Thursday, 28 October 2010

Further call to stop funding anti-smoking groups

Following Forest's report yesterday (27 October) the Institute of Economic Affairs has also called for a halt to anti-smoking groups like Action on Smoking and Health. The UK's government grant to ASH in London, at £142,000, is relatively modest, but 'the Government should be clear about limiting the scope of the public sector, not merely its size'. Not only are taxpayers forced to finance charities via taxes that they don't sympathise with, but also, far more importantly, it can seem to casual observers that the state-funded 'charities' actually function thanks to voluntary donations – even though very little money comes from the general public.

ASH Scotland's government grants are both higher in cash terms and as a proportion of the whole. 'The Scottish Government funds ASH Scotland for the contribution it makes to the development and implementation of national policy designed to reduce smoking levels in Scotland,' says the Scottish Government's summary of an external review carried out in 2007. This relationship is less one of a charity than a quango. Where is the accountability, when a body poses as a charity and yet is substantially state funded because it helps to design tobacco and smoking cessation policies for the Scottish government.

Public awareness that ASH Scotland is not a charity in most people's understanding of the word is growing. For example the IEA's view:
No one can object to citizens establishing campaigning groups to draw attention to the potential health risks of tobacco consumption or to pharmaceutical companies aggressively lobbying to promote their alternative nicotine products, such as chewing gum and patches. But for taxpayers’ money to be given over to such causes is wholly unacceptable.
Not only the funding of these groups is excessive, but also its perceived activities are quite unsuited to be funded by the public purse. 'Drawing attention to the potential health risks of tobacco consumption' becomes, in the hands of a government funded campaigning group like ASH Scotland, a drive for a water-tight policy against public tobacco consumption that will tolerate no loop-holes or flexibility. I might have more sympathy for them if they were a single-person organisation earning a small annual income (£1,500) from local fundraising events, but they are far too powerful for their own good, and everyone else's. A more modest organisation might have more modest and tolerant ambitions. One can dream.

It is good to see this undemocratic form of charitable giving coming under criticism: how far will it go: let's hope the consensus will grow.

1 comment:

Eddie Douthwaite said...

ASH Scotland's HQ is at 8 Frederick Street, just off Princes Street,probably the highest Council rated area in Scotland.

Do ASH Scotland own the premises or is it rented,what are the rates they pay to Edinburgh Council or do they pay nothing.

Are they a burden on the taxpayers of Scotland.

I would be very interested to know the answers to the above questions.

Replies awaited from "Whistleblowers" in Edinburgh Council.