No Smoking Day: who will put this zombie event out of its misery?
Wednesday, March 8, 2017 at 9:15
Simon Clark

I'm currently in Dublin but I shall be listening with interest to the Chancellor's Budget statement.

Hopefully there won't be a nasty surprise awaiting smokers. A tax increase on cigarettes of inflation plus two per cent (the policy George Osborne introduced) was bad enough but ASH want that increased to inflation plus five per cent.

Last year rolling tobacco got hit with (off the top of my head) a 15 per cent increase and the same could happen again.

The reasoning behind that is that as the cost of cigarettes has gone up smokers have switched in increasing numbers to cheaper rolling tobacco so let's clobber that as well.

There's also talk of a minimum excise tax (MET) which will effectively mean that the cost of the cheapest cigarettes brands will go up.

Again, this is partly to counteract the trend – provoked by high excise duty and, more recently, plain packaging – whereby smokers are increasingly driven to purchase the cheapest brands.

In practise of course many smokers by-pass ordinary retailers in favour of the black market.

Anyway it's also No Smoking Day today which may come as a surprise to some of you because I've not seen a single mention of it in any national newspaper.

Regional newspapers will give it a mention, especially if there's a local No Smoking Day stunt or initiative – but, as I've commented on before, NSD is a pale shadow of its former self.

In 2011 the No Smoking Day organisation (which used to have a budget of, I think, £600,000 a year) merged with the British Heart Foundation but it's hard to tell who's running NSD this year.

The event doesn't have a dedicated website and I can't find any mention of it on the BHF website, which is bizarre.

Interestingly, if you click on the URL it redirects you to a page on the BHF website that mentions smoking but not No Smoking Day.

The No Smoking Day Twitter profile has two links – one to a site called Health Unlocked, the other to a stop smoking page on the NHS Choices website.

NSD tweets are also written in the first person which is generally an indication of just how small the 'organisation' is.

Despite that the Health Unlocked (No Smoking Day) site says that NSD is "supported by an alliance of UK health bodies and charities" which suggests the British Heart Foundation has decided it no longer wants to run it alone, but it's still not clear who's in charge.

Meanwhile, if you Google 'No Smoking Day 2017', the first thing you'll see is a promoted link to the Nicorette website.

The next link takes you to a page on what appears to be a Scottish Government website (NHS Inform).

After that there are a couple of calendar style websites that mention No Smoking Day followed by NSD's Wikipedia entry that was last updated, it seems, in 2011.

In typical Wikipedia fashion it states that 'No Smoking Day in the UK takes place on March 11 annually' which is obviously wrong because No Smoking Day takes place on the second Wednesday in March every year so the date varies.

The organisers of No Smoking Day (whoever they are, or were) have always been at pains to stress that the event was targeted only at people who wanted to quit.

It may have started that way but in the years I've worked for Forest the organisers have been more than happy to embrace many anti-smoking initiatives, including local smoking bans and other policies designed to restrict the freedoms of everyone who wants to light up.

Before the smoking ban, for example, No Smoking Day was seen as a great way to get publicity for a local business.

All you had to do was announce that from No Smoking Day you were introducing an office smoking ban and you could almost guarantee the story would appear in the local paper.

Since then it's been more difficult to use NSD as a promotional or campaign tool but it hasn't stopped people trying.

This morning for example I was on BBC Radio Suffolk discussing a decision by Ipswich Hospital to ban smoking anywhere on site.

Naturally they chose No Smoking Day to start enforcing the policy which includes demolishing the existing smoking shelters.

How kind – and considerate.

But that's what No Smoking Day does to people. It brings out the worst in some because it legitimises fear and discrimination.

Thankfully No Smoking Day is rapidly becoming a zombie event. Someone should put it out of its misery.

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