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ASH Scotland poll avoids questions that really matter to smokers

The results of a poll commissioned by ASH Scotland and conducted by YouGov (whose president, Peter Kelner, is on the board of trustees at ASH London) has been published today.

I got a sneak preview of it yesterday, just as I was sitting down for coffee and a brownie at the Old Bicycle Shop in Cambridge.

The headline of ASH Scotland's press release stated, 'Scottish government action on smoking backed by both smokers and non-smokers'.

The full press release read:

The results from a new YouGov survey suggest people in Scotland continue to support government action on smoking, with smokers themselves indicating approval for recent government initiatives.

The survey results, released today by charity Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) Scotland, showed strong backing for recent legislation, with 91% of smokers agreeing with the ban on smoking in cars with children present. This was even higher than the 88% support amongst non-smokers.

At the same time 70% of Scottish adults (42% of smokers) support the ban on tobacco displays in shops, while only 9% (24% of smokers) are against.

Only on the introduction of plain, standardised packaging for tobacco products did the strong public support (60% support, 11% oppose) mask a balanced view amongst smokers (30% support, 35% oppose, 35% don’t know).

The Scottish public also indicated a strong appetite for further government action on tobacco and health. 87% of Scottish adults, including 85% of smokers, would support increased penalties for selling tobacco to children. 74% of adults, including 62% of smokers, would support requiring businesses to have a licence before they can sell tobacco.

Sheila Duffy, Chief Executive of ASH Scotland, said:

“When asked about specific government actions to tackle smoking both smokers and non-smokers tend to indicate support. This should encourage politicians that action to reduce the harm and inequality caused by smoking isn’t just effective, it is popular too.”

I'm trying to locate the full poll results, including questions, that YouGov are compelled to publish online.

It's interesting there was no reference to extending the smoking ban to outdoor areas, which is the one issue smokers would react most strongly against, the current level of tobacco duty or the bans on smaller pack sizes.

In contrast to the ASH Scotland/YouGov poll you may recall that last year a Forest/Populus poll found that a majority of adults in Scotland would allow smoking rooms in pubs and clubs.

In addition 61% thought that government policies to reduce smoking rates had gone far enough (44%) or too far (17%). Only 35% thought they had not gone far enough.

Anyway, Forest's response to ASH Scotland's survey, which was written during the 20 minutes I was waiting for my coffee (I like the Old Bicycle Shop but they do make you wait), read:

"The results of other polls conducted throughout the United Kingdom over the last 18 months suggest the public does not believe tackling smoking is priority for government.

"Smoking has consistently rated the lowest in a list of government priorities for the NHS, behind even obesity and alcohol issues.

"A Populus survey conducted in Scotland last year even found that 54 per cent of the public would allow well-ventilated smoking rooms in pubs and private members' clubs, with only 40 per cent opposed to the idea.

"There is no justification for further tobacco control measures until there has been a truly independent review of the impact of recent legislation including the display ban, plain packaging, the ban on ten packs and larger health warnings.

"Tobacco control measures have to be evidence-based and so far there is no evidence that any of these policies have had an impact on smoking rates.

"The most significant factor in the recent fall in the number of smokers would appear to be smokers switching to e-cigarettes. Vaping provides a free market solution to smoking cessation that no government policy can match.

"Instead of trying to force smokers to quit the Scottish Government should embrace the concept of choice and encourage smokers to switch to alternative nicotine products like e-cigarettes.

"It's important too that ministers engage with smokers, not nag or bully them to quit. Tobacco is a legal product and if adults choose to smoke that choice must be respected."

I knew only one or two sentences would be used but I wasn't sure how the media would report the poll so in terms of our response I had to give them several options.

To date, as far as I can tell, only one newspaper – the Herald – has covered the poll and their report was headlined 'Recent ban on smoking in cars with children receives backing from majority of Scottish smokers'.

Had I anticipated that I would have added:

"It's hardly surprising smokers support the ban on smoking in cars carrying children.

"Long before the ban smokers knew it was inconsiderate to smoke in a car with kids and the overwhelming majority didn't do it. The legislation was patronising and completely unnecessary."

Instead they quoted me as follows:

Simon Clark, director of the smokers' rights group Forest, said that the results of other polls in the UK in the last 18 months suggested the public does not believe tackling smoking is a priority for government.

He said, "Tobacco control measures have to be evidence-based and so far there is no evidence that any of these policies have had an impact on smoking rates."

Anyway, I know the cost of Scotland-only polls (they're not cheap) so a single report hardly represents good value for the taxpayer who funds ASH Scotland to the tune of £800,000 a year.

CEO Sheila Duffy will no doubt calculate that the real value of the poll will be the copies that land on the desks of MSPs including Scottish Government ministers.

Some might describe that as government lobbying government but I couldn't possibly comment.

Meanwhile you may recall Deborah Arnott's sniffy response to the poll Forest commissioned in Wales last month.

Commenting on the news that 58% of respondents would allow well-ventilated smoking rooms in pubs and private members' clubs, she said:

"The benefits of smoke-free laws are not a matter of public opinion."

In the crazy world of tobacco control opinion polls are fine when you get the result you want but when they are less conducive they must be dismissed and ignored.

Strange, that.

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Reader Comments (7)

Public opinion is only welcome when it accepts tobacco control domination. Tobacco control opinion polls are not unbiased indicators of public sentiment; they are propaganda used to bolster political control.

Saturday, April 15, 2017 at 20:10 | Unregistered CommenterVinny Gracchus

[Sigh] Do these swivel-eyed obsessives really think that anyone still believes this stuff? I don't know a single person these days who, when confronted with some poll, or stats, or number-crunched piece of information - about anything, not just smoking - who doesn't immediately (and, usually, correctly) assume that the "research" has been carried out/funded/supported by some highly-biased group, whether that's a lobby group like ASH, a charity like the NSPCC, or a manufacturer of said product or service - thus rendering the loudly-trumpeted results highly suspect to say the least. To paraphrase the inimitable Mandy Rice-Davies: "Well, they would say that, wouldn't they?"

For ASH to claim that smokers actually enjoy being abused, harassed, persecuted, bullied and treated generally as unfairly as they currently are is as laughable as - well - Simon, I know you don't like that old favourite Godber-esque analogy, so I won't use it here, but you know what I'm saying ...

Sunday, April 16, 2017 at 2:51 | Unregistered CommenterMisty

From what I'm given to understand, this was an online poll in which anti-smokers could have posed as smokers in order to produce the "right" results since I find it hard to believe that 91% of smokers who actually drive (let alone on a long car trip with chikdren) would favor such a ban.

You say you'd have added that smokers already know that smoking in the car with kids is "inconsiderate" (tho of course the ban proponents try to claim that it's lethal and a form of child abuse.) But first, aside from possibly infants and asthmatics, it's not inconsiderate-- just crack a window--and second, once you start to ban inconsiderate things, where do you stop? How about inconsiderably arguing with your wife in front of The Children, or playing radio music The Children don't like or eating pastrami from a drive-in take-out when they don't like the smell? How about the children inconsiderately spilling soda on the newly-cleaned upholstery or screaming at each other? No end to the mischief once you invite in the government as arbiter.

Sunday, April 16, 2017 at 5:56 | Unregistered CommenterWalt

I'm in agreement with Walt on this one. There's nothing inconsiderate about smoking in a car with any passengers, children or otherwise. You don't smoke, Simon, so you won't be familiar with the dynamics of air (or more pertinently, visible smoke) movement in a moving car with the window open an inch or so, but I can assure you (and since this stupidity has arisen, I've actively taken note of what happens when you smoke in a car) that 95% or more of the smoke, both from the cigarette and the exhalation gets whipped out of the window instantly. The whole concept of it being harmful, or even 'inconsiderate' is manufactured madness.

Sunday, April 16, 2017 at 9:19 | Unregistered Commenternisakiman

I'm fully in agreement with Walt and Nisakiman. At least 95% of the smoke does indeed vent out instantly when on the move and all that is left is the aroma. I have always loved the aroma of both tobacco and tobacco smoke. The vast majority of the population used to love it too, including most of the non smokers I knew 30 years ago. It is the incitement to fear and hatred, run by the corporate lobbyists of the global anti-smoking industry, that has created the mass hysteria of many people today.

Sunday, April 16, 2017 at 15:13 | Unregistered CommenterTony

The only reason for the car smoking ban was to further stigmatise smokers and push the idea that smokers are such pathetic addicts they cannot even control themselves around children.

The truth is smokers have always been considerate to those who share a car and don't like smoking, both children and adults, but it is not true to say all passengers in a car who don't smoke hate smoke or fear it.

Govt intervention was not needed for any other reason than to make the smokerphobic anti smoker lobbyists in ASH and their charity front groups feel even more smug and superior.

It is not about health. It is about hate, control and political ideology.

I believe that smokerphobia is an obsessive mental health disorder that harms those who have it and those around them who are attacked and bullied because of it.

If this issue is really about health, the govt would fund research and treatment for smokerphobia to put those poor souls out of their misery and prevent further harm to innocent consumers and the economy.

Monday, April 17, 2017 at 13:20 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

"It is about hate, control and political ideology.."

Indeed it is, Pat: rather like a certain joyless 'religion' I could mention, but shan't - for fear of 'offending' the easily-offended.

In fact, the 'War on Tobacco' could be more accurately described, I think as.....................a 'Jihad'.

And why not ?

After all, its prosecutors KNOW that they have God-on-their-side (or whoever's in charge of Heaven in the Totalitarian mindset these days).

Wednesday, April 19, 2017 at 22:13 | Unregistered CommenterMartin V

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