made up of various health organisations including the British Medical Association, medical royal colleges, charities and academic institutions, has called upon ministers to publish the results of its consultation.

Leaving aside the ludicrous nature of this story (the "estimated" figures and the implication that packaging is responsible), I can report that the clock is ticking in other ways.

Last month I reported that, speaking to the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee, Chief Medical Officer Professor Dame Sally Davies told MPs that "early indications" suggested that the introduction of plain packaging in Australia had already been successful in reducing consumption of cigarettes.

Pressed for evidence, Dame Sally told the committee that she had got the information from the Permanent Secretary of the Department of Health of Australia with whom she had had dinner that week.

"I didn't claim it as evidence," she protested. "I said there was early evidence, she [the Permanent Secretary] said, that the purchasing [of cigarettes] looked as if it was responding [to plain packaging]. I am only reporting to you what I have understood as early evidence."

It seemed a little odd that the Chief Medical Officer would pass on to MPs anecdotal evidence provided by a third party with a clear vested interest in the matter, so my colleague Angela Harbutt wrote to Dame Sally asking for clarification, including the source of the Permanent Secretary's evidence.

The letter was sent first class to the CMO's office at the Department of Health on Friday January 25. It should have arrived on Monday January 28, three weeks ago. To date we have received neither a reply nor even an acknowledgement.

Misinforming a House of Commons committee is a serious matter. The clock is ticking as we wait for Dame Sally's reply.

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Reader Comments (4)

Hi just to let you know that I sent a letter to my MP about Plain Packs and this is the responce

Thank you for your message. I am writing to inform you that I disagree with you on this issue. I support the campaign for plain packs as you can see from my website.

Thank you for writing to me

Yours sincerely

Mike Gapes

Labour and Co-operative

Member of Parliament for Ilford South

House of Commons

London SW1A OAA

0207 219 6485

Regards Barbara

Tuesday, February 19, 2013 at 13:48 | Unregistered CommenterBarbara De'Ath

"Misinforming a House of Commons committee is a serious matter. "

Simon, that's only true in the real world. Once you move into the AKW (the Antismoking Krazy World) things become different. Note the quote you yourself cited: "I didn't claim it as evidence, I said there was early evidence"

So "early evidence" is not "evidence"? What is it then? And what is "later evidence"? Is that also not evidence? Or "middle evidence"?

If none of those things are evidence, then what IS evidence? Is it the Alice In Wonderland thing of "Evidence will mean whatever I say it will mean, and then mean something different when I say it will mean something different."? I know Lewis Carroll was British, but have his writings been taken as the basis of the modern British governmental system?

Of course, if we accept the fact that the Mad Hatter is truly pulling all the strings back there I guess that would explain a lot.


Tuesday, February 19, 2013 at 16:34 | Unregistered CommenterMichael J. McFadden

So called "plain packaging" will make little or no difference to cigarette and tobacco sales. This is the real result of the exercise in Australia.
As a result of ever more restrictive laws a significant and growing proportion of tobacco product sales will take place outside of the legitimate (as in legal) trading environment. In fact it already does. In the end a majority of cigarette, tobacco and smokeless tobacco "retail" will be conducted in the so called, black, economy. This operates to the detriment of the purchaser and the governments on whose territories these transactions take place. The quality of the merchandise will be compromised and no taxes will be paid.
Why the anti tobacco puritans think this is a good idea is one of the great imponderables.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013 at 17:27 | Unregistered CommenterHeretic

The air must be quite thin on TC's moral high ground. Side effects appear to include chronic delusion, confusion and hypocrisy.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013 at 17:37 | Unregistered CommenterDavid

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