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« Nothing further to add, m'lud | Main | APPG on Smoking and Health wrote to ministers 592 times over five years! »

National media ignores Brighton's rejection of beach smoking ban

Can't say I'm surprised but the following is worth recording.

There has been a huge contrast in the way the media reported the announcement in July of Brighton Council's consultation on extending the smoking ban to beaches and parks, and this week's news that the proposal is to be dropped following strong opposition from residents and visitors.

Before I review the latter (which won't take long), let me take you back a few months. On Monday July 14 Brighton and Hove News reported:

Brighton and Hove could become one of the first places in the UK to ban smoking in its parks and on its beaches.

Councillors are being asked to approve a public consultation to extend the voluntary ban in playgrounds to other public spaces in the city.

The following day the story appeared in The Argus (Potential smoking ban for Brighton and Hove beaches and parks).

The Telegraph then became the first national newspaper to cover the story (Seaside resort proposes banning smoking on beaches).

Both reports included a quote from Forest, unlike BBC News Sussex which noted simply:

Smoking could be banned on Brighton beach under plans being considered by the city council.

Anyway, I wrote about it here (Extending smoking ban to include parks and beaches unwarranted and illiberal) and again here (Weather conditions allied to smoking may pose additional risk to non-smokers says director of public health) but for several days after that it all went quiet.

Five days later the story unexpectedly burst back into life when the Press Association reported:

The first step has been taken towards making Brighton beach a smoke-free zone.

Brighton and Hove City Council's health and wellbeing board agreed that a 12-week public consultation should start from tomorrow to gauge people's views on the idea.

If the proposals go-ahead, they would reportedly make the seaside city the first in Britain to ban people from lighting up on the shore.

The city already has a voluntary ban on smoking in its 42 children's play areas, but now the city's beaches and parks could become smoke-free too.

The Daily Mail also reported:

Cigarettes could be banned on beaches in Brighton to keep the seaside smoke-free.

The move – branded an 'attack on personal freedom' by campaigners – would make the city the first in the country to outlaw people from lighting up on the shore.

I was in Ireland that day but I was able to give the Press Association Forest's full response and this led to a second PA report – Plans for smoke-free Brighton beach 'unjust'.

Meanwhile the story was being reported nationally and locally, in the press, on television and on radio.

The Guardian (Brighton beach could go smoke-free under council plans) was one of many newspapers to publish news of the consultation.

BBC News chipped in with Brighton seeks views on beach smoking ban:

Smoking could be banned on Brighton beach in a bid to create an environment free from second-hand smoke, particularly for children.

Brighton and Hove City Council's health and wellbeing board has voted to begin a 12-week public consultation to gauge people's views on the idea.

It is believed the city would be the first in Britain to ban lighting up on the seashore as well as in its parks.

It was even on CBBC Newsbeat (Brighton looking into banning smoking on beaches and Brighton beach smoking ban plans - what people think).

My colleague Rob Lyons discussed the issue on ITV's Good Morning Britain, ITV News and Channel Five News. The IEA's Chris Snowdon was on Sky News.

In short, no-one who takes the slightest interest in current affairs could have been unaware that smoking on Brighton's beaches was under serious threat.

So what has been the media's response to the equally important news that a large majority of respondents to the consultation were strongly opposed to extending the smoking ban to beaches and parks?

I'll tell you.

To the best of my knowledge there have been just three reports (Brighton and Hove News, The Argus and Worthing Herald) plus one item on local radio (BBC Radio Sussex).

To date the news that smoking will NOT be banned on Brighton's beaches or in the city's parks and 'historic' squares has received not a single column inch outside Sussex. Nor has it been mentioned by national TV or radio.

It's not even been by mentioned by BBC News Sussex.

Now it's not impossible the story could still develop legs. After all, there's not been an official announcement by Brighton Council (hence I am still not counting my chickens), but that's no excuse.

The information is out there for all to read and it beggars belief that the media has largely ignored it.

I'm not a conspiracy theorist so there must be some other explanation. Sadly I can't think what it is apart from the fact that the prospect of a ban must be considered news, while a non-ban isn't.

Nevertheless it's still a very positive statement by the general public.

What I do know is that thanks to the media's coverage of the story in the summer, a huge number of people, including many councillors around the country, will be under the illusion that smoking is going to be banned on Brighton's beaches. The headlines alone will have seen to that.

Somehow we have to make them aware of the outcome of Brighton's public consultation.

PS. On July 30 the Press Association reported, 'Majority in favour' of Brighton beach smoking ban:

The majority of people are in favour of a smoking ban on Brighton beach and think the plans should be considered for other British resorts.

Many of those questioned (48%) said they thought stopping people lighting up would make traditional seaside towns more attractive places to visit and one in five (19%) said they would even travel further to visit a no-smoking beach.

The poll was also reported by The Argus, Brighton's daily newspaper. ASH, naturally, tweeted the results.

Bizarrely it was commissioned by Pharmacy2U, "the UK's leading NHS approved online pharmacy". See Look who's behind poll that says majority favour smoking ban on Brighton beach (Taking Liberties).

Neither the poll, Pharmacy2U or the Press Association are looking too clever now, are they?

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Reader Comments (3)

The press coverage of the Brighton beach smoking ban is an excellent example of agenda setting and propaganda in tobacco control. Since the story does not conform with the tobacco control agenda they remain silent and let their earlier propaganda statements (which are designed to set the agenda and scope of public discourse) remain in public memory. They will remain silent until they think they can successfully re-set the agenda.

This of course follows the same approach used to validate indoor smoking bans where false reports of immediate health benefits were widely reported. When the reports were later discredited the tobacco control lobby remained silent, no retractions were published and the public recalls only the preferred meme of second hand smoke equals health risk (despite the lack of empirical evidence). Similar manipulated data was (and is being) used to justify plain packages.

So the original reports claimed a majority supported the beach ban when the actual results were a strong majority reject them. This make you wonder who they actually surveyed to support their boosterism.

Of course the results of surveys showing a clear majority supports amending the indoor smoking ban in pubs to allow smoking rooms is buried and media reports informing the public and politicians of that preference are silent.

Instead the tobacco control agenda keeps spreading their position while lobbying legislators to reject evidence from tobacco interests.
Essentially tobacco control seeks a monopoly on information and influence and censors any dissent or opposition. It is sad the media embraces this anti-democratic manipulation of democratic process.

Saturday, December 12, 2015 at 22:53 | Unregistered CommenterVinny Gracchus

Same old, same old, scaremongering again at its best, Big Brother - Ash, big pharma etc - splash the latest ban all over the media, wait for it to sink in to the PC brigades brains, and bob's your uncle, job done, the meeks are afraid to smoke on the beach and Big Bro saves millions by not having to bother with a new law.
Where are they going to get or pay the manpower to police it anyway.
Its like the ban for dogs on the beach, go to any beach on a given day and you'll see all the dogs running around with not a warden in sight, if you were acosted by one of them all you have to do is give a wrong name or throw sand in his eyes and run.

Monday, December 14, 2015 at 14:32 | Unregistered Commenterann

Neither the poll, Pharmacy2U or the Press Association are looking too clever now, are they?

Especially not Pharmacy2U

Online pharmacy fined for selling customer data
21 October 2015

"Online drug seller Pharmacy2U has been fined £130,000 for selling information about customers to marketing companies.

The data was sold to several companies, including one warned over misleading advertising and another facing an investigation into a lottery it ran.

Pharmacy2U had made a "serious error of judgement" in selling the data, the information commissioner said.

The pharmacy said the sales had been a "regrettable incident", for which it apologised.

Vulnerable targeted

The names and addresses of more than 20,000 Pharmacy2U customers had been sold via a marketing company, the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) said in a statement."

Perhaps that's why everyone who quoted their poll as fact in July are being so quiet now.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015 at 10:29 | Unregistered CommenterRose2

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