The Nagging & Begging Continue

The Nagging & Begging Continue

For those of you that follow the tobacco control debate, you’ll be - painfully - aware that the UK’s resident antismoking sock-puppet charity are always banging on about one of a few items. Of course, each item they champion - for whatever misguided reason - never goes “far enough”. This leech of a charity will never rest until smoking - and probably any reduced risk alternative - is completely eradicated.

ASH are always on the lookout for a chance at the Government trough - as I’ve mentioned previously - and, unfortunately for smokers, it is that time yet again.

Back in June an “independent review of tobacco control” was published. Grandly entitled “Making smoking obsolete” the conclusions of this review were all about attempting to control supply. Sound familiar? Of course, it does. It is, quite simply, another attempt at Prohibition. Both Simon Clark and Christopher Snowdon covered the review contents superbly (as they both tend to do) and highlighted the sheer idiocy of the proposals contained within the “independent” review.

Naturally, this isn’t news to most of you that stop by (admittedly, I do need to try and get back here more often, but life gets in the way). But what you should also know (and probably already do) is that ASH are at it again with the release of the latest smoking rates data from the Office of National Statistics (ONS).

Now, as we should all be aware of, surveys such as the Opinion & Lifestyle Survey and the Annual Population Survey - both conducted by, or on behalf of ONS - do have potential limitations and biases. Most, if not all, surveys do. In fact, the results that ASH are quoting here come with a big caveat:

Because of the coronavius (COVID-19) pandemic, data collection for the APS moved from mixed-mode (face to face and telephone) to telephone-only data collection. This resulted in a potential bias in the sample and meant our estimates for April to December 2020 were not comparable with previous years.

Office of National Statistic: Methodology

Now, of course, ONS did adjusted for the fact that, since 2020, the Annual Population Survey was conducted by telephone only rather than the mix of telephone and face-to-face interview. However, this is where errors can, and often do, creep in. Both ONS and the Smoking Toolkit Study (STS) both aim to monitor the effectiveness of the 2017 Tobacco Control Plan with the stated Government aim of reducing smoking prevalence to 12% by the end of 2022 (among other aims).

ASH are, of course, both delighted and disappointed in the latest figures from ONS (which don’t correspond even slightly to the figures obtained from STS with the latter suggesting prevalence is 14.9% in England compared with 13.0% from ONS for 2022 and 14.8% / 13.8% in 2021) citing that “progress has been made”.

Erm, given the disparity between the figures from ONS and STS - especially considering that ONS (until 2018) were reporting 14.4% (STS reported 17.2% for the same year) the, rather substantial, drops since 2018 (as reported by ONS) seems somewhat optimistic. I suspect that the difference reported is likely due to the exclusion of U18’s from the results (and the new weighting methodology). It is, of course, true that smoking prevalence is declining albeit slowly. Thankfully, ONS have prepared a chart which shows the prevalence in conjunction with the various tobacco control policies that have been implemented:

Figure 6 - The proportion of cigarette smokers who have quit

Consider that, in 2006/2007, the smoking ban came into force the prevalence rate was ~20-22% and we’ve had a slew of propaganda and policy implementations since then (not to mention increasing taxation on a pack of smokes to near eye-watering levels) and the prevalence changes aren’t all that inspiring:

  • 2006 - 22%
  • 2007 - 20.9%
  • 2008 - 21.1%
  • 2009 - 21.0%
  • 2010 - 20.3%
  • 2011 - 19.8% (the year in which the prevalence charts really start)
  • 2012 - 20.4%
  • 2013 - 19.2%
  • 2014 - 18.8%
  • 2015 - 17.8%
  • 2016 - 16.1%
  • 2017 - 16.8%
  • 2018 - 16.6%
  • 2019 - 15.8%
  • 2020 - 14.5%
  • 2021 - 12.7%

Bear in mind that this data is taken from the Opinion & Lifestyle Survey (OPN) whereas the data mentioned previously is from the Annual Population Survey (APS). The OPN records data from smokers aged 16 and over, while the APS records data from 18 and over.

ASH are, of course, looking at the same data we are and concluding that, in order to meet the arbitrary target of 5% prevalence by 2030 (which is never going to happen) the Government “must do more” and not be complacent. As such ASH and all the other sockpuppets enthusiastically back the “Independent” Khan Review which includes ringfencing £70M per year into Stop Smoking Services (out of a £125M budget for “critical interventions”), increase age of sale by one year, every year (where else has done that I wonder? Oh, right. New Zealand), substantially raise tobacco tax (more than 30%), tobacco licensing (to limit where folk can buy their smokes), change the colour of the cigarettes (to make them unappealing), increasing smoke-free places (including outdoor spaces and new social housing tenancies).

Fortunately, it would appear that a new tobacco control plan isn’t going to be forthcoming. At least for a year or two. But I do expect the useful idiots to keep banging on about wanting a new plan, just as they did before.