Advocacy, Campaigning, and Pressing
ISH (Inaction on Smoking and Health, formerly known as ASH (Action on Smoking and Health)) is well named. You can see it in their repetitively and badly written policy statement, ‘What we do’:
We work by using our dedicated team of tobacco policy experts to work collaboratively:
- Information, networking and support: working with others to address the tobacco epidemic
- Advocacy and campaigning: pressing for policy measures to reduce the burden of disease and premature death caused by tobacco
Note that they don’t only advocate and campaign; they also engage in pressing (!) for policy measures to reduce the burden of disease, etc.
This is the whole problem. Why only advocate, campaign, and press to reduce the burden, etc., when then could advocate, campaign, and press to abolish the burden of disease and premature death caused by tobacco? And the way they could do this, obviously, is by campaigning for the abolition of tobacco manufacture and sales. So why don’t they?
I wrote and asked them and received a reply from a Policy Intern who told me:
We do not campaign for the abolition of the sale of tobacco for all age groups due to the fact that smoking is an addiction, and we believe that for those who do smoke the best approach is to fund support to help them quit. Research has shown that quitting with support and use of NRT and vapes is far more successful than going cold turkey, which an abolition may enforce.
I would have thought the fact that smoking is an addiction is a reason for banning the sale of tobacco, not a reason for not banning it. That apart, how is it that an organisation which purports to understand smoking can be so abysmally ignorant? It’s all very well saying ‘we believe that for those who do smoke the best approach is to fund support to help them quit’ when the fact is that most, if not all, smokers don’t want to quit – that’s why they smoke. Smokers typically every day repeatedly inhale poisonous tobacco fumes, and they carry on doing this for years or decades. Then they may get fed up with smoking or they have a health scare, so they may seek help with quitting, but by then the damage might already have been done. And if abolition forces smokers to quit cold turkey, that is, abruptly, what’s so terrible about that? How else can you quit? One day you smoke your last cigarette, and – that’s it! You’re a non-smoker again.
However, for those smokers, that is, nicotine addicts, who view the prospect of being nicotine-free with foreboding or even panic, and there are many who do, then funding of support to encourage using NRT (so-called nicotine replacement therapy) and vapes will be, according to our Intern, not just successful, but far more successful!
There is also alarming news from the ISH Newsletter of 14 November 2023:
Teesside smokers and ex-smokers ignoring invite [sic] for lung cancer check. Almost 10,000 smokers and ex-smokers have ignored a letter inviting them to have a free lung cancer check, according to a health trust. (Teesside is the area around the River Tees in north east England.)
Why is this? Surely smokers and ex-smokers are aware that they are or have been putting themselves at risk of lung cancer, so why do they ignore an invitation for a claimed potentially life-saving check? Is it perhaps because they have done their homework and discovered the matter is not so simple? One study concluded that if smokers were screened every year for 5 to 10 years, then 250 people would need to be screened to prevent one additional death from lung cancer. Another problem is with what’s called overdiagnosis. This is the discovery of small cancers which would not shorten life if left undetected and untreated, and this could be as high as 20 per cent.
Therefore, the way to reduce lung cancer deaths is not primarily through controversial screening, but through getting people to stop smoking and preventing them from starting in the first place.
Ignorance and confusion
The UK government through its Department of Health and Social Care likewise shows lack of understanding of the matter. In October 2023 they made a bold announcement: ‘Creating a smokefree [sic] generation and tackling youth vaping’.
People are not born smokers. Being smoke-free is the normal state. It’s not something that can be created. And why talk in terms of a generation, which is reckoned as 25 years? How many people will die from a smoking-related disease within this time? Why is smoking regarded as being here to stay for the next 25 years, if not longer? Why are the tobacco companies treated as if they are untouchable? Government policy seems to be to let Big Tobacco go merrily on making and selling their poisonous products while they try to persuade people not to buy them. As for those already hooked, we’ll throw money at the problem and expand stop smoking services, and these services will include trying to persuade smokers to continue their nicotine addiction in a claimed less dangerous way, through vaping.
Similarly, youth vaping is not something that needs to be ‘tackled’; it needs to be prevented in the first place. And it should be obvious that the best, indeed, the only, way to do this is to abolish vaping sales.
(Some vapes would still be available but only from stop smoking services to help smokers stop failing to quit.)
Text © Gabriel Symonds
Photo credit: Max Mishin on Pexels