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Stoptober 2017 limps on and we're still waiting for the 2016 evaluation

We're just past the midway point for Stoptober 2017.

I only wrote about this 16 days ago so you may remember that in November last year I requested a report from Public Health England on the outcome of Stoptober 2016.

This was treated as a freedom of information request and I was told that "all strands of the evaluation will be finalised in early February (2017)."

February came and went and nothing was published.

In August I submitted a further FOI request asking for a "full evaluation of the outcome of Stoptober 2016".

PHE, as I wrote here, responded as follows:

We are releasing an evaluation document of Stoptober 2016 during Stoptober 2017; this will be available on the PHE website ... The original publication date was delayed.

The FOI response was dated September 22. This morning I checked the PHE website again and I still couldn't find the document they said was going to be published "during Stoptober 2017".

OK, I know Stoptober still has 15 days to go but doesn't it strike you as odd that the evaluation document for 2016 has been delayed this long and still hasn't been published?

As I've commented before, the budget for Stoptober 2017 is substantially more than it was last year (£1.08 million versus £390,000 in 2016) so how can Public Health England justify that sort of increase without an evaluation of the previous year's campaign?

We know that the number of smokers signing up to Stoptober fell significantly in 2015 compared to 2014. That, I suspect, is why PHE moved the goalposts and decided not to ask smokers to register in 2016 as they had done previously.

Now – and quite blatantly in my view – PHE has procrastinated for as long it can, perhaps in the hope we'd give up asking awkward questions about the success or otherwise of an event whose greatest legacy is giving one or two minor celebrities a small pay day and a number of well-remunerated PR and advertising agencies a substantially larger one.

Update: I rang PHE this morning to ask when, exactly, the evaluation document for Stoptober 2016 is to be published.

I was asked to put my question in writing – again – so shortly before lunch I sent this email :

Further to our phone conversation, see FOI response attached. It includes the statement, 'We are releasing an evaluation document of Stoptober 2016 during Stoptober 2017; this will be available on the PHE website.

We are now beyond the midway point in the Stoptober 2017 campaign and it would be helpful to know when exactly the evaluation document for Stoptober 2016 will be made available.

Please note that my original enquiry, which was treated as an FOI, was made on 3rd November 2016. I received a response that stated: 'It is expected that all strands of the evaluation will be finalised early February.'

Now, here we are, in October 2017, and to the best of my knowledge the evaluation document for Stoptober 2016 is still unavailable.

Therefore my very simple question (not to be treated as another FOI request!) is: 'Can PHE give a date for the publication of the Stoptober 2016 evaluation document and, if not, what is the reason for the continued delay?'

If I get a reply today I'll let you know. I'm not holding my breath.

Update: I have had a reply, to be fair, from a very helpful FOI officer. The long-awaited document is complete apparently and will be uploaded on to the PHE website in the next 14 days.

You have to hand it to government. The speed at which civil servants work is breathtaking.

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Reader Comments (3)

Isn't a shame that as a member of the public, and a smoker, I do not believe a sigle word they say. I expect manipulated figures pulled from the air by ASH to support its cause. Isn't that what usually happens?

The billion lives lost to smoking is one such example.

Monday, October 16, 2017 at 14:56 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

Using the public purse to fund the persecution of a quarter of the population is reprehensible. Stoptober is a classic example of ideological propaganda being used to stigmatize a minority (actually tobacco control propaganda was used to create a minority).

Monday, October 16, 2017 at 20:42 | Unregistered CommenterVinny Gracchus

I'm amazed that they're spending more this year. Maybe their numbers were down and they thought they hadn't spent enough. But even so, what exactly are they spending it on?? I've seen nothing of the campaign apart from one, maybe two, radio adverts in the run-up. I've seen no posters, no billboards, no TV adverts, no nominal "celebs" as in previous years. Nada. Nothing. Zilch. Which is nice - but does beg the question again - what is it going on? Perhaps they've only spent a teeny-tiny bit on the actual campaign and the rest will go into a black hole elsewhere, to be spent on other things (like trips to conferences etc, as, from previous articles on here, it sounds like general funding may be taking a bit of a hit). It has the whiff of a bit of a con, if you ask me.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017 at 1:14 | Unregistered CommenterMisty

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