Burning your £££s to help overseas smokers quit
Sunday, March 5, 2017 at 20:38
Simon Clark

We know about the millions of £££s of taxpayers' money squandered on stop smoking services that fewer and fewer smokers actually use.

We know about the millions of £££s of public money given to anti-smoking groups such as ASH, ASH Scotland and ASH Wales.

We know too that the tobacco control industry wants the government to spend millions more on mass media campaigns designed to 'persuade' smokers to quit.

Crazy though that expenditure is, at least the money is being targeted at UK residents.

In contrast, consider the £15,000,000 (at least) of UK taxpayers' money that has been allocated to help non-UK residents to stop smoking.

This isn't a new story – it first appeared in November ('Britain's aid budget is being used to support 'quitting measures' in less developed countries') – but today's papers suggest it's an issue that's gaining traction.

According to The Sun:

About £15 million of Britain’s health budget will go on helping foreigners quit smoking.

It is part of £150 million from the Department of Health money pot which went on overseas aid last year — a figure which has ballooned in three years.

The same story appeared in the Mail and the Express but the headline in the Express summed it up best – Foreign aid farce.

Don't hold your breath but perhaps MPs will now demand a full independent audit that identifies every penny of taxpayers' money that is being spent on all smoking cessation initiatives overseas.

Initiatives, for example, like last year's "researcher links workshop" in Uruguay. According to the UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies (UKCTAS) website:

Following a successful grant application, a group of UKCTAS researchers have in collaboration with colleagues in Uruguay’s University of the Republic organised a workshop to explore how research into smoking and alcohol use in pregnancy can be used to develop and implement effective policies to curb the use of these substances, which remain a problem in many parts of the world, including the UK and Uruguay.

The British Council, which sponsored the event, receives funding from the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (ie the taxpayer).

And according to UKCTAS the taxpayer-funded British Embassy also chipped in.

The question is, how many more smoking-cessation projects like the Uruguayan workshop are funded with our money?

Sending a group of researchers on a round trip of 13,600 miles to link up with public health professionals on the other side of the world may not be the most scandalous or extravagant use of taxpayers' money but it all adds up.

With the UK one of the first countries to commit to funding the next phase of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) negotiations, and the former tobacco programme manager at the Department of Health now on secondment with the World Health Organisation in Geneva, questions must be asked about the DH's global ambitions and the cost and relevance to the British taxpayer.

Summary of day two of the #ukctasMVD researcher links workshop in Uruguay #Alcohol #Tobacco https://t.co/koX4EQdzif pic.twitter.com/8Mpz3JNhzg

UKCTAS (@UKCTAS) February 25, 2016

#ukctasMVD British Council sponsored ‘Researcher Links’ workshop, Montevideo, Uruguay https://t.co/rj1MkLjqBn pic.twitter.com/zeVxqhrf3F

UKCTAS (@UKCTAS) February 24, 2016
Article originally appeared on Simon Clark (http://taking-liberties.squarespace.com/).
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