Wednesday, 4 August 2010
Contracts in Smoking Cessation and the Tobacco Display Ban: good money after bad?
An international public relations firm, Weber Shandwick, has won a double contract with the Scottish Government. In case you thought enough money had been spent on smoking cessation, this company, with offices in 77 countries, will 'signpost and motivate adult smokers wishing to quit to contact Smokeline'. An absolutely indispensable frontline service, wouldn't you agree?
The credentials of Weber Shandwick to do this kind of work are clear – they've been doing it for years. For example, two years ago they discovered that 9 out of 10 New Year's quitters in Australia were back on the fags by June, in a report for Pfizer.
The other contract is to educate the public about the tobacco display ban (Tobacco and Primary Medical Services Act), which was voted into law in January and will be enacted in October 2011. This Act is currently the subject of court action after a legal challenge from Imperial Tobacco: a verdict is awaited.
Employing PR companies seems an expensive way to convince the public to do something it doesn't want to do, or to sell unpopular government policy to the public. I look forward to Weber Shandwick winning a contract to sell a comprehensive hospital smoking ban package. I wonder how the people in the relevant Scottish Government departments feel about having their work of explaining policies and making them more publicly acceptable handed to an outside contractor. As a member of the public I find my confidence in the Scottish Government eroded a little, but my confidence in their tobacco policy is not high to start with.
Corporate Watch has a useful section on PR companies and the lobbying industry.
Afterthought: I've added to the sidebar our response to the Scottish Government's recent consultation on display and pricing in respect of the tobacco display ban legislation, submitted last month.