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How Hubbub beats Keep Britain Tidy in the litter lottery

I've been thinking about cigarette butts and the launch of Keep Britain Tidy's latest campaign, BinTheButt.

I understand that the campaign has been funded with a £400,000 grant from the People's Postcode Lottery.

I wonder how the Postcode Lottery will evaluate whether that is money well spent?

As far as I can tell BinTheButt is nothing more than a PR campaign, and a pretty unsuccessful one. If you ignore KBT’s frantic tweeting, the media coverage has been minimal and will be quickly forgotten.

Compare the ‘glitzy’ poster-driven KBT campaign with that of Hubbub, a charity that seeks creative and ‘playful’ solutions to environmental issues.

Unlike Keep Britain Tidy, Hubbub avoids tendentious, judgemental or emotive claims like accusing smokers of "flicking blue murder" and "poisoning the oceans".

More important, Hubbub actually has an idea designed to tackle the problem of cigarette litter. It’s called the Ballot Bin and it’s a "customisable bespoke ashtray that tackles cigarette butt litter".

Contrast that with KBT whose BinTheButt campaign launch was noticeable for an almost total absence of bins.

While there were plenty of giant butts on display, I saw just one campaign photo featuring a bin and I saw no mention of the need for councils to provide more cigarette bins to help smokers 'bin the butt'.

Instead of coming up with a practical solution, KBT was far more interested in pointing an accusing finger at smokers while giving the anti-smoking industry more ammunition to ban smoking outside.

If I have one criticism of the Hubbub ballot bin it's the design. It’s not cheap (over £200, I believe) but it looks like the sort of thing your grandad might have knocked up in his garage.

Then again, perhaps that is part of its charm. And it seems to work. According to the Local Government Association:

The Ballot Bin encourages the use of the ashtray by allowing the user to vote. When disposing their cigarette butt they can choose one of two receptacles. Each receptacle has a window to display the used butts, allowing a public opinion poll to be generated.

The question on the first bin was ‘Who’s the best football player? Ronaldo or Messi’. The ashtray went viral, orders came in from all over the world, and the bin proved to successfully reduce cigarette butt litter.

It’s also been reported that:

Observational research carried out during the [Neat Streets] campaign revealed that 29 per cent of ‘correct disposals’ were a result of people using the bins rather than littering.

In Southend, where 21 ballot bins were installed in the summer of 2017, the council reported a 46 per cent reduction in cigarette litter.

That's impressive. Can Keep Britain Tidy match that with their BinTheButt campaign? And how are they going to evaluate it?

I think we should be told.

Interestingly, Hubbub is not averse to working with the tobacco industry. According to the Tobacco Manufacturers Association website:

The TMA supported the ‘Neat Streets’ campaign in Villiers Street, London. The campaign was run over the course of several months and tested a number of new and innovative ways to tackle litter. A cigarette voting bin or ‘Ballot Bin’ proved to be very popular among smokers, reducing smoking litter by 46%, as well as catching the attention of the global media. The bin was trialled in Edinburgh where again it proved to very popular thanks to the use of targeted questions.

Hubbub, the social enterprise behind the ‘Neat Streets’ campaign approached the TMA for support in rolling out the bin to a wider audience. The bin has already been taken up by some private sector businesses, as well as a number of local authorities.

Again, contrast that with Keep Britain Tidy which severed its working relationship with the tobacco companies in December 2013 following pressure from the tobacco control industry.

It seems to me that one of these charities is genuinely trying to address the issue of cigarette litter while the other is merely going through the motions.

I’ll leave you to decide which is which.


Pocket appeal

Further to yesterday's post, Pat Nurse sent me an email about pocket ashtrays:

I collect pocket ashtrays. I am always banging on about them to smokers in a bid to help them avoid the penalty for dropped litter.

They cost about £4 or £5 but I have also seen cheaper versions, not so decorative, in newsagents and tobacco shops for £2 or £3. They are metal and clip shut.

I carry mine in a small velvet bag with a touch of dry lavendar inside to negate any stale tobacco smells until I can empty it.

I have noticed more smokers using small tins, pots or tiny hotel jamjars with screw tops.

It annoys me that the authorities will not promote the use of these things rather than come down jackboot first.

Several members of Forest's Facebook group have commented as well:

Jenny Burrill, a long-time Forest supporter, wrote:

Excellent little ash purses available on the Internet. Foil lined, which puts out the butt, and hold five butts. Can't understand why they don't seem to advertise, I always have one at the ready.

Liz Owen commented:

I hate butts in floors even more than most non smokers as just looks so awful. I have two portable ashtrays that go everywhere with me, but wish they sold them with the cigarettes in supermarkets as would encourage more people to use them.

I may have underestimated the appeal of pocket ashtrays. Go on Amazon and you'll find a wide selection, mostly very cheap.

I don't know how long they last, or how useful they are, but I'd like to test them and find out.

What we need is a panel of smokers willing to provide feedback so we can compare and contrast a range of designs over a set period – rather like those long-term tests in What Car? magazine.

Watch this space.

Below: Pat Nurse with cigarette and pocket ashtray in Bayeaux


Message to Keep Britain Tidy

Yesterday, in Manchester, Keep Britain Tidy launched a new campaign, BinTheButt.

I'll comment on that shortly but it reminded me that in 2009 KBT released a 40-second video that offered a dystopian vision of Londoners struggling through a sea of ash and cigarette butts.

The film was drawn to our attention by KBT themselves. In an email to Forest, their marketing coordinator wrote:

As an organisation which regularly communicates with the smoking community, we’re looking for your support to help us to spread our message.

We would be grateful if you would help us to promote the film, for example by publishing it on your website or forwarding it on to anyone you think may be interested.

Keen to know what readers thought of it, I posted it here (Message to smokers from Keep Britain Tidy).

Some of the comments were less than complimentary – to the extent that they prompted this reaction from KBT's marketing and communications manager:

In all of our advertising to reduce cigarette butts we have tried to ensure not to alienate smokers but just encourage them to use a personal ashtray or put it in the bin.

Our research shows that many smokers believe that butts are not litter, and when sent this advert we believed this would go some way to helping raise awareness of the issue.

You will see from our website that we run campaigns on all litter issues, not just smoking litter, and all we are trying to achieve is a cleaner country.

We sent this advert to Forest to inform them of the film and we are in no way making any comment on people's right to smoke!

This is not a personal attack on smokers and I am disappointed that this has now become a personal attack on one of my colleagues.

Despite this, a meeting was arranged with representatives of Keep Britain Tidy at Forest's old office in Wardour Street, Soho.

It took place in February 2010 and I eventually wrote about it here (Keeping Britain tidy).

At the time, in an email to a colleague who asked how it went, I commented:

The meeting was OK, quite friendly but a bit inconclusive. We seemed to have more ideas than they did about what we would like to do.

I was happy to meet and even work with Keep Britain Tidy because I genuinely believe smokers should take more responsibility for their butts and other smoking-related litter.

That said, smokers need some assistance and the smoking ban, which forces everyone to smoke outside, doesn't help.

Nor does the absence of cigarette bins which many councils are reluctant to install or give planning permission for in case they 'normalise' smoking.

As an aside, in 2010 Westminster City Council actually took the taxi firm Addison Lee to court for sponsoring wall-mounted cigarette bins outside pubs and clubs.

As LBC presenter Iain Dale wrote at the time (Jobsworth madness From Westminster City Council):

You'd have thought they would welcome them as something which helps keep Westminster's streets clean and tidy. But on the contrary.

In the absence of cigarette bins there are of course pocket ashtrays. The problem with pocket ashtrays is that while they are a neat promotional tool, they're not always very practical.

The best I’ve seen was a beautiful brown leather pouch that looked as if it would last a lifetime. It wasn’t cheap and it's no coincidence that the only person I could genuinely recommend it to was a multimillionaire - the late Felix Dennis – whose PA rang me one day to ask if I could suggest a suitable receptacle for her employer’s butts. (At the time Dennis was thought to smoke 40-60 cigarettes a day.)

Anyway, our relationship with Keep Britain Tidy didn’t go beyond that initial flirtation, probably because we couldn't offer them any money.

KBT did however work with two tobacco companies – Imperial and JTI – on a campaign called Love Where You Live which was set up 'to encourage individuals, companies and local groups to clean up after themselves'.

Coordinated by KBT, other partners included the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), McDonalds and Wrigley (the chewing gum people).

I understand that the tobacco companies contributed hundreds of thousands of pounds to the campaign. Defra also contributed.

In January 2013, however, under pressure from the tobacco control industry, David Cameron’s Coalition government pulled its support.

In a letter from parliamentary under-secretary Lord de Mauley to David Stapleton, chairman of Smokefree Somerset, de Mauley wrote:

Mindful if the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control we have now agreed an exit strategy ... Defra’s grant to Keep Britain Tidy has been reduced since the beginning of the Spending Review period and the campaign-related grant is to end in just over a year.

Shockingly, even though the companies were willing to support Keep Britain Tidy's efforts, de Mauley concluded his letter with these unequivocal words:

The Government categorically does not endorse the activities of tobacco companies.

What, not even when they're offering to help improve the environment?!

Anyway, in December 2013 the board of Keep Britain Tidy cravenly threw in the towel. Capitulating to Defra and the even more absurd Local Government Declaration on Tobacco Control (signed, of course, by the likes of Duncan Selbie, CEO of Public Health England, chief medical officer Dame Sally Davies, and the-then public health minister Jane Ellison, who now works for the WHO in Geneva), KBT severed all ties with the tobacco industry.

In 2015, speaking to MPs at a meeting of the Communities and Local Government Committee, Giles Roca, director of the Tobacco Manufacturers Association, commented:

"Keep Britain Tidy decided in December 2013 that it would no longer have any activity with the tobacco industry whatsoever. KBT will not deal with the tobacco industry. Local government will not deal with the tobacco industry on litter ...

We need leadership at a local level and at the national level. At the minute, Keep Britain Tidy will not talk to us. The board of Keep Britain Tidy passed a resolution in December 2013 that said it would not talk and not engage with the tobacco industry, which quite frankly is just preposterous."

And so to yesterday and the launch of KBT's latest campaign, BinTheButt, which was notable for several things but mostly the absence of two major stakeholders – the tobacco industry and the consumer.

Given the nature of the launch - the location (Manchester, home of the 'Making Smoking History' campaign), the crass, barely intelligible slogan (‘Flicking Blue Murder’), and the fact that there was no mention of councils providing more cigarette bins to help smokers dispose of their butts - I’m not sure Forest would have endorsed it anyway, but that’s not the point.

The point is that KBT has launched a campaign targeting smokers and two stakeholders who should be involved – manufacturers and consumers – have been sidelined and ignored because of a decision taken by a previous CEO who gave in to a politically motivated interpretation of a treaty that has absolutely nothing to do with litter!!

To be fair, I've heard good things about Allison Ogden-Newton, the current CEO of Keep Britain Tidy, and it's ridiculous that she should have her hands tied by a decision that was made before she took the job.

For the record, I am more than happy to reach out – again – to KBT. We can't bring money to the table but we can help promote their cigarette litter campaign if they are prepared to listen to what we have to say.

But first I would advise them to drop the 'FlickingBlueMurder' theme. One slogan (BinTheButt) is quite enough and if KBT want to get smokers onside without alienating them even further, accusing an already beleaguered minority of "poisoning our oceans" is probably not the way to do it.

Frankly, it smacks of a too clever by half PR/advertising agency with very little first-hand knowledge of smokers.

Speak to Forest however (and, dare I say it, the tobacco industry) and KBT will get far more sense than they'll get from tobacco control campaigners working with unelected but politically driven bureaucrats in Westminster (Department of Health) and Geneva (World Health Organisation).

Instead, by launching the BinThe Butt campaign in Manchester and screaming 'blue murder' at those who smoke, all KBT has done is confirm what many smokers already think – that Keep Britain Tidy is really just an offshoot of the multi-billion pound tobacco control industry that won't rest until every one of Britain's 7-8 million smokers has been bullied or shamed into quitting.

Anyway, here is Forest's response to KBT's new campaign – "A bin the butt campaign that ignores the importance of bins is a bit of a joke, to be honest."

Finally, I've just been re-reading the comments on my 2009 post (Message to smokers from Keep Britain Tidy) and this one by idlex (aka blogger Frank Davis) made me laugh:

I've not seen the film, but then I don't really need to. I stopped at the Badger and Ferret this afternoon, and the front door was, as ever, littered with giant cigarette butts. I had to be dragged over them with main force by a few of the stout regulars inside, who'd shouted "Reach out your hand, and hold tight."

Once inside, I rapidly realised that it was just as hard to get out as it was to get in, and so perforce I was obliged to stay far longer than I had intended, and eventually had six whole pints of Old Froggie rather than my usual half. When I was eventually dragged back out, I found that the street outside was also littered with the same enormous butts, and I had to drive very carefully to negotiate a path around them.

I had almost arrived home when I encountered a council crane, replete with flashing blue lights, busily working to lift away butts from an enormous pile of the things that had blocked the whole road. As a result I had to find another way home, which took me past the Cow and Partridge, at which I stopped for another much-needed refreshing quick half, which once again turned into another six pints of their finest Speckled Boar.

I eventually arrived home at a quarter to midnight (after another enforced stop at the Lizard and Petrel) to find my wife beside herself and worried that I'd been at the booze again. Happily I was able to calm her fears, ascribing my tardiness to the many giant cigarette butts that litter the streets and paths these days, and which our feckless councils seem to be unable to clear away. It doesn't seem to be getting any better, either. Why, only last week ...

Click here to read the other comments, including that response from Keep Britain Tidy.

See also: Keeping Britain Tidy, and Keeping Britain Tidy, part two.

PS. On the subject of pocket ashtrays, if money isn't an issue I rather like the look of this black leather and brass pocket ashtray from Yohji Yamamoto – price, £315.


Tips to help you stop smoking

This caught my eye yesterday.

The NHS website has a page that features ‘10 self-help tips to stop smoking’. Here’s a taste:

Consider your diet
Is your after-dinner cigarette your favourite? A US study revealed that some foods, including meat, make cigarettes more satisfying. Others, including cheese, fruit and vegetables, make cigarettes taste terrible. So swap your usual steak or burger for a veggie pizza instead.

Or, better still:

Make non-smoking friends
When you're at a party, stick with the non-smokers. "When you look at the smokers, don't envy them," says Louise, 52, an ex-smoker. "Think of what they're doing as a bit strange – lighting a small white tube and breathing in smoke."

Who writes this stuff?!


Quit smoking today, say Philip Morris and the UKVIA

A few weeks ago the Independent published an interview with Peter Nixon, MD of Philip Morris UK.

You probably missed it because the anti-smoking signals coming from Philip Morris are so frequent it’s not surprising if one occasionally fails to ignite.

Indeed, I suspect the law of diminishing returns has already begun to apply. Nevertheless, here’s a flavour of the Independent piece:

He [Nixon] is genuinely concerned about existing smokers. There are still seven and half million smokers in England alone. Half of them will die prematurely. “The goal is for us to get them to stop,” he says (and switch to IQOS).

Nixon is almost evangelical in his conviction and sense of purpose. He speaks of “converting” people, but he wanted to tone that down to “helping people to switch”.

So far so predictable. But this little nugget caught my eye:

Among his 400 employees in London, apparently, there is one hold-out who still smokes. “I’m working on him though.”

Think about that for a minute. Philip Morris, one of the two largest tobacco companies in the world, employs 400 people in London and according to the MD (who may have been joking, it’s difficult to tell) only one of them is a smoker.

If it’s true, is it still possible to get a job with Philip Morris if you smoke? After all, in the words of Peter Nixon:

“There is no reason for anyone to smoke any more."

You can read the full interview here (A View from the Top: Philip Morris managing director Peter Nixon on taking the smoke out of smoking).

Meanwhile the UK Vaping Industry Association - a body Philip Morris supports - sponsored a ‘Speakers’ Corner’ at the London Vape Show at the weekend.

Pictured below are some of the speakers alongside banners that feature a message the UKVIA is obviously keen to promote.

The only thing in doubt is whether ‘Quit smoking today’ is advice. Or an order.

If that’s the direction the vaping industry wants to go, good luck, but if the aim is to sell vaping to adults who enjoy smoking, adopting the language of the tobacco control industry is not, in my opinion, the best way to do it.

Yes, I know there are restrictions on how (and to whom) vaping can be promoted, but if you want smokers to switch I can think of messages that are more positive and less bossy than ‘Quit smoking today’ which sounds like a pharmaceutical company trying to flog NRT.

PS. Also worth reading, Tobacco giant Philip Morris wants to be a ‘disruptive insider’ as it targets the smoke-free market (Marketing Week, August 22).

Update: UK Marlboro boss wishes he could stop selling cigarettes tomorrow (Mail on Sunday, August 26).


Yorkshire post

I’ve been on holiday this past week.

Or was it a break? Probably the latter.

We spent two nights in Harrogate, followed by two nights in Glasgow, then another night in Harrogate. (See what we did there?)

I’ve decided that when I retire I may move to North Yorkshire - not for the weather, obviously, but I do like the countryside, and the tea rooms.

In Harrogate my favourite tea room is not the famous Bettys, a rather kitsch reminder of a bygone age, but Weetons which describes itself - rather ambitiously, in my view - as a ‘cafe, restaurant and food hall’.

Cafe, certainly, but ‘restaurant’ and ‘food hall’? Delicatessen might be a more apt description. Nevertheless, it’s very nice and we return to it time after time.

Likewise the Everyman cinema.

I’d never heard of the Everyman until a previous visit to Harrogate last year. I’ve now seen four films there - The Party, The Death of Stalin, Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again, and Incredibles 2.

Situated in a modern building in the centre of town, there are five supremely comfortable auditoriums that offer sofa-style seating with enormous leg room, enough for someone like me to stretch out until I am almost horizontal.

Hot food is brought to you in the auditorium by amiable staff who also show you to your seat, so none of that fumbling and stumbling in the dark.

Another nice touch comes at the start of each film when the head usherette steps forward and provides a brief introduction.

Aside from the five small to medium sized auditoriums there is a large cafe/bar with comfortable seating - including armchairs and sofas, floor to ceiling windows and an outside terrace/balcony with tables and chairs.

There are Everyman cinemas in several towns and cities with more opening soon. Highly recommended.

Also recommended is a Turkish restaurant in Harrogate called, appropriately, Istanbul.

Inspired by this (not really) we are spending a week in Turkey in October. Not my idea but I’ll keep you posted.

Meanwhile, enjoy the bank holiday.


Filth, squalor and violence but at least smoking is banned

I like and admire Rory Stewart.

Writer, diplomat, politician, few MPs have a CV like his.

What an asset he would be as a senior minister in the Foreign Office. Or so you would have thought.

Instead he’s currently in charge of England’s prisons, overseeing a system in which incidents of self-harm and violent assaults are at record levels.

Meanwhile the chief inspector of prisons Peter Clarke has just written a damning report on HMP Birmingham which he describes as the worst prison he has ever been to.

According to the BBC:

Inspectors found blood, vomit and rat droppings on the floor, sleeping staff, cockroaches and an overpowering smell of drugs.

Mr Clarke told BBC Radio 4's Today "surely somebody must have been asleep at the wheel".

"Squalor, filth, the air hanging heavy with the smell of drugs, a dilapidated physical environment, a sense of great instability of feeling that of any time violence could break out.

“This is the only jail, and I've visited many jails now, where I personally was forced to leave a wing because of the effect the drugs were having on me," he said.

On Friday, before these revelations, Rory Stewart hit the headlines by saying he would resign ‘if he hasn't managed to reduce drugs and violence levels in 10 target jails in England’ (BBC News).

If only more minsters took responsibility like this.

My respect for him is qualified however because, in June, Rory Stewart sat before a Commons committee and later tweeted that he was “Delighted to confirm that we have just achieved one hundred per cent smoke free prisons.”

Addressing the committee he announced that this was one of two major achievements (“2,500 extra prison officers” being the other) his department had achieved in the last year.

Bizarrely, he also boasted that “We were ahead of the Scots and we’ve done it.”

Now, I honestly don’t know whether the smoking ban has exacerbated problems with drugs and violence in England’s prisons.

According to Stewart, in a letter to Bob Neil, chairman of the Justice Select Committee:

During implementation, there have been some incidents of low level disorder; and a small number of more serious incidents involving groups rather than a single prisoner. But the occasions when Gold Command has been opened to manage an incident when smoke free was initially sighted as a contributing factor have been in single figures. All other incidents have been successfully managed within the establishment and good order and control has been resumed. All serious incidents are fully investigated and so far it appears the ban is if anything, only a minor contributory factor.

That may be so but I still think it’s a scandal that, at a time when the use of illegal drugs and incidents of violent crime are so high, and the chief inspector of prisons talks of “squalor”, “filth” and a sense that “violence could break out” at any time in one of England’s largest jails, the prisons minister considers it a major achievement to have prohibited smoking, a rather lesser evil in the overall scheme of things.

For the record, here’s Forest’s reaction to Rory Stewart’s announcement on Friday:

Forest has urged the government to tackle the problem of drugs and violent assaults in England's prisons by amending the prison smoking ban and allowing designated smoking areas.

The call follows the announcement by prisons minister Rory Stewart that he will resign if the use of drugs and assaults do not fall in ten problem jails.

Simon Clark, director of Forest, said:

"Incidents of self-harm and assaults in prisons are at record levels and the use of illegal drugs is rife, yet the government insists on banning tobacco, a legal product.

"Allowing prisoners to smoke might actually help address the far more serious problems Rory Stewart is trying to solve."

Challenging the prisons minister – who in June tweeted, 'Delighted to confirm that we have just achieved one hundred per cent smoke free prisons' – to amend the ban on smoking in prisons, Clark said:

"By offering to resign if his programme of reforms doesn't succeed, Rory Stewart has shown himself to be an honourable politician.

"But he also needs to be pragmatic and in the real world a substantial number of prisoners enjoy smoking.

"No-one should be surprised that if you take away one of their few pleasures there will be negative consequences.

"We challenge Mr Stewart to test the theory by allowing designated smoking areas in half of the ten problem prisons he has chosen to target.

"He can then compare one set of prisons against the other to see if permitting smoking makes any difference to the problem of drugs and violent assaults."

See: Prisons minister urged to amend prison smoking ban


Home thoughts

I was on the Stephen Nolan Show on Five Live last night.

I was invited, with several others, to discuss a new study that claims that 'Non-smoking adults have a higher risk of dying from serious lung disease if they grew up with parents who smoked'.

According to BBC News:

The researchers said childhood passive smoking was "likely to add seven deaths to every 100,000 non-smoking adults dying annually".

Now, I'm no mathematician, scientist or epidemiologist, but those figures suggest to me a very small increased risk (a point I didn't have to make - although I did it anyway - because Stephen Nolan did it for me).

The study certainly doesn’t justify calls to ban smoking in the home yet that is exactly how the results of the study have been interpreted.

Here are a few headlines:

Ban smoking in the home, say scientists (The Times)
Call for smoke ban in the home to protect children (Daily Express)
Cancer scientists say smoking should be banned in the home (Irish Sun)

As it happens, one of the report’s authors, Dr Ryan Diver, speaking to Nolan last night, said he didn't think smoking should be banned in the home.

He did however think that homes should be "smoke-free" which, you could argue, is the same thing.

Anyway the 'debate', as it often does, quickly descended into the usual bunfight that characterises Nolan's late night programmes.

And so, instead of Ryan Diver, who sounded quite reasonable, I found myself going head-to-head with someone called Vicki. Her name, voice and opinions sounded familiar. And then it clicked.

Two years ago we had a similar set to on Good Morning Britain. On that occasion we were discussing a proposal to ban on smoking in children's play areas and then extend the ban to public parks, zoos and theme parks.

According to her Twitter profile Vicki is a "multi-award winning blogger/vlogger and filmmaker" who goes under the name of 'Honest Mum'.

Vicki/Honest Mum not only thinks smoking should be banned in the home. In her opinion smoking should be prohibited everywhere.

By the time she came out with that we were already talking over one another so Nolan called time on our spat in order to bring in listeners.

I had intended to keep calm and not rise to any bait but, not for the first time, I came away from the programme feeling slightly dirty.

There’s a serious discussion to be had about smoking in the home but that wasn’t it.

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