Today's Guardian reports:
More than 1,000 doctors, including heads of royal colleges and public health institutions, are calling on the prime minister to publish the latest tobacco control plan without delay.
In a letter to Theresa May, the senior doctors say the plan is essential to drive down smoking rates, which are highest and most damaging to health among the least well-off. The plan was due to be published last summer.
See Doctors urge Theresa May to publish anti-smoking strategy (Guardian).
The letter was coordinated by Dr Nicholas Hopkinson. “What we want is a smoke-free future,” he told the paper.
Support for mass media campaigns is needed, he says, as well as the continuation of policies on the cigarette pricing and tobacco smuggling. Spending on media campaigns in England has dropped in the past five years from just under £25m in 2009-10 to £5.3m in 2015, although evidence shows they help people quit.
“It is absolutely clear these interventions work. It is just keeping up the momentum and making sure there is a high priority to this,” he said. “There are 9 million smokers in the UK, and smoking is increasingly associated with inequality – it is quite a bit higher in the poorer parts of society.”
It didn't surprise me at all that Hopkinson was behind the letter. It's his modus operandi.
In February 2013 he was chief signatory to a letter in The Lancet that called on healthcare organisations to sever all links with PR companies lobbying on behalf of the tobacco industry.
A few months later he got 150 "health professionals" to sign a letter to the Telegraph demanding the introduction of plain packaging.
In May 2016 he wrote a letter that was reported as follows by the Observer:
More than 1,000 healthcare experts, including 57 professors, have signed an open letter calling on some of London’s most respected cultural institutions to abandon their financial links with big tobacco.
For some reason the Guardian didn't include a link to Hopkinson's latest letter but you can read it in full here (The need for a new Tobacco Control Plan: an issue of justice).
You can also read the full list of signatories. The Guardian, naturally, focussed on the fact that the letter had been signed by "more than 1,000 doctors, including heads of royal colleges and public health institutions".
In fact, a number of signatories are not doctors at all but long-term anti-smoking activists or researchers. Notably they include Deborah Arnott (ASH), Andrea Crossfield (Healthier Futures, formerly Smokefree North West) and Ailsa Rutter (Fresh, formerly Smokefree North East).
Other familiar names include Professors Anna Gilmore (University of Bath), Simon Capewell (Faculty of Public Health) and Anne McNeil and John Britton (both UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies).
Oh, and let's not forget those darlings of the vaping community, Linda Bauld (CRUK) and stop smoking service manager Louise Ross.
Frankly, the only person who's missing is Old Uncle Tom Cobley.
It's worth pointing out too that most if not all of the 1,000+ signatories are beneficiaries, in some way or another, of taxpayers' money so a more obvious example of government lobbying government is hard to find.
The question is, how does Nick Hopkinson do it? How does he get "more than 1,000 healthcare experts" to sign such letters?
Last year he ignored our polite request for information about his signature gathering methodology and today he responded to a similar query with the following tweet.
Naturally we responded with one or two of our own:
Tobacco industry front organisation FOREST - 95% funded by Philip Morris, BAT, Imperial Tobacco & JTI https://t.co/JODRjSuKFj— Nick Hopkinson (@COPDdoc) January 5, 2017
We are completely transparent about our funding. You should be equally open about your signature gathering campaigns. @COPDdoc— Forest (@Forest_Smoking) January 5, 2017
Btw, we haven't received a penny from PMI since 1997. Get your facts right! @COPDdoc— Forest (@Forest_Smoking) January 5, 2017