Only our data is useful, heathens!


Among many things, this really does boggle the mind. Y’see, whenever ASH or their sock-puppet ilk wave their “statistics” under the noses of our ruling elite, they claim that it is “without bias” and of course “entirely independent” – among many other platitudes.

Y’see, ASH et al are entirely free of conflicts of interest aren’t they? So their surveys must be the Holy Grail. No question about it. When it comes to knowing the smoker, ASH has all the answers. Or so they’d like you to believe.

Y’see, there’s another survey going around at the moment. It is The Smokers Survey, funded by FOREST and deliciously put together by the Centre for Substance Use Research – who, by the way, have a slightly more diverse funding source than ASH.

Now, I did indeed take this survey – well, it’d be rude not to – and I made excellent use of the comments boxes to make my feelings clear on the questions related to policies.

Thanks to my RSS feed I spotted this gem from the delightfully cranky Grandad over at HeadRambles, which in turn led me here where I spot this:

We don’t know enough about who smokers are, what they are thinking or how they perceive the actions of public health interests (or indeed commercial ones)

Well no, you don’t know who smokers are you dullard, you’ve been trying to make them invisible for the last four decades. Judging by some of the comments from smokers that I see regularly, or from the comments sections on the various media sites I visit, how smokers perceive public health interests will probably make such a lickspittle run away and hide. Put simply, smokers do not like public health. They don’t like how you meddle in their lives, how you force them out of the places they’ve been going to for years, and they sure as fuck don’t like how you’ve forced price increases on their choice.

In particular there is a need to explore how views and desires vary amongst the 900,000 people in Scotland who smoke tobacco – why do some groups smoke more than others? What services or functions are people seeking from smoking? Why does a consistent majority say that they want to stop?

Ah, I see. ASH et al are happy enough with their own YouGov surveys where folks tell them precisely what they want to hear but will become all of a quiver when presented with a differing viewpoint from the same group of people.

The FOREST survey is being promoted on their website and social media, and punted around other pro-smoking/anti-regulation networks. A message urging participation is being sent to “friends of FOREST”.

Isn’t that how promotion works? Gee, I guess these folks missed that memo. Y’see, FOREST have a lot of supporters – individuals who smoke, some may not smoke but ally themselves with the whole freedom of choice thing, some are no doubt users of e-cigarettes and cigarettes. FOREST punts that out (sorry Grandad) to their friends of FOREST (the term used for supporters of FOREST) who’ll take the survey, then pass it on (hopefully) to other like-minded people.

Of course, this type of survey is entirely self-selecting, but you could argue that people that take the ASH surveys are the same type. Either smokers looking to try and influence ASH’s thinking (never going to happen), rabid anti-smokers looking to “add weight” to policy lobbying, or former smokers who have the odd opinion.

The people reached by these requests will not represent the general population of “smokers”, but instead the small sub-set of smokers who engage with FOREST and/or other anti-regulation interests and who feel motivated to complete a survey distributed by those interests. To put it another way, a survey sent around to ASH Scotland supporters would likely indicate considerable scepticism about FOREST’s claim to speak on behalf of smokers, but we could not simply use this to claim that the whole population thinks this way. A survey of your friends only tells you about your friends.

Think Grandad said it best here:

I am very confused here.  They want to poll “smokers” but not the smokers who are anti-regulation?

Y’see, ASH has never truly been about gathering the necessary data to “represent the general population of smokers”; all they want is to gather just enough ‘evidence’ to support their whacked out ideas so they can dash off to Government with their hands out asking for more cash to “further reduce the toll of smoking”.

Now it is perfectly valid to seek the views of this group, and most organisations will want to better understand their supporter base. But as a means of producing results about smokers as a whole, this survey has been rendered completely useless.

Did I go over the whole selection bias thing? Both surveys (ASH et al and FOREST) will have selection bias as only like minded people will take it. Surely they would be able to identify that as an issue with their own survey? But no, it’s only the survey commissioned by FOREST that they are calling into doubt, probably because of the links to “Big Tobacco” (which I’m surprised ASH didn’t mention).

To claim that the survey itself – before the results have been collated and published is absurd when their own surveys suffer from the exact same biases as they claim the FOREST survey has.

The stated aim “To find out what smokers really think” seems to have missed this crucial point. Surely FOREST is not intending to use the results of this survey to make claims about smokers as a whole? To allay our concerns, will they state clearly that their survey cannot be taken as representative of the views of all smokers and will not be presented as such?

The FOREST survey would indeed represent a proportion of the smoking population that ASH et al are ignoring. You know, the ones that actually enjoy smoking and don’t want to stop.

To allay our concerns, will ASH be clearly stating that their survey cannot be taken as representative of the views of all smokers?

I wonder.

(Image credit alice-photo/

11 thoughts on “Only our data is useful, heathens!”

    1. Amusingly the president of YouGov sits on the ASH board. No wonder they like to champion their own when they have a pet on the board…


      1. Which is why I never believe any yougov poll that says smokers love being banned and denormalised. Any group that is aligned in any way with ASH immediately loses all credibility. Hence I no longer donate to cruk and go out of my way to ensure that any money I spend on carrier bags or retail charity schemes won’t go to cruk before I buy. I still have some gems from a ring I sold for gold. The gems were donated to cruk. I asked for mine back. I still have them and keep meaning to send them to Forest which, as far as I am concerned, is the only organisation that speaks for and works actively for smokers who enjoy smoking and have no intention of quitting but won’t accept the bullying designed to “help” aka force them to quit.

        Head of yougov is also narried to former EU top dog Baroness Ashton which is why I don,’t trust yougov polls on the EU either. The org cannot claim to be impartial therefore it’s poll results cannot be trusted.

          1. It is used by the establishment echo chamber to give credibility to crackpot schemes . People who trust it, in my opinion, are stupid but then we know that too many stupid people unjustly hold too much power and influence in govt decision making.

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